Late summer 2022 is already proving to be unlike any back-to-school season in history. America’s schoolchildren may still be prowling the stationery aisles at Walmart and Target, hunting for the same old glue sticks, notebooks, and pencils. But their parents have an altogether new item on their school supply list this fall: the right to choose where their children go to school.
When COVID-era remote learning began in 2020, parents gained an unprecedented view inside their students’ classrooms and their counties’ school board meetings. What they saw—fraudulent, woke propaganda disguised as curricula; union-driven closures; punitive mask and vaccine mandates; and the Democratic Party’s crackdown on objections to any of the above—has changed the moral and political foundations on which our education system rests.
In the last two years, Americans’ trust in public schools fell more than a third, from 41% to 28% . More than 1.2 million children transferred out of U.S. public schools and into educational options not indentured to their zip code. A June poll by Real Clear Opinion found 71% of Americans favored school choice—the highest level of support ever recorded—and more than 80 % of parents said they would vote for candidates outside their party who share their education views.
And who can blame them?
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America’s schools were in crisis before the "Great Awokening" turned them into ideological indoctrination camps. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered before the pandemic, found sharp declines in both reading and math test scores . (This, of course, is why wealthy parents have always exercised school choice; the policy debate is simply about whether everyone else should enjoy the same luxury.) Since then, two years of school closures led to learning loss and psychological damage much worse than public health officials assured us was possible.
Meanwhile, we now know why students cannot read, write, or add at grade-level proficiency. The traditional “Three Rs” have been replaced by the racist, pornographic, anti-American, anti-science, ahistorical religion known as “wokeism.” Manifested first as predatory propaganda like the 1619 Project and radical gender ideology, it has since justified brazen abuses of power by principals, school boards, and bureaucracies.
Today, the education system openly discriminates against Asian students. Female student-athletes are under attack by transgender extremists who pretend it’s fair for boys to compete against women. Schools secretly encourage gender-confused students to transition socially and hide it from their parents. In Loudoun County, Virginia, authorities covered up the rape of a female student in the girls’ bathroom by a male student who dressed like a girl, then arrested the victim’s father for protesting the fact at the school board’s next meeting. The Biden administration accelerated this crackdown by directing the FBI to open “domestic terrorism” investigations … against the parents !
This underperforming and treacherous status quo—for which the government charges taxpayers $770 billion per year—is what parents are waking up to. But just as wars are not won by evacuations, policy battles are not won by opponents’ self-immolation. The school choice moment is not a victory, just an opportunity. Capitalizing on it will require bold leaders who aren’t content to sit back and hope that wins will be handed to them.
To defeat a movement willing to cover up sexual assaults, mutilate vulnerable children, and celebrate racism, we must fight. And the record shows that when we do, good things happen.
Arizona, which is by no means a deep red state, recently passed the most sweeping school choice program in the country. It creates and funds an education savings account for every K-12 student in the state, making families who apply to the program eligible for up to $6,500 per student per year.
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Blue Virginia elected a Republican governor on the strength of his anti-woke, pro-parent education agenda. This summer, Gov. Glenn Youngkin rescued the state’s school choice program from Democratic legislators bent on cutting it.
Tennessee is restarting major ESA pilot programs previously stalled by court challenges.
And this winning streak has happened within the eight weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-school choice policies that discriminated against religious schools .
At this moment, parents are ready to fight. Students deserve a champion. All that is needed are political leaders willing to lead. The hypocritical enemies of school choice—the Democratic politicians, teachers union elites, and media propagandists who send their own children to private schools—will continue standing in the schoolhouse doors until they are, at long last, removed.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner