Huffington promotes school choice

Yesterday’s Huffington Post has a fantastic, spot-on op-ed by Arianna Huffington that embraces the Obama-Duncan reasoning in education reform. 

She calls for a single-payer education plan, where while education would be publicly funded, the money would follow the student to the school of their choice, not be tied to the district that child lives in.  Citing the growing disparity between poor and rich kids and the educations they have access to (and what that means for us as a society, with generations lost to crime and incarceration), she breaks a huge partisan barrier by saying that choice in education is good, just like it’s good in health care and other systems we would never limit as we limit public education.  I pulled a few of the most powerful sections:

Time after time, when the choice has come down to books versus bars, our political leaders have chosen to build bigger prisons rather than figuring out how to have fewer kids in them.

How is it that we are willing to spend so much on kids once they are found guilty of crimes but so little when they are still innocent? What kind of society spends more than 10 times as much to incarcerate a child as it does to educate him?

It’s time we start looking at education reform in bold and different ways, to stop protecting little parcels of partisan turf and start thinking outside the box. To consider the possibilities. To look past our own political backyards at what might lie on the other side of the mountain.

In a single-payer education plan, the federal government, in conjunction with the states, would provide an education allotment for every parent of a K-12 child. Parents would then be free to enroll their child in the school of their choice.

In a single-payer health care plan, all citizens would be free to select the physician and hospital of their choice. And, unlike in our education system, no one backing single-payer health care ever suggested that patients can only see a doctor in their own district or can only be operated on at the hospital down the street. If we don’t hold people’s health hostage to the health of their property values, why do we do this with their children’s education?

It’s simple, sensible and, above all, just. And maybe instead of calling for an exorcist any time the words “competition,” “choice” or “freedom” are used in connection to education, we can start singing hosannas for an idea that preserves what is truly public in public education — the government, i.e. the public, paying for it — while allowing creativity, innovation and parental empowerment to flourish.

What Abraham Lincoln said in his second annual address to Congress in 1862 applies powerfully to today’s education crisis: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present…. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”

And when it comes to saving out children, there is not a moment to waste.

These are words Democrats need to take to heart, because they speak to the values and ideas we hold dear. If there are things we’ve done, positions we’ve taken in the past that are detrimental to the idea of educating every child – if there’s a better way of thinking about it and a better way of reforming, then we’ve got to change if we see there’s a way for all children to receive a better education.

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