For the first time in over a decade, the Commonwealth of Virginia has elected a Republican governor, a significant accomplishment for the Republican party, but more importantly for parents, as the election of Glenn Youngkin ultimately centered on one issue: parental rights in the education of their children.
During the campaign, Governor-elect Youngkin's opponent asserted that parents should not have a say in their children's education. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we fight against this notion.
Our children suffered greatly during the pandemic. School closings and mask mandates have served as a plague of their own to children and parents alike. While the disease did not primarily affect children, kids and parents had to navigate online learning and isolation during the past few school years. As a result, kids have fallen behind across the nation.
In Virginia, parents noticed this pattern, stood up, and emphatically said no. Fundamental to our country’s origins is the idea that we want our children to do better than their parents, This is fundamental to the American Dream. The best way for our children to achieve that American dream is through education. So, to tell a parent they should have no say in a child's education is like a wave crashing into the mountain: it just isn't budging.
Here in Alabama, we like to label ourselves as a conservative stronghold. Still, even in our Republican supermajority, our legislators have failed time and time again to pass legislation that allows parental control over education spending.
The pandemic has provided the perfect backdrop to advance the parental school choice agenda. Many states with less conservative legislatures have successfully done so. But even in the face of parents demanding more educational options for their children due to the pandemic, the Alabama State Legislature has failed to pass a single, significant school choice bill.
The conservative legislators in states like Arkansas and Kentucky, among others, have made great strides in providing parents with educational options for their children. In May, Arkansas enacted a new tax-credit scholarship program that will fund tuition and fees for students from low-income families. Kentucky expanded school choice earlier this year through education savings accounts, making it easier for parents to send their kids to different school districts or private schools. These legislators understand that education spending should be controlled by parents. It is essential that tax dollars follow their child via education tax credits, education savings accounts, or charter schools.
But currently school choice in Alabama is limited for parents and their children. While there are seven existing charter schools in the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, with three more approved to open in 2022, our state does not ensure a parent's choice is honored with equitable access to capital funding and facilities. When presented with the opportunity to address this issue, our legislators voted down a bill that ensured students who attend public charter schools receive the same funding as other schools in their district. Though most of our legislators are members of the Republican party, there are only a few conservatives who genuinely believe that parents should be the sole decision-makers when it comes to their children's education.
Now that the 2022 election cycle is here, Alabamians need to press candidates to make their stance on parental choice in education known. Before Youngkin's great victory, being Republican did not guarantee support of the school choice agenda. But now the GOP has a chance to turn into the party for parents. If we want to ensure greater school choice in our state, we need to elect leaders like Glenn Youngkin that are committed to allowing parents to take charge of their children's education.
It is up to us as voters to elect legislators that will commit to fighting for parental control of education dollars by enacting school choice reforms in Alabama.
Dr. Mathis is a former senior policy advisor at Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, entrepreneur, and a distinguished fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com