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Parents Want School Choice for Reasons Beyond Just Academics

May 10, 2015 - 6:00pm

In virtually every state where reformers are trying to give children especially poor, minority children a better chance in life, the Education Blob is vigorously opposing that goal.

The blob wants to maintain the status quo, where children who can't afford to escape are held hostage in failing public schools. Most of those children will be among the majority of public school students who are not able to read and write well enough to do college work after 13 years of schooling.

Unable to prevail in many legislatures, reform opponents turn to the courts. They use lame arguments from a logical standpoint, but antiquated, poorly-written laws still on the books have provided them with a few victories from judges so inclined.

The lamest argument is that vouchers rob the public schools. Not only is that untrue, it is also irrelevant, being based on the faulty premise that money somehow is related to educational outcomes.Yet, it is repeated frequently in newspapers throughout the nation, especially in states such as Wisconsin, Indiana and Texas, where reformers are more active.

One columnist recently opined that vouchers were useless because poor people would not use them. That must have sounded brilliant in his ivory tower but if he had looked beyond its confines he would have found that poor people are not only willing but eager to give their children a better education, even when it entails sacrifices.

There's another reason people clamor for vouchers, beyond the financial and educational advantages, but it rarely gets much attention.

Many parents don't want their children put at risk. That, unfortunately, is a concern in some of the government schools.

In the 2013-14 school year, there were 66,416 incidents in the public schools, according to the Department of Education. No homicides, but there were robberies, burglaries, arson, sex offenses, drug possession, drug sales and bullying.

Among them, 2,541 involved weapons and 4,910 involved injuries.

Of the 66,416 incidents, 25,747 were serious enough to be reported to the police.

We don't know, of course, whether all incidents are reported, or reported correctly. (Miami-Dade, with more than 350,000 school kids, reported only 10,850 incidents, but more than 35,000 suspensions.)

But for parents the possibility of harm to their children is important, no matter how small the statistical probability.

Responsible school officials take action when warranted. Expulsions are rare, but 172,545 students were suspended and sent home while another 198,882 got in-school suspensions.

It will make liberals blanch to know that corporal punishment was meted out 2,170 times. Although many of the counties reported none, kids in counties such as Jackson and Holmes were likely to get a fanny paddling if they misbehaved.

Whether it is for academic reasons or child safety, Florida parents want better schools for their children, and they want to have a choice, not to be told by bureaucrats and politicians what they must do especially when they are paying a high price for the service.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as a policy analyst for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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