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Op-ed by U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville
For 40 years, I worked in education as a teacher, coach and mentor. I have watched the school choice movement grow and change many students’ lives. Over the past few weeks, I am proud to have been able to recognize National School Choice Week on the Senate floor, host a roundtable discussion with parents from across the country and visit a magnet school in Huntsville.
When I first started in education 40 years ago, there was no opportunity for school choice. Homeschooling was very rare, but our government schools were in better shape back then. Today, there are about three million kids being homeschooled across our country. Homeschooling is the fastest-growing form of education in America.
It’s growing because parents recognize that our schools are failing our kids. I’ve watched our education systems decline with my own eyes. I’ve visited schools, parents, and principals in 49 states and the American Samoa. It’s time for lawmakers across this country to recognize that our schools are failing.
Education is the main reason that I ran for the United States Senate. Education isn’t just a local problem – it is a national problem. It’s undeniable that our K-12 education system is in a crisis – because of job protections and teachers’ unions. We spend more money on education in the United States of America than any other country. But we’re not in first place. We’re not even close, and that’s a shame.
We pay over $16,000 per student in this country in our public and government schools. The average among developed countries is $12,000. We’re spending over 30 percent more money, but we’re not getting 30 percent better test scores; we’re getting a lot less.
We are 34th in the world in math. If you can’t do math, you can’t survive in today’s world of technology. We have to improve our math education if we want to compete in a modern high-tech economy.
So, what is school choice? School choice just means funding the student instead of the school building. Right now, we spend all of our money on school buildings, teachers and administrations – not on the actual students. Our education system does not exist for the sake of teachers, principals, administrators, or even coaches. It’s not about our teachers’ unions; it’s about equipping the next generation of Americans. It’s about giving them the opportunity for a better and brighter future.
Competition makes everyone better. Whether it’s in football, business, or just life. Competition makes us all better. Kids deserve the best teachers. If we create more school choice in this country, perhaps some schools would focus more on teaching kids to read and write instead of on indoctrinating them.
At the end of the day, the key to unlocking the American dream is education. If you can’t read and write in our country, you can’t make it. You’re going to end up living off the government. And that’s not what this country is about.
Our future is built on our kids. If we don’t educate our kids, we won’t have much of a future. I know we’ve got a lot of problems going on in our world today and a lot of division in our country. But, if we unleash the potential of our young people, there is nothing that we cannot achieve.