Ryan Walters is a former high school history teacher who currently serves as Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. He joins Students Over Systems to share his views on teachers unions, parental rights, and protecting children from indoctrination and sexually explicit materials. Superintendent Walters, who is a strong advocate for empowering parents by increasing transparency and offering universal school choice, concludes the conversation with good news: the launch of Oklahoma’s new refundable Parental Choice Tax Credit.

Gerard Robinson helped pave the way for universal education freedom with the 2017 book he co-edited entitled Education Savings Accounts: The New Frontier in School Choice. On this week’s Students Over Systems episode, he provides a historical overview of the early days of school choice, describes the steady growth of the movement over three decades, and addresses the lack of education freedom in Virginia, where he previously served as Secretary of Education. Gerard also shares his concerns about the emergence of click-bait-for-debate and calls for healthier conversations about the merits of school choice.

On this episode of Students Over Systems, special guest Virginia Walden Ford discusses the grassroots parent advocacy movement she led which resulted in the passage of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program almost 20 years ago. Virginia lauds the past congressional advocates for the program, which provides K-12 scholarships to low-income D.C. families, and laments the repeated efforts by school choice opponents to choke off its funding. Virginia’s story inspired the powerful movie, Miss Virginia; and her books, Voices, Choices, and Second Chances and School Choice: A Legacy to Keep, provide inspiration and direction for other parents seeking to expand their children’s educational choices.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott brought the state legislature back this month for a special legislative session to consider a K-12 education savings account (ESA) proposal. Mandy Drogin, campaign director of Next Generation, joins the podcast to discuss the ESA proposal and plans to expand Texas parental empowerment in the Lone Star state by increasing transparency, quality, respect for parents as ultimate decision makers for their child’s education, and choice. Mandy dispels myths around Texas education funding, describes the high demand for school choice in the state, and encourages parents to engage in the legislative process so that every Texas student has access to robust education options.

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward is a champion for the welfare of children and youth. On this episode of Students Over Systems, Senator Ward lays out the strong support in Pennsylvania for education freedom, including the proposed “Pennsylvania Award for Student Success” (PASS) program designed to provide lifeline scholarships to K-12 students trapped in the state’s lowest-performing schools. Senator Ward describes the legislature’s ongoing budget discussions, the governor’s inconsistent support for school choice, and the teachers unions’ relentless demands for more funding, despite record-high K-12 public education funding increases, high per-pupil funding, and unspent federal pandemic aid.

Dr. Lance Izumi, senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute, joins the Students Over Systems podcast to discuss why K-12 public schools aren’t as good as middle-class parents think. Dr. Izumi describes three of his recent books that expose the weaknesses of the K-12 education system and highlights stories of parents who are seeking alternatives: Not as Good as You Think: Why the Middle Class Needs School Choice, The Homeschool Boom, and The Great Parent Revolt. What happens in California’s education policy often spreads to other areas of the country, so parents will want to hear his concerns about the new California math framework.

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC) joins the Students Over Systems podcast to discuss the federal government’s role in education policy. Rep. Foxx outlines her goals as chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and delves into the hearings and legislation her committee has prioritized this year. We talk about steps the federal government can take to protect parental rights and expand education freedom.

Jenny Clark, an Arizona mother of five and Arizona State Board of Education member, joins the Students Over Systems podcast to discuss the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs). Jenny shares the education options her family uses, dispels ESA myths perpetuated by teachers unions and their supporters, and explains the importance of parent engagement when implementing education freedom programs. She also describes how her organization, Love Your School, helps families navigate school choice options in Arizona and beyond.


John Schilling, senior advisor to the Invest in Education Coalition, joined Students Over Systems to discuss federal school choice options. John shares the current threats to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program for low-income students and the widespread congressional support for a federal educational choice tax credit. We lament the power-hungry nature of teachers unions–the biggest bullies in school–and celebrate the good news that education freedom programs are expanding across the nation.

