Jeb Bush: Let’s leave education decisions up to New Hampshire families

  • Bush

For the Monitor
Published: 4/6/2017 12:10:11 AM

Since our nation was founded, the “Live Free or Die’’ state has stood out for its embrace of individual liberty. This makes pending legislation that would set up Education Freedom Savings Accounts a natural fit for New Hampshire families.

The first two words here are key: Education Freedom.

The current, outdated model of public education is based on funding government bureaucracies that in turn make decisions best left to families, such as decisions on where kids will go to school and what classes they can take.

The proposed accounts would instead fund students directly and let parents make those decisions. If for whatever reason a public school isn’t working for their child, they can find a better fit in another school. They also can access the funds for online classes, tutors and supplies. Or if they are the parents of a student with disabilities, they can use the funds for approved therapies critical to their child’s development.

These accounts are an acknowledgement that parents, not government institutions, are the best decision makers for children. They love them the most, know them the best and are the ones most vested in their future success. And therefore, they should be given the freedom and resources to pursue the right education options for them.

This legislation is not an attack on public schools. It simply is an acknowledgment that kids are unique individuals and one size does not fit all. Nor will this legislation hurt public schools. In fact, a large body of research, including that done in my home state of Florida, indicates quite the opposite. When public schools face increased competition, they get better and kids learn more. Education Freedom Savings Accounts not only would benefit the children whose parents take advantage of them, but also the children who remain in their traditional public schools.

The approach was first introduced in Arizona in 2011, focused on the parents of students with disabilities. In subsequent years, the program was expanded to include students zoned in low-performing schools, the students of military personnel and students living on Native American lands. Based on their success, Arizona lawmakers are now considering making them available to every student.

Other states have taken notice. Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida and Nevada all have approved versions of the program, each with its own eligibility requirements. In 2015, Nevada became the first state to make the accounts available to all parents. I encourage New Hampshire to follow suit.

Empowering parents with the freedom to choose encourages positive change because the right to educate their children no longer can be taken for granted. It must be earned. I commend state Sen. John Reagan, state Reps. Joseph Pitre and Glenn Cordelli for introducing this legislation, and Gov. Chris Sununu, who has been a passionate advocate for school choice.

The issue boils down to this: Do we trust mom and dad, or not?

(Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, is founder, president and chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.)

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