Robert A. Teegarden's Blog

January 27, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions for School Choice Advocates

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Robert @ 6:12 pm

Recognizing the stock some readers put in stating their intentions at the beginning of the year, I offer a few resolutions for the school choice community and movement.  Far from being any gospel, they are offered with the sincere desire to broaden the discussion and considerations for the future.

  1.  Put a face on school choice.  Prohibit the use of photographs of children marching in political parades only.  Show heartfelt pictures of real kids with real success in school because of choice.  The victory of school choice is so much more than a political moment.  It will be sustained and grow because of the day-to-day victories of students and their families.
  2. Do resolve to include everyone from day one.  Don’t bring in the private school providers only after the policy wonks have done their job.  And don’t stop at the school house doors; a dozen principals only means 12 votes; but 500,000 parents means… well, you get the picture.  Start developing parent activists and advocates from the first day that the local coalition meets to consider the future possibilities. All have and deserve a place at the table.  
  3. Resolve to expand your own notion of school choice. School choice is more than a tool of educational reform.  It’s more than a blip on the continuum of educational opportunities in America. School choice is more than some noble economic principle. School choice reaches toward a moral imperative. It seeks the good.  Choice is what American families once had before schooling got organized.
  4. Resolve to tell the school choice story in every corner of America.  Collaborate with other advocates to create a documentary DVD and make it available to all.  Have policy research for the policy-makers. Have coalition strategies for the local leaders.  Have success stories for parents and students.  Have media pieces for the PR folks.  Don’t wait for the next symposium or colloquium or official gathering – pass it around—tell the story.
  5. Remember to preach to the choir again and again.  Once the kids are in the fourth grade, parents can start to lose interest.  Hope can be a hard thing to sustain.  
  6. Remember to preach to the non-choir again and again. The culture of choice we seek requires that all parents instinctively know of all their educational options upon the birth of their first child.  
  7. Link them.  Parents in Tampa, Florida, and Red Bluff, California, have many things in common. They can learn from each other, too. While the political fight is always local, the folks need a network to learn.
  8. Resolve to tell it like it is. If you and I and Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Jay were constructing the idea of education from the get go so many hundreds of years ago, we would surely not create what we have today.  But we no longer have that moment. We have instead the legacy of 150 years of experimentation, failure, fear, bigotry and bloated bureaucracies to overcome.  
  9.  The Florida experience teaches that Aristotle was right. The “truth” of school choice exists in the mean, somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum.  If we stay only at the extremes, we suffer the nausea of the political rollercoaster of excesses and deficiencies. While we may occasionally have a victory, sustained support and growth requires both sides of that aisle. Soon, school choice might even become a non-partisan idea as infectious as a virus. Resolve to determine an exit strategy for any national group prior to investment at the local level.  Ensure that those plans are part of the original negotiations
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