Education Choice #1 Parental Right

As we hear and read about school choice being the the answer to reforming education performance and satisfaction we need to be aware of some basics.

1. It has always been, except in totalitarian states, the duty of parents to educate their children.

    England: It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability, and aptitude, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. (Education Act, 1944)

    United States: The first School Laws in America (1642) underlie the system to this day: “Universal education of youth is essential to the well-being of the State. The obligation to furnish this education rests primarily upon the parents.”

    Canada: “The responsibility is placed by law upon the parents or guardian to educate their children.” (You and the Law, 1973)

    The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) support this parental duty.

    2. The public schools do have a statutory duty to provide a free education to all students whose parents choose to register them. However, it is made clear in all school law that parents are to be kept informed of the progress of the child. This information must be accurate and understandable to the parents so that they in turn can exercise their duty by supporting, augmenting, intervening or withdrawing from that school.

    3. Public schools serve a two-fold purpose: to assist parents in meeting their parental obligation in the education of their children and to serve the broader public interest in seeing that citizens are educated to a certain standard.

    4.School Acts should clearly reflect this intent and support parental duty.

    5.School Boards in private schools and in the past were representatives of the parents who had enrolled their children in a particular school. Now, that school boards have grown large and supervise immense numbers of children in many schools, are elected from a broad population and often represent vested interest groups, we can see how far they have strayed from their original mandate.

    6.Bureaucracies and complex channels of communication have grown to the point that the basic parent-child-teacher relationship has been so compromised that frustrated people are looking ever more seriously for alternatives.

    The above points start to explain the ever growing movements for choice, for vouchers, for parent involvement, for charter schools, for home education, for separation of school and state, etc.

    After Hurricane Katrina threw into disarray most of New Orleans’ school system, authorities decided to start rebuilding school opportunities with a clean slate. The January/February issue of “The Atlantic” has a 12 page article: by Amy Waldman that is worth reading:

    Katrina washed the slate clean, providing a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent public education.” The result was the fastest makeover of an urban school system in American history. …the neighborhood school had been banished–parents would have total freedom to choose which school their children would attend, no matter where they lived. Introducing school choice and weakening teachers’ unions had both long been goals of many educational reformers.

    Leslie Jacobs, a member of the state Board of Education, said:

    This is huge. What’s happening in New Orleans is turning into a national model on choice.”

    School Board president Phyllis Landrieu said:

    This is a cause for celebration. Students and parents have a very wide choice of options for selecting schools this year.”

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