Equal Time: Improving education starts with vouchers

09/17/2016 9:00 AM |

Riverhead Charter School

I read Riverhead Charter School principal Raymond Ankrum’s column and found it fascinating and familiar all at once.

The discussion is about the failure of our schools to advance minority, poor and disabled students. It included a reference to Riley Avenue Elementary School as being zoned to receive mostly Caucasian students, alluding to a better source of educators or a better education than children at Roanoke and Phillips receive. He then went on to impugn not only the Riverhead School District but also the NAACP and Black Lives Matter for a lack of accountability for the ongoing failures. School districts are racist and black/minority organizations have been ineffective in evoking improvements is my takeaway from his statements.

This is a brave and remarkable position to take, and perhaps a revealing one as well. I don’t subscribe to the idea that our school district is racist specifically, but I can see where this mantra and ideology have been exploited ad nauseam to the point of total ineffectiveness. But what the heck, let’s go with that.

I was a helicopter mom. I am a Caucasian professional and I was involved with my kids in sports and academics. And candidly, I did my best to micromanage their educational experience and I am happy that my kids succeeded and became professionals. I will give a heap of credit to the many talented, color-blind Riverhead educators, but make no mistake, I did my best to steer my kids in the right direction. You see, I was all about individualism and choice!

This brings us to what I believe is Mr. Ankrum’s dilemma and complaint. I perceive him to believe that the system is rigged — and, let’s face it, this is a national problem, not a Riverhead one. If you have a child who needs a different style of education and you have only one system that “fits all,” with a government process (Common Core ) narrowing it even more, with no options, it’s a trap of failure — not an opportunity to succeed.

There is a system that would be completely color-blind and that is school vouchers. They would all be the same and then parents could take the child and the voucher to the school of their choice instead of being herded like cattle into predetermined pens based on “zoning.” Then schools would compete for students; they could innovate instruction and demonstrate where they individually were most successful. Principals could design, at the local level, an educational delivery system and compete for students, and each student would have a substantive individual worth.

The best part is that parents and students could seek and find their niche. A sense of self-determination and worth as true consumers of education.

Administrations would be consolidated and necessary only for the purposes of organizing supply systems and transportation.

So how do we “get that party started”? Vote for the one and only candidate who wants to offer that possibility to uplift minority students and break out of decades-long failed education systems — Donald Trump. Mr. Trump supports school vouchers, as do I.

The author lives in Baiting Hollow.

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