Paul Zimmerman joins the Students Over Systems podcast to discuss the teachers unions’ pernicious influence on K-12 education. Paul, who leads the Defense of Freedom Institute’s Teacher Unions Accountability Project, explains how unions use collective bargaining agreements to implement their radical political agenda. He also exposes the alarming “Catching the Trash” process that protects union members who have abused students. We conclude with a few bright spots on the horizon, including states that recently ended the automatic deduction of union dues from teachers’ salaries.

Dr. Patrick Wolf joins the Students Over Systems podcast to discuss education freedom research and implementation. Dr. Wolf, who leads the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, kicks off the discussion with an update on the new Educational Freedom Accounts created as part of the LEARNS Act signed by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders in March. He provides an overview of evaluations of school choice program outcomes, including test scores, safety, parental satisfaction, and competitive effects. The conversation concludes with a discussion of implementation and regulatory advice based on Dr. Wolf’s 25 years of evaluation experience.

This week, Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair joins Students Over Systems to discuss the whirlwind passage and implementation of the state’s new universal education savings account (ESA) program. Iowa’s state legislators set an example that many states followed this year by funding students, rather than systems. We discuss Senator Sinclair’s support for education freedom, the impetus behind the Students First Act that Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law in January, and the high demand for the program.

In his latest book, The Great School Rethink, American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Hess argues that “schools are organized today in ways that waste time, overburden educators, misuse technology, and alienate parents.” Rick joins the Students Over Systems podcast to provide a short education history lesson and explain why it is time to rethink, rather than innovatively transform, education. Rick maps out the questions “rethinkers” should ask about instructional time, technology, teacher recruitment, and educational choice.

EdChoice president and CEO Robert Enlow joins the Students Over Systems podcast to explain Milton Friedman’s vision for the role of government in education. Robert reviews the history of the school choice movement and EdChoice’s role in expanding education freedom through research, polling, and training. We discuss the importance of informing parents about their options now that numerous states have created universal or near-universal education savings account (ESA) programs.

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker joins the Students Over Systems podcast to discuss the 30-year history of the original school choice program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, and his efforts as governor to expand Wisconsin’s school choice options. He also outlines his experience taking on Wisconsin public-sector unions by drastically overhauling collective bargaining. Governor Walker also discusses his belief that every child deserves access to a great education and his efforts to ensure that governors actively support the universal expansion of educational freedom.

Jeanne Allen joins the podcast to discuss the creation and impact of the Yass Prize. The annual award provides education entrepreneurs with a $1 million grand prize, as well as dozens of smaller awards, in order to honor and connect organizations providing sustainable, transformational, and outstanding educational opportunities for students. Jeanne also shares her motivation for founding the Center for Education Reform 30 years ago, and her role in rallying parents and making education freedom the most important domestic issue of our time.

Are charter schools part of the education freedom movement? Nina Rees, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, joins the Students Over Systems podcast to discuss her influential role in the school choice movement and the history and mission of charter schools. The episode also explores the challenges charter schools currently face, including the Biden administration’s burdensome federal Charter School Program rules and conservatives’ concerns about prominent charter school networks abandoning their original missions.

Arizona set the gold standard for the nation last year by expanding eligibility for the state’s education savings account (ESA) program to every K-12 student in the state. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne joins Students Over Systems to discuss the history of Arizona’s school choice programs and the challenges of overseeing the Empowerment Scholarship Account program expansion. Superintendent Horne, who previously led Arizona’s State Department of Education from 2003-2011, also shares his plans to improve public schools by focusing on student achievement and discipline.

Former Indiana Congressman Luke Messer joins Students Over Systems to explore federal opportunities to support education freedom. As a state legislator and school choice leader, Congressman Messer significantly expanded Indiana’s school choice options. He co-founded the Congressional School Choice Caucus while serving in Congress and proposed legislation that would devolve power and funding to parents. We discuss his current role as president of the Invest in Education Coalition and the opportunities and challenges of expanding educational freedom to all 50 states through a federal tax credit scholarship.

On this week’s episode of Students Over Systems, former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos discusses her belief that education must be about students, rather than the special interests that control the K-12 education system. We talk about her decades of working with governors and state legislators to create school choice programs and the current momentum to expand education options in states across the country. Secretary DeVos explains her belief that education freedom can counter the existing industrial-era, conformity-driven K-12 education model—a topic central to her book, Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child.