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Kyle Olson Answers School Choice Questions During Tweetup

Kyle Olson, a prolific writer for EAG News and Townhall.com, joined citizens at lunchtime on Wednesday for a tweet-up on education reform to mark the middle of National School Choice Week. He answered dozens of questions ranging from funding to vouchers to the politics of education reform! Here are a dozen of the most popular questions that Kyle was able to answer for us:

1. What is “school choice,” anyway?

School choice grants parents a voucher that allows them to use the money they’ve paid in taxes to send their children to whichever school they deem best for their child. Without school choice, the only parents with the power to choose their children’s education are those who can afford to enroll them in a private school or homeschool them. School choice empowers parents who would otherwise have only one option: the local public school.

2. Which families benefit the most from school choice?

Urban areas tend to have higher numbers of failing schools, lower median incomes, lower graduation rates, and higher crime rates than suburban and rural areas. Thus, the children in these school districts are in a tough position–and have the most to gain from school choice.

3. Can cyber-schooling be part of the solution?

Cyber schools allow children to log into their classes from their own home, and are a great option for families who aren’t satisfied with any of the brick-and-mortar schools in their area. Kyle points of that cyber schools, still a fairly new concept in most states, need to be held to the same high standards as traditional schools.

4. Can families use a voucher to choose a religious school?

Yes–supporters of school choice believe that your taxes are your money, and you should decide where that money is spent!

5. Doesn’t school choice hurt public schools?

No–school choice introduces competition, which gives all schools an incentive to improve. When a family uses a voucher to pull a child out of public school and send him or her to another school,  the public school will lose some money, but will have one fewer student on which to spend! Each school will remain properly funded on a per-student basis.

6. Don’t charter schools only take students who test well, and leave underperforming kids behind?

Nope–charter schools admit students by a lottery, and in most cases, all families in the district are eligible.

7. What about homeschooling? Shouldn’t the government make sure that homeschooled children are meeting standards?

Kyle says it perfectly–if you’re taking it upon yourself to educate your own children at home, do you really want the government looking over your shoulder, telling you what you can and can’t teach? School choice preserves and strengthens the freedom of parents to homeschool their children.

8. If parents don’t choose to send their child to a brick-and-mortar school, will the child still be able to interact with their peers?

Remember, parents who use school choice are still paying taxes for education, and they are entitled to take advantage of the facilities those taxes pay for! New laws allow homeschooled and cyber-schooled children to play sports for public-school teams and make use of other public-school facilities such as libraries and auditoriums.

9. What about new federal programs like Common Core? Will they help improve failing inner-city schools?

Federally-mandated standards are one-size-fits-all and don’t take into account the great diversity of our schools. (For example, what does an elementary school in New York City have in common with on in central Nebraska, or in Hawaii?) They also give more power to Washington politicians and less to families, administrators, and locally-elected school boards.

10. What can citizens do to promote school choice in their state?

Get out there and make some noise! Read up on the benefits of school choice on Watchdog Wire, EAG News, Townhall.com and other websites, and then go to a school board meeting or a lawmaker’s town hall and ask them the tough questions. Shoot video of politicians and post it to YouTube, or write about your experience for Watchdog Wire! The deck is stacked against education reform advocates due to the power that teachers unions have over government. Parents need to make politicians more afraid of them than the unions.\

11. What are some questions to ask school board members and politicians?

Schools love to ask for more money but hate telling parents where that money goes. But they have to tell you–it’s the law. Hold them accountable.

12. Which states and lawmakers are taking the lead on education reform?

Kyle mentions Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett as leaders in expanding school choice. Another pioneer is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who signed an aggressive education reform bill into law last year.

Thanks to everyone who joined us this week! Be sure to follow @watchdogwire and @KyleOlson4, and join us next Wednesday at 12 PM ET for our weekly tweet-up with another special guest!

Kevin Palmer

Staff writer at Franklin Center. Contact me at kevin@watchdogwire.com

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