CITIZEN: November’s school choice amendment gives Kentucky the opportunity to put students first.

OPINION: Martin Cothran on the importance of Kentucky’s constitutional amendment on the November 5 ballot.

Martin Cothran is Senior Policy Analyst and Spokesperson for The Family Foundation.
Martin Cothran is Senior Policy Analyst and Spokesperson for The Family Foundation.

Kentucky has an inferiority complex. As someone who has been involved in state policy for over 30 years, I have seen it again and again. Kentucky, although it is known for its fast horses, has always realized that it operated at a handicap when it comes to other states in regard to its public policy.

This usually takes the form of someone saying that we need Policy X because “other states have done it and we don’t want to be left behind.” We have seen this argument used again and again, particularly when it comes to reforming education.

But in the last few years, more and more states across the country have moved toward greater choice in education. In fact, every state bordering Kentucky now has a working school choice policy that allows parents to have some choice in where they send their kids to school. Other states, including Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona and many others have implemented school choice policies.

One would think there would be calls from the same reform-minded educational establishment arguing that other states are leaving us in the dust, and something must be done.

But if you thought that, you would be mistaken.

In Kentucky, the teachers’ unions and educational professional organizations have worked continuously and spent extravagantly to keep Kentucky behind in the race for good schools. We should be suspicious of the views of organizations in whose interest it is to line their own pockets and protect their own political influence at the expense of children and families.

Despite the lack of support for educational choice among some in the education establishment, Kentucky passed a proposed constitutional amendment, HB 2, in this year’s General Assembly session that would ask Kentucky voters to amend the state’s constitution to allow the General Assembly to consider school choice legislation. It doesn’t impose school choice, but simply allows Kentuckians the freedom to consider it.

The performance of many of the state’s public schools has been poor. In many school districts around the state, fewer than half of students are proficient in reading.

The solution offered by the education establishment to this continuing problem has always been the same: more taxpayer money. If any educational solution has proven itself ineffective, it is this. The more money spent on education seldom if ever results in better education, and many times, yields poorer results.

The problem with our schools is not money. The problem with our schools is a result of a pronounced misallocation of resources, poor teacher training, and bad education philosophy.

Many of our school districts have become bloated bureaucracies. Teachers themselves continue to be ill-served by professional development training in methods of instruction that have long been discredited, resulting in worsening reading and math scores. Fewer than half of Kentucky students score proficient in reading and mathematics.

And quality of academic standards continue to be degraded by a shift in emphasis away from knowledge and basic skills toward newer and more exotic racial and gender ideologies that deform our children’s understanding of what it is to be a whole human person, and by programs that tout so-called “critical thinking skills” but which lower the priority on content knowledge.

Families shouldn’t be trapped in inefficient, low-performing government schools. Money should follow the child and the family, not line the pockets of ineffective bureaucrats.

Allowing lawmakers to consider options that give families more choices, including the option to send their children to higher performing schools outside the public school system, would allow for greater freedom in educational options and would give public schools competition that, as in every other facet of life and business, would work even to their benefit.

Kentuckians will have the opportunity on November 5 to positively transform the educational landscape in our Commonwealth by voting for more educational choices for families. For the future of the children of our Commonwealth, we should – and must – vote to put students first.

By Martin Cothran – Spokesperson and Senior Policy Analyst for The Family Foundation. 

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