The education establishment is holding our students hostage. Here’s how to free them

This fall, more students than ever before in America’s history will begin a new school year at a school of their own choosing. It’s a milestone to celebrate.

These students will learn and grow in a wide array of schools, with a wide array of adjectives that describe them — charter, micro, public, home, virtual, private, magnet, and religious, to name a few.

While the legacy media and education establishment obsess over those adjectives, that isn’t what matters to parents and students. What matters is the educational fit and the quality of the experience for each student. And the truth is that
every piece of credible research on the topic
concludes all students are better off when families are empowered to choose where their child learns.

It just makes sense. Children are different — they need different things. It’s unreasonable and illogical to think that any one school can meet the needs of every child in a given area. Some students need different types of coursework or focus areas. Some parents need a school closer to work. Some are worried about the safety of their government-assigned school. Many want to make sure the education their child receives supports, not undercuts, their family values.

The government school monopoly should not be protected at the expense of parents and their children. Rather, every single child in America must have the opportunity to learn in the way and in the place that best ensures his or her unique needs will be met. And thanks to committed, consistent work across the states, we are much closer to that hope becoming a reality.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey recently signed historic legislation that will make every Arizona student eligible to take the money the state already spends on their education and deposit it into an education savings account that families can control. They can invest the money in any educational setting or experience that will help their child thrive, including all of those aforementioned adjectives.

In Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and more than a dozen other states, historic numbers of students will also have the opportunity to exercise educational freedom — the ability to select the educational option that best works for them, not the one assigned to them by the government.

It couldn’t be a better time for education freedom.

The abject failures of the government-run, union-controlled education system have been laid bare for all to see these past two years. Students across the nation have suffered unthinkable learning loss, unprecedented mental health problems, and lost time and opportunities that can never be recovered or replaced. Those failures, layered on top of multiple pre-COVID failures, are devastating.

most recent data
conclude it will take students three to five years, on average, to catch up academically to where they would have been had the pandemic school lockouts never happened. And that’s only to where they would have been, which was often way behind where they actually should have been in the first place.

As a result, tragically (and wholly unnecessarily), we will know this rising generation as Generation COVID. The long-term damage inflicted on them by the school union bosses and their allies who kept schools closed is inexcusable.

Understandably, America’s parents and grandparents have had enough. The school unions sparked a parental revolt across this nation. They first elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, and they will soon elect pro-student and parent leaders such as Tudor Dixon in my home state of Michigan.

The Biden administration is only adding more fuel to the fire. Starting when it allowed the union bosses to strong-arm the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Center and keep schools closed for far longer than necessary, the blaze became an inferno when it ordered the FBI to investigate parents who were standing up for their children at local school board meetings. And now, the inferno is out of control as it works to destroy women’s sports, teach age-inappropriate lessons, and promote critical race theory-infused curricula, all while keeping parents out of the classroom.

It may seem like much of this is a new phenomenon. But this was, in fact, always the design. The father of America’s government-run education system, Horace Mann, once wrote that parents should be viewed as having given their children as “hostages to our cause.”

You read that right: hostages.

The stark truth is that America’s students are held hostage to a system that assigns them to a school, teaches them what it wants, and does its best to keep what families want out of the conversation.

Let’s be clear: It’s time to set the hostages free!

My new book,

Hostages No More
is about how we fix American education. It’s about how we ensure our children, our families, and our teachers are no longer hostage to a broken, one-size-fits-all system.

Think about it in this context: Mann “invented” our system of government-run education 175 years ago. A long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that Mann died 20 years before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. The “father” of the education model we use today never made a phone call — not even on a rotary phone, let alone an iPhone.

We must propel education into the 21st century in the same way telecommunications, and every other aspect of our lives, has been.

Recently, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Tim Scott (R-SC)
introduced new legislation
, built upon the work that I led in the Trump administration, to empower students and families. Importantly, it wouldn’t expand the power of the federal government one bit, but it would provide important rocket fuel to education freedom programs in the states. Congress should pass this student-first bill without delay.

The fight to free the educational hostages, our children, is far from over. But with parents across the nation awakened and education freedom policies on the march, there are many reasons to believe this back-to-school season will be the best yet.

Betsy DeVos served as the 11th secretary of education from 2017 to 2021 and is the author of the bestselling book “Hostages No More: The Fight for Educational Freedom and the Future of the American Child.”


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