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We have been debating private schools versus public schools in this country for years. Finally, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation shortly after he was elected called the Florida Empowerment Scholarship program. Even better, he offered up a new program that expands the original program, making vouchers available to 29,000 more students above the 18,000 offered last year. Perhaps the best part of this law is that although private and charter schools have to meet basic criteria for curriculum, the state and local school districts do not have the authority to oversee or control the curriculum or academic programs of private schools or home instruction programs.
Maybe we will begin to take back the curriculum of our schools.*
Before I delve into the curriculum question, let me address the resistance against establishing private and charter schools, in no particular order:
- Funds that would otherwise go to public schools will follow the students to private schools — the amount of money lost to public schools is substantial: an annual cost of $1 billion. The potential loss of these funds might provide incentives to public schools to improve education for their students.
- Education provided by private schools is sub-standard — all private schools are required to perform to a certain standard; if they don’t, their charters can be revoked. Parents can also choose to move their children from failing schools. Several studies comparing public and private schools have resulted in mixed results for performance.
- Private schools can discriminate against LGBTQ students — an Orlando Sentinel investigation found 156 private Christian schools “with anti-gay views” offering tuition paid for by these state scholarships.
- Private schools often employ non-unionized teachers.
- Religious education in private schools is part of the curriculum. It’s not clear if all students must attend religious classes if they are not members of the school’s faith. A number of organizations, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center, have threatened to challenge the program legally, claiming violation of the separation of church and state (which is an incorrect interpretation of the Constitution).
- Teachers know better than parents what should be taught to their children. I must admit that I have not seen this claim in writing, but the anger and rejection of parent choice by the teacher unions lead us to wonder about their motives.
Gov. DeSantis, through his actions, is providing us the opportunity to create schools that have the potential to teach a traditional curriculum, including the standard history of the United States, not the propaganda and anti-American studies that the Progressives have been teaching for many years. I’m not aware of any public schools that have turned back the efforts to distort American history on their own; the political pressures to do so are overwhelming. And there is no guarantee that private or charter schools will teach students a more representative version of history. But this is certainly a valuable step in the right direction.
Let’s take back our schools.
*Thomas Sowell addresses the issue of charter schools in his new book, Charter Schools and their Enemies, available for pre-order on Amazon.Published in