Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Education: A Choice or a Right?

Dr. Diane Ravitch posted a blog on May 9 that included a link to an article by Dr. Frank Adamson, a senior Policy and Research Analyst at the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), titled Education: A Choice or a Right?.  Click here for a link to this article.  The article addresses many of the considerations that relate to the so-called “market forces and competition” argument that we so often hear when discussing vouchers (by any name).

Dr. Adamson starts off his article by referencing the United Nations identification of a “free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education” by 2030 as a goal for sustainable development.  That got me to thinking a little bit about implications in Texas and the answer to the question: Education, a choice or a right?”.  And the very first thing that came to mind is Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution, a mantra we all know that, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.

In many parts of the world, whether to educate a child is a parent's choice and it is likely that the lack of quality education systems creates many of the gaps that we have in moving underdeveloped countries forward.  In Texas, according to the Constitution (but apparently not acknowledged by the LG and others in the Senate), education is not a choice; it is a right to which all of our students are entitled.  But what is missing in Article 7, Section 1 is any reference to quality; “efficient” and “general diffusion of knowledge” are terms or phrases that leave a great deal to interpretation by the reader.

I certainly am not suggesting a rewrite of the constitution (although that would be convenient for some) but submit that a focus on defining exactly what these terms mean should be (and, in many cases, is) a part of any discussion about public education.  Just having access to knowledge and an efficient system is not enough.  Parents today do have a choice; they have the right to send their child to a public or private school.  But what is even more important is that the more than 5.4 million Texas public education children have a right to education in an adequately funded public education system.  Shifting resources toward privatization under the guise of school choice denies students that very right.  We must continue to push to make education a priority.

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