Guest View: Parents Need Education Choices | Chroniclers


Helena’s families recently received encouraging news: The number of new cases of coronavirus locally has dropped enough that masks will soon become optional for students in local public schools. While these advances are welcome, we know cases and hospitalizations could rise again, and further restrictions could follow.

The debate around masks, vaccines and distancing raises important questions about individual freedom and public health. It is important that parents have the right to have their voices heard in local school boards, whether their views are pro-mask, anti-mandate, or somewhere in between.

But when students are effectively locked into a system that offers no real alternative beyond the local school to which they are assigned, the debate is inherently heated and divided. The current system simply cannot anticipate and respond to the various preferences within our communities, and this is expressed by frustrated parents filing their complaints with local school boards and elected officials.

Families are missing a critical option that would help lower the temperature around these disputes: the right to go elsewhere. Most families cannot afford both the property taxes that fund schools and a second round of school bills.

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If Montana lawmakers embrace educational freedom, it will allow students and families to choose their educational setting. Instead of a zero-sum game with an angry winner and loser, debates over masks and vaccinations in public schools become mutually beneficial peer-to-peer political debates rather than political battles between entrenched tribalist groups.

Beyond the drop in temperature in these political battles around public schools, educational reform like this is also better for children.

Every child is different, with unique interests and talents. Children learn at different rates, thrive in different environments, and benefit from different experiences. Some excel in a traditional classroom setting. Others may benefit from online instruction, hands-on experiences or with the help of tutors.

If we want every child to be successful, we need a system that recognizes their differences and makes it easier for children to access the education that is right for them. Instead of trying to give every child the same education, we should try to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to choose the right education for their unique situation.

By making the system more flexible, we can help children determine their skills and interests. When they discover what motivates their curiosity and prompts them to learn more, we can help them develop lifelong learning habits. It is the key to success at work and in life.

There is no such thing as an average child. Therefore, there is no single system that can offer all the options to meet the unique needs of each student. Instead, Montana should give students and their families the resources to access the educational experience that is best for them. If a student learns best outdoors, at the YMCA, in 4 hours, in apprenticeship, online or by any other method, we must value and reinforce this experience. We should value learning that meets a student’s interests and needs and focus less on where and how learning occurs.

This kind of system would be more responsive to the priorities of students and families. This would ensure that instead of a default assumption that education dollars should always fund traditional buildings and classrooms, funding decisions should increasingly be given to students and their families. to access the best educational executives and the best instructors who work for them and reflect their priorities.

It is time to step aside and stop attacking our neighbors because they live the values ​​they have chosen. Instead, let’s adopt a system that allows schools with and without masks to argue over students and meet student needs. This way we live in peace, instead of forcing each other into schools and policies we don’t want to be in.

David Herbst is director of Americans for Prosperity-Montana.

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