The abysmal Nation’s Report Card results are a national embarrassment, but not a surprise to parents who watched their children struggle academically, emotionally, and socially during extended school closures. Children have suffered too much, and now parents are demanding education freedom in order to escape the government-assigned schools that have abandoned their educational mission.
Study after devastating study reveals the widespread academic and emotional harm school-district bureaucrats, teachers unions, and union-supported school-board members inflicted on America’s children. Parents know their children deserve a better education than the one provided to them during the recent era of closed schools and declining academic standards.
Parents deserve power over their children’s education, but unions and district bureaucrats hold all of the power in areas without education freedom. Education freedom leads to a more innovative and pluralistic education system that benefits not just students, but parents, teachers, and society generally.
There is an urgent need to expand school-choice options so parents can find the educational options that best meet their children’s needs. Education-freedom policies also send a wake-up call to school districts: Serve students well, or families can and will leave.
Thankfully, groups across the liberty movement have stepped up on this issue. It is rare to find a state think tank or national organization not researching, communicating, or advocating the benefits to more choice in education.
Giving Parents a Voice
In April 2022, Independent Women’s Forum launched the Education Freedom Center to ensure parents have the leverage they need to direct their children’s educational path. We support a wide array of school-choice policies that increase parents’ leverage, including education-savings accounts, open enrollment, private schools, charter schools, homeschooling, and micro-schools.
We encourage the creation of educational options, including classical education models, that focus on academic achievement and create healthy environments for students to learn and thrive.
The IWF Education Freedom Center supports education funding following students to the option that best meets their needs. We empower parents with resources provided through our website, communications toolkits, op-eds, blog posts, and The Defender monthly newsletter.
We elevate education freedom and other pressing education topics, including learning loss and gender ideology in classrooms, through media appearances, congressional testimony, Facebook Live policy chats and IWF podcasts. The Center amplifies the voices of parents who are seeking education flexibility and opportunity, and publishes research and commentary on trends in education policy.
In our Escaping Your Government Assigned School [INSERT link] series for the Independent Women’s Network (IWN), we highlight the stories of the parents benefitting from legal and policy victories. We also hope to inspire parents to engage in advocacy for education freedom by shining a spotlight on the parent leaders who are advocating for legislation, suing and organizing to protect the programs, and helping other parents navigate their new options.
IWF highlighted and celebrated multiple significant education freedom victories last year. The Supreme Court’s Carson v. Makin decision will protect education freedom in Maine and beyond.
Arizona, with leadership by the Goldwater Institute and other organizations, created the gold standard for state education freedom programs by expanding eligibility for the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) so that parents of every K-12 student in the state can participate. Legal victories in Tennessee and West Virginia enabled those states’ education savings accounts programs to move forward.
Iowa, just this week, voted to fund students instead of systems.
Thousands of families in 10 states are benefiting from the opportunity that ESAs provide to access and direct their child’s state education funding. Participating families can direct the ESA funds to a wide array of approved education expenses, including tuition, tutoring, curriculum, testing, and therapies.
What’s on the Docket for Education in 2023
In 2023, the Center will continue to debunk the myths and celebrate the joys of parent-directed education by creating additional resources for parents, expanding our writing and media presence, and highlighting the stories of the creators, advocates, and beneficiaries of education freedom.
The Center’s work will advance specific federal, state, and district policies that break down barriers to accessing education provided outside the traditional K-12 public school system.
We anticipate numerous state legislative victories this year.
The push for education savings accounts in Iowa, for example, has strong leadership from Governor Kim Reynolds and state Senate President Amy Sinclair. IWF and IWN, our membership organization, will share information about education savings accounts in multiple states, including Iowa, Idaho, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
We will work with partners in Texas as the legislature tries once again to join the 31 other states with private school choice programs. The Education Freedom Center will inform parents and policymakers in these key states about the benefits of ESAs and other choice options by sharing communications materials and parent stories.
In addition, IWF launched a new Students Over Systems podcast podcast in honor of National School Choice Week (January 22-28). Please listen and subscribe as we talk with both parents and policymakers. Early guests include former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
We believe that the parental rights movement needs school choice. Winning school-board elections alone will not improve K-12 education in our country. As parental rights organizations channel their frustrations with the unresponsive bureaucratic education system into advocating for educational options, the freedom that school choice provides parents and students will spread. The Education Freedom Center will continue working with partner organizations to advocate for both parental rights and school choice.
Parents desire educational freedom, parental empowerment, and leverage with their local school system. Governors and legislators are addressing the egregious power imbalance between parents and school districts by promising to expand school choice options.
At the IWF Education Freedom Center, we are very excited about empowering parents to direct their child’s education funding toward the educational option that best meets their needs. Our nation’s students deserve a path out of the learning loss crisis created by the public-school system and the opportunity to thrive.