Brandon Dutcher | January 5, 2022
Seven reasons to let parents choose
Access to a good education is something that every Oklahoma student should enjoy, not just a select few. It’s time for state lawmakers to allow per-student funding to follow the student to their school of choice, whether public or private.
Here are seven reasons why school freedom makes sense.
Parents’ rights. “Education is child-rearing,” Greg Forster reminds us, “and it belongs to parents.” Parents—not government officials—have the right and the responsibility to raise their children in accordance with their consciences. Our political leaders have a duty to secure that right.
Woke indoctrination. It’s 2022, and this is not your father’s public school. Middle-school students in Edmond were asked to provide their preferred pronouns. Tulsa includes “social justice” in its staff training, with teachers told to focus on “privilege and oppression.” The Oklahoma State Department of Education promotes Critical Race Theory-themed materials. An Oklahoma Teacher of the Year nominee says it is important to be supportive of children exploring transgender transition. Jenks directs parents to “social justice” materials. Sadly, the list of examples goes on and on—and will continue to grow regardless of how many legislative or school-board races conservatives win.
COVID overreach. Extended school shutdowns have done damage to many children’s educational progress, mental health, and emotional well-being. Mask wars and vaccine disputes continue. Though there are no easy answers, school freedom puts parents back in charge, allowing them to choose a school that aligns with their priorities.
Moral insanity. Oklahoma schools, even in rural and suburban districts, are providing students with explicit materials, including depictions of graphic sex, incest, rape, and underage sex. Tulsa is providing "inclusive" and "stigma-free" sex education for 12-year-olds. An Oklahoma State Department of Education newsletter advised school districts to allow students to use the bathroom of their choice based on gender “identity,” and also promoted LGBT “best practices” including: “Never reveal a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity without the student’s permission—even to the student’s family.” Through various curricula and programs, schools are engaging in sexual grooming. Again, the list of examples goes on and on.
Academic failure. In Oklahoma City Public Schools last year, 90% of students tested below grade level in all subjects. In Tulsa, the number is 89%. Even in Oklahoma’s “best” districts, the majority of students—63% in Stillwater, 59% in Edmond, 66% in Jenks, 64% in Owasso, 63% in Bixby—are below grade level in all subjects. Many high school graduates can’t read. One Oklahoma school district even declared in a court filing that a high-school diploma is not, “and never has been,” an indicator that a student has mastered core courses.
Student safety. Public-school bullying is widespread—to the point where many students consider (and some even commit) suicide. News reports regularly tell of Oklahoma teachers having sex with students. A Stillwater teacher who was a statewide leader of the 2018 teacher walkout was sentenced to prison, and indeed teachers in Oolagah and Clinton had sex with students during the walkout itself. Sadly, however, many (most?) teacher-predators escape prosecution.
Changed lives. School-choice scholarships are already transforming lives in Oklahoma. Special-needs students, foster kids, adopted children, homeless students, autistic children, students battling drug addiction, low-income children in north Tulsa, and many more are benefiting from Oklahoma’s school-choice scholarship programs—all while saving the state money and making the public schools better.
“In Oklahoma, we fund students, not systems,” says Gov. Kevin Stitt. Thankfully, that is true for thousands of students. In 2022, let’s make it true for every student.
Senior Vice President
Brandon Dutcher is OCPA’s senior vice president. Originally an OCPA board member, he joined the staff in 1995. Dutcher received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Oklahoma. He received a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. Dutcher is listed in the Heritage Foundation Guide to Public Policy Experts, and is editor of the book Oklahoma Policy Blueprint, which was praised by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman as “thorough, well-informed, and highly sophisticated.” His award-winning articles have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, WORLD magazine, Forbes.com, Mises.org, The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, and 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S. He and his wife, Susie, have six children and live in Edmond.