Diversity key to kids’ success
The town of Croydon uses tuition money to send its children to different schools. Most attend public middle and high school in Newport, but a few parents chose a private Montessori school at a cost of $8,200 per student, half the average cost of a New Hampshire public education. A couple students also go to other schools, including prep school Kimball Union Academy in Meriden. So students get matched to their dream schools, property-tax payers can stay in their houses, and everyone wins.
Did New Hampshire Education Commissioner Virginia Barry rush to Croydon and hand out awards for educational excellence? No. She set out to block the local school board, threatening legal action against a small town with $6,000 in its budget for legal expenses.
The legal attack is aimed at kicking Croydon's children out of their chosen schools. No matter that they have already started their school year. Ignoring a letter submitted by the Croydon Board of Education's lawyer, ex-state Supreme Court Justice Charles Douglas, the state has hit the town with cease-and-desist orders and threats of further expensive legal action.
Why are high state officials spending our tax money to fight diversity in education? It's not because they don't believe in diversity for their own children.
For the members of the political classes and government-employee unions, choice is assumed to be their children's birthright. President Obama's children go to private school. Gov. Maggie Hassan's children went to private school. In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the public-school teachers send their own children to private school, and they are right to do so.
There are no more jobs for people who can't think for themselves. No one is going to be turning the same bolt on the same assembly line for 40 years in the 21st century. The modern world is all about making your own niche, about creativity and flexibility. Diversity is the key to success.
Diversity has long been a feature of successful European education systems. The Netherlands - where 70 percent of Dutch children go to private schools - has had a school choice program since 1917. In Denmark, 16 percent of children go to private schools. Sweden has had school vouchers for over 20 years.
Canada has had publicly funded school choice since the 1800s. In the province of Alberta, less than half the students go to the geographically closest school.
More than half of U.S. states have some sort of school choice program. This June, Nevada passed universal school choice. The Nevada program allows parents to use whatever education resources are available: private schools, online courses, local colleges, tutors or curriculum materials. They can even add supplemental courses or tutors while staying in the local public school.
Choice is a long tradition in New Hampshire. The town of Derry sends its children to Pinkerton Academy; Coe- Brown Academy receives public students as well. The Rivendell District that serves Orford magically mingles its tax funds with those from another state.
New England towns have always put education above arbitrary political barriers; students have crossed state borders for hundreds of years.
Yet Gov. Hassan, Commissioner Barry, and Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards want to take away choice from the parents and children of Croydon. They are fighting to destroy not just the futures of a few children, but the future itself. The future does not belong to rigid centralized bureaucracies or the mindless regimentation of one curriculum for all.
The people of Croydon are the future. They have shown that towns can empower parents to choose where and how to use their children's education money. Choice is the future of education, and that means a better future for all of us.
Bill Walker lives in Plainfield. His mother was a public-school teacher who sent him to private school.