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February 01, 2012
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Count me among the fans of school choice who looked favorably upon this year’s results of the Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup poll. (We’re a small group.) Yes, for two decades, the PDK/Gallup folks have all but guaranteed a negative response to the “voucher” question (“Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense;” which makes impoverished families who benefit from today’s voucher and tax credit scholarship programs sound like a special-interest group). But the poll points to an embrace of parental power elsewhere.
The last point is an important revelation. “Tebow” bills have surfaced in some states, including Virginia, Texas, Indiana that would give homeschoolers a chance to participate in public-school athletics, just as NFL quarterback Tim Tebow had when he was a homeschooled student in Florida. But these bills have been attacked by many adult interest groups, such as the PTA, teacher unions, and superintendent associations. These groups killed a similar bill earlier this year in Virginia.
They have also successfully sued to stop the funding of customized online course options for public-school students in places like Louisiana, where “course choice” allowed students to shop around for subjects not available in their zoned public school.
But if teacher unions and other groups want us to take this poll seriously (and they do, at least when it comes to the opposition to school vouchers and other market-based reforms), then they need to lay down their arms when it comes to customizing a public education.
“It's time for policymakers to change course and listen to what the American people want for their schools," American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement written after the poll was released.
When it comes to customization, I couldn’t agree more.