Larry Elder: School Choice Isn't Enough for Parents to Save Their Kids - They Have to Get Involved


Question my sanity, but I’m considering running in this election to recall California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Here’s a big reason why.

No one doubts that bad K-12 public school teachers exist. There is a phenomenon known as the “turkey trot,” in which bad teachers wind up in the worst schools.

Why? There is a connection between bad schools and lack of parental involvement.

When you have strong parental involvement, parents pressure their schools to remove such teachers. Because of strong, protective teachers unions, these teachers are rarely fired, merely shuffled from school to school, until they land in one where few parents complain.

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And while the vast majority of teachers do not fall into that “bad” category, look at where public school teachers send their own school-age children. Nationwide, approximately 10 percent of kids attend private school. Six percent of black kids do so. But more than 20 percent of public school teachers send their own kids to private schools.

A 2004 study by the Fordham Institute found that 44 percent of Philadelphia public school teachers send their kids to private schools. In Cincinnati and Chicago, 41 percent and 39 percent of public school teachers, respectively, put their own school-age children in private schools.

In Baltimore, in 2017, there were 13 public high schools where 0 percent of students could do math at grade level, with another half a dozen Baltimore public high schools where only 1 percent could do so. So it is hardly a surprise that Fordham’s study found 35 percent of Baltimore public school teachers with school-age kids placed them in private schools.

In San Francisco, it was 34 percent, and New York-Northeastern New Jersey was 33 percent. In Los Angeles, nearly 25 percent of public school teachers sent their kids to private school, versus 16 percent of Angelenos who did so.

For this reason, school choice has never polled higher.

A RealClear Opinion Research poll in June found support for school choice at 74 percent among registered voters. This includes 83 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of independents and 70 percent of Democrats who strongly or somewhat support school choice.

In April 2020, support for choice was 64 percent.

Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children, said: “Public support for school choice is at an all-time high. And, as the nation recovers from unprecedented, nationwide school closures, a new story is unfolding. Parents are rising up and demanding the freedom to choose the best educational environment for their children. …

“Already in 2021, seventeen states have passed legislation to improve, expand, or create new school choice programs.”

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School choice is not a panacea, especially without strong parental involvement.

Studies show that black kids spend less time doing homework than Hispanic kids, less time on homework than white kids and much less time on homework than Asian-American kids.

Economist Walter Williams told me, “If you don’t have someone in your household to make sure that you do your homework and to insist that you go to bed on time, the school you attend will not make a whole lot of difference.”

When I was in elementary and middle school, several classmates were Asian-American, most of Chinese or Japanese descent. They all told me the same thing. If they got a B — they rarely got a grade lower than that — their parents told them they did not work hard enough. If they got an A, their parents told them the test was too easy.

Their parents did not accept the notion often heard from my black classmates, that so-and-so is “just not good in math.” The parents of my Asian-American classmates believed that in academics, as athletic coaches say, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

School choice benefits children of parents who preach that education and hard work are key to upward mobility.

School choice will be of little benefit to the kids of parents who do not.

Please let me know your thoughts about my possible candidacy at We’ve got a state to save.


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