With students across the country returning to school, we must focus on the priorities that will shape the educational landscape for the year ahead. One of the most important functions of a school is to provide a space for learning, neutral ground where students can explore various subjects and form their own opinions based on evidence and critical thinking.
While it is essential to foster civic engagement and political awareness, we’ve recently seen overt attempts to steer students towards particular, and potentially dangerous, political ideologies.
For many parents, the politicization of our schools became readily apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when students tuned into their classes from home. Parents quickly realized institutional priorities and content that did not align with their family values were overtaking traditional curriculum in the classroom. As frustrations continued to mount, parents were silenced and, in some cases, even arrested for attending school board meetings to express their frustration over COVID lockdowns, potential downplaying of sexual assault allegations by other students and what was being taught to their children in school.
In order to give power back to parents, House Republicans passed H.R. 5, the Parents Bill of Rights, to guarantee parents the right to know what is being taught in schools, review school budgets, spending and increase overall transparency. This legislation recognizes that at the end of the day, parents know their children best and deserve to have the final say in what their children are being taught and the type of educational models that best fit the needs of their children.
We must remember that education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Every student has unique interests, needs, strengths and learning styles that should be accounted for in order to unlock their full potential. Recognizing the dynamic nature of education, the concept of school choice has gained momentum in several states, including Iowa, and continues to be a priority of mine in Congress.
School choice empowers parents and students to select educational options that align with their needs and aspirations. It is unfair for students to be left behind if their school is not serving their specific needs. This is especially important for students in low performing schools and those with learning disabilities who often attend schools that are not properly equipped and staffed to accommodate their learning needs.
School choice fosters competition among different educational models, encouraging institutions to continuously innovate and improve. This competition can lead to higher quality education and greater responsiveness to the needs of students and communities. School choice realizes that a student’s zip code should not determine which school they attend. It lets parents decide whether their child should attend a traditional public, public charter, magnet, private, online or home school.
Increasing transparency over what is being taught and implementing school choice mechanisms are essential steps towards empowering parents to have a greater say in their children’s education. This will foster a more collaborative approach where parents, educators, administrators and policymakers are able to work together and create an educational landscape that respects individual choices, while upholding high academic standards.