Education is a crucial issue that ties into the broader economy; children who are poorly educated are not given the opportunity to succeed as adults. There are significant gaps in urban and rural education systems that disproportionately impact poor and minority students.
There have been many proposed solutions, ranging from national standards set for the entire country, to more individualized education such as magnet schools, private schools, charter schools and homeschooling. Some other proposals at the state and federal levels are vouchers for low-income students, educational savings accounts, and parent trigger laws. Vouchers, which have currently been implemented in fifteen states and Washington, D.C., give low-income students an amount of money to attend a private school of their choice if their current school is failing. Education savings accounts have been implemented in states such as Indiana and Arizona, and parents are given autonomy on how they use the money, whether it be for homeschooling, charter and private schools, or even their assigned school. The parent trigger law allows parents whose children are in a failing school to sign a petition to flip that school into a charter school.
Proponents of national standards believe it levels the playing field and makes it easier for students who move states to be on the same page educationally. They also believe that set national standards will lead to better expectations for students and will better prepare them for college.
Opponents of national standards see them as a detriment to learning and setting America up for mediocrity. They believe that states should be responsible for setting their own standards. Those opposed also believe that national standards set a lower bar than most states currently have.
Proponents of magnet, charter, and private schools believe that every child deserves a chance at a quality education, no matter their zip code. The consensus at the moment in the nation’s capital is that individualized education provides opportunities to students in economically depressed areas of the country. Proponents point to charter school successes in other urban areas as well, such as New York and Los Angeles in closing the achievement gap. Supporters of homeschooling say that students who are homeschooled can have their education tailored specifically to their learning ability and have much more one-on-one interaction than they would be able to receive in a traditional classroom.
Opponents to individualized education say that it leads to the privatization of education, and that only the government should be in charge of education. Others believe that schools such as charter schools weaken the voice of unions and are not held accountable to the same levels as public schools. They believe that homeschooling children can prevent them from bonding with their peers, and they usually move at a much slower pace than public schools, causing them to fall behind their peers.
Proponents of vouchers believe that every child deserves a choice and a chance for a quality education no matter the zip code. Vouchers, like the program in Washington, DC, allow low-income students the chance to get a voucher to attend a private school.
Opponents of vouchers believe that they will lead to the full privatization of the education system, saying that private schools should not receive public dollars. They also believe that some private schools that are parochial and receive public dollars are a violation of church and state.