Reeder: Parents, children deserve choice in education

I was chatting the other day with a fellow who, along with his wife, home-schools his children.

We joked about the stereotype: Moms in denim skirts. Then he expounded on the benefits his youngsters have derived from being taught at home: a customized curriculum, religious values instilled and extra time with parents.

And then he added, “One of the great things about home schooling is that I haven’t been hassled by anyone in government over how we choose to educate our kids.”

Of course, home schooling isn’t for everyone, but it is a wonderful option.

There are other good choices out there, too: parochial schools, private secular schools, public schools, charter schools, online learning and other options.

That’s why I support school choice.

Folks ask me, why? After all, I went to public schools. Don’t I support public education?

My answer is straightforward: I support education.

I don’t really care whether that education is provided by a public school, a private school or in the home. What matters is whether our next generation is being prepared.

Unfortunately, there are some in public education who want to maintain monopolies on educating children from poor and working-class families.

After all, those from middle class and wealthy families can afford to make choices for themselves. Not so for others. The current system often is denying children in low-income areas access to quality learning experiences.

I live in a rural school district with a high level of poverty. One of my neighbors shared that his daughters couldn’t get admitted directly into engineering school because their high school didn’t offer the advanced math classes they needed.

That’s not right. Our children deserve better.

Education is about opportunity. Yet many in the public education establishment oppose offering alternatives to students who want to excel but whose schools can’t accommodate their needs.

So youngsters from poor areas are left with few choices but second-tier educations. That is morally reprehensible.

It’s not just a rural story. A college friend of mine graduated near the top of his class at one of Chicago’s most impoverished high schools. He was bright, talented and motivated. He wanted to be an engineer.

But he found himself in college remedial math. His high school hadn’t adequately prepared him. Eventually he flunked out. Folks, that’s just plain wrong.

We are a nation based on opportunity. We value choice, yet we give neither to children born into poor or working-class families.

That’s why school vouchers have merit – they empower parents to make wise choices for their children.

Every parent wants to see their child succeed and offering education choices is the way to see that happen.

After all, our children deserve the best.

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and a journalist with Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at

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