Lamar Alexander: School Choice Is The Best Way To Improve Education

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In my final year as education secretary under President George H. W. Bush, I wrote every school superintendent in America asking them to try this new idea from Minnesota called “start-from-scratch schools.” At the time there were only 12 of them. They were the first charter schools – of which there are 6,000 today, or about 6 percent of all public schools.

The charter school notion is one that has had bipartisan support, and several of my Republican colleagues and I recently spent time discussing charter schools – and school choice in general – with parents, teachers and students. On July 29, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and I joined a charter school forum hosted in Nashville by Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. And on July 30, I joined Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senators Paul, Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) for a school choice forum in Washington, D.C.

Charter schools are public schools. By removing many of the federal, state and union rules and constraints placed on traditional public schools, charter schools liberate teachers and principals to use their own good judgment to help children learn what they need to know. I would think teachers would be knocking the door down to teach at charter schools, because the whole point is the magic word good educators always want: autonomy.

Charter schools also give parents more choices of good schools for their children. Low-income parents in particular have more of the choices they don’t typically have thanks to charter schools, and they can also know that greater autonomy means teachers can take a group of students and base their education on what they need. In a way, every one of our 100,000 public schools in America should be a charter school.

I’ve sponsored legislation, including the Senate Republican plan to fix No Child Left Behind, which would make it easier to replicate and expand charter schools with a proven record of success. I’ve also sponsored legislation that would allow $14.5 billion in existing federal education dollars to follow 11 million low-income children to any accredited school they choose to attend, public or private.

Look at the way we currently fund schools: We just send money to the school and students attend the school they’re assigned to. And too often federal education dollars don’t reach the low-income children they’re supposed to help, depriving them of their opportunity to attend a better school. Why not borrow from the idea of how we fund colleges instead?

It all started with the GI bill. You can take your federal GI bill or Pell Grant or student loans to Notre Dame or Nashville Auto Diesel College or Yeshiva or Vanderbilt or University of Louisville. The money follows the students to the schools they choose to attend – public, private, profit or nonprofit. Ever since World War II, that’s what we have done. And what has happened? Everyone in the world agrees that we have not only the best colleges in America, but we have almost all of the very best colleges. If we did the same with money for low-income children – about $1,300 per student – and let it follow them to the K-12 school of their choice, it would allow them a chance to climb the economic ladder.

Encouraging more charter schools, and more school choice, would make a difference. Seeing how well the students perform, and hearing from the parents and teachers who spend their lives helping these students tells a great story, and one I’d like to hear more often. It’s time to free up our children to learn, free up our teachers to educate and free up parents to decide what’s best for their child.


Making Obama And Hillary Proud - And Response

I just read the article on Mark Siedleki’s allegedly illegal corporate donations in his campaign.   Well, it is clear that Democrats think laws and rules apply to everyone but them. Hillary and Obama will be proud of you, Mark. Derek Kukura * * * No wonder the Democrat running for assessor of property doesn't understand the law preventing any assessor from freezing ... (click for more)

How The Swen Merchant Destroyed The Kingdom

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom. This kingdom was a prosperous kingdom and it was filled with peoples from many lands.  The people were happy in this kingdom and took great pride in being a part of it.  One day, a Swen Merchant came to the kingdom.  He looked in amazement at the prosperity of the kingdom and at all the peoples that lived and work in it.  The ... (click for more)

Man, 28, Shot And Killed In East Chattanooga

A 28-year-old man was shot and killed in East Chattanooga early Friday morning. The victim was identified as Jeremy Clark, a brother of House candidate Dennis Clark. Dennis Clark said, "Jeremy, a beloved son, my younger brother and dear friend to many, was taken from us too soon. The pain from our sudden and tragic loss is Indescribable. He was a compassionate and fun-loving ... (click for more)

Siedlecki Files Amended Financial Disclosure After GOP Files Complaint; Lists Personal Loan Rather Than In-Kind Contribution

Democratic assessor of property candidate Mark Siedlecki filed an amended financial disclosure form on Friday afternoon after county Republicans said he accepted far above the legal limit from a corporation he heads. The new disclosure said he made personal loans totaling $38,288 to the campaign. It does not include any in-kind contributions. The earlier forms listed ... (click for more)

Lookouts Get Walk-Off Win Over Smokies Thursday, 4-3

With the score tied at three with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Lookouts outfielder Zack Granite singled home Edgar Corcino to give the team with 4-3 walk-off win over the Smokies.   Tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning, Corcino led off with his second hit of the game. He advanced to second base on a bunt. A Levi Michael single pushed Corcino to third ... (click for more)

Chattanooga FC Hosts NPSL National Semifinal Saturday

All eyes are on Saturday as Chattanooga FC prepares for the NPSL National Championship Semifinal match against Sonoma County Sol at Finley Stadium. In efforts to FILL "FORT" Finley, CFC has extended their discount on $7 tickets until Thursday at 2:00. After 2:00, tickets will be $10 until 6:00 on Saturday, when the price will rise to $12. Tickets are available online at ChattanoogaFC.com.  ... (click for more)