There's no question that when it comes to our education system Americans are divided between those who defend the current state of education and those who believe in school choice. But should Christians take a position on school choice?
This is an issue that many believe is too complicated, better left to the educational experts and our government officials to solve. Yet, at the core, this is not only a political issue — it's a biblical issue, too.
Here are three reasons why school choice should matter to Christians.
1. Choice Matters Because Parents Are Best Equipped to Care for their Children.
Nobody knows what a student needs to thrive educationally better than the student's parents. A government or institution cannot possibly care for children in the same way a father or mother can, yet we somehow continue substituting the judgment of parents for the judgment of "experts" and bureaucratic systems.
From a biblical perspective, children are entrusted to parents as a gift from God, (Psalms 127:3) and parents are responsible for their children's education (Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
When parents can't afford to live in a strong school district, or don't have the means to private school or homeschool, freedom to educate their children as they see best is restricted. Our school system tells them where their children must attend school, based solely on their ZIP code. There's a reason why charter and homeschool education has experienced a surge in the past few years. School choice returns power to parents, allowing them to choose what they know is best for their children.
2. Choice Matters Because Every Child is Unique.
We know from both research and common sense that every child is different and unique, a bearer of God's image, "imago Dei" (Gen. 1:26). Cookie-cutter factory models don't work for every child.
In recent decades, there has been some movement toward school choice as a few states have begun to crack the door open for educational freedom through charter schools. These charter schools give us a glimpse of what education would look like in a free market educational system. Charter schools often differentiate by their special emphasis in areas like the arts, mathematics and the sciences, classical learning, technology and a hands-on educational model approach.
In most traditional public school environments, students are expected to learn at a pre-determined pace, mass-educated, moved along through the system according to standardized tests and curriculum. For many parents whose children have special needs or special aptitudes, there are no other educational options.
While our current educational system is rooted in socialistic ideals, school choice is an example of free market ideals, where opportunity abounds, choice is the currency and prosperity is the result.
3. School Choice Empowers the Underprivileged
Here are the facts about America's education system:
- 50.7 Million students attended public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2017
- Of those attending public schools, roughly 2.5 million students attend charter schools
- Experts estimate that around 3.5 million students are homeschooled
- 4.5 million students attend private elementary and secondary schools
The bottom line is the vast majority of students in America receive a public school education. It's reasonable to assume that many did not have a say in the matter because they lacked the economic means to live in a "good" public school district, to attend a private school or to be homeschooled. Nor were they lucky enough to win a lottery to attend a charter school.
"We have an educational system that discriminates against the single mother and the poor, by limiting options," says Jim Garlow in his book Well Versed. "It's a system that allows wealth to determine a child's education. If you are fortunate enough to buy a home in a good school district, your child has a better chance of receiving a strong education."
School choice is a matter of both justice and compassion. If we as Christians believe all people are equal in the sight of God and should be afforded the same freedoms regardless of economic status, then it is our responsibility to care about the education of all people, regardless of their ZIP code.
One way we can make a positive difference in our school system is by participating in our school board elections.
Did you know that in 2017 nearly half of America's 1,000 largest school districts are holding elections? Those elected school board members will represent over 10 million students throughout 34 states in the U.S. Yet local school board elections are notorious for low voter turnout — often just five or ten percent.
As the local representative body for your children's schools, school boards are instrumental in the American education system. Case in point is the upcoming school board election for Douglas County, Colorado, which could have national consequences for faith-based school choice.
As Christians, we have an opportunity to put our faith into action by participating in these elections. Our faith should compel us to speak up for our children.