When Parents Have a Choice, Kids Have a Chance

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) • January 30, 2017

Last week was National School Choice Week, a chance to show support and participate in events across the country aimed at giving parents the freedom to make the best decisions possible for their children.

No child’s zip code should be the determining factor in whether a student succeeds or fails, and school choice aims to give every student in need the opportunities they deserve.

This is such a basic, commonsense approach to education that it has the support of 70 percent of Americans, with many states already offering some kind of school choice program. There are currently 40 states with charter schools, and two others that have passed charter laws. Together, they provide almost three million students with a quality education.

My state of Indiana has supported many different school choice efforts to help families in need. Justin, a father of four in my district, is one of the parents who have utilized these programs to help their children receive the best education possible.

Justin already works two jobs to provide for his family, so when his daughter began to struggle in a public school that didn’t provide the support she required, he worried that he would not be able to afford to send her to a school that could meet her needs.

Luckily, Indiana’s voucher system gave Justin the ability to send his daughter to another school nearby. Without the voucher program, Justin’s daughter would have been shackled to a school system that was failing her and failing her parents.

As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, it is my goal to help families like Justin’s all across our nation.

I worked during the last Congress to ensure that reforms to expand school choice were included in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In the end, we were able to increase access to quality charter and magnet schools, protect home schools from federal interference, and create a funding pilot program that will encourage excellent schools to enroll harder-to-serve students.

All of this made ESSA a great start, but we will now have school choice partners in the new administration, with President Trump in the White House and Betsy DeVos in the Department of Education, who can help us provide all American students with the education options they need.

As a Republican conference, our goal is to make sure that the federal government is not discouraging innovation, but rather encouraging it. A system where choice is absent creates complacency and little incentive to provide better support to our children. I firmly believe that when parents have a choice, kids have a chance, and I am excited about the opportunities this Congress holds to finally bring choice to every student across our nation.