On education, stop treating children like political footballs

Editor’s note: This commentary from Denisha Allen, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children and founder of Black Minds Matter, appeared Monday on m.washngtontimes.com. Allen is a board member at Step Up for Students and a Florida tax-credit scholarship graduate.

Last month, I testified before a congressional subcommittee discussing the topic of “School Choice: Expanding Educational Freedom for All.” I reflected on my personal journey receiving a tax-credit scholarship from the sixth through 12th grade to attend a private school.

I urged members of Congress to support expanding school choice at the federal level. They have the opportunity to pass the Educational Choice for Children Act — a monumental bill that would create a $10 billion federal tax credit scholarship.

This provision would give roughly 2 million additional students across the country educational freedom. As a student who benefited from school choice in Florida, I know that this program, if passed, will change the trajectory of millions of students’ lives.

The committee’s work to improve K-12 education has always been guided by the belief that all children — regardless of where they come from or how much money their parents make — should receive an excellent education.

Unfortunately, some schools are failing to provide students with that opportunity, and some state legislators would rather protect the status quo than honor the desires of their constituents.

At the hearing, I saw that both political parties agree our children deserve better, and they deserve the opportunity to receive a better education and pursue a better life. Everyone agreed that prioritizing K-12 education is important.

Unfortunately, the approach to fixing America’s education system continues to be divided along political lines. Elected officials in the Democratic Party believe that more money will help fix America’s poorest-performing schools. Just an hour away in Baltimore, however, we see that more money for district schools has not helped improve academic outcomes.

Meanwhile, the parents continue to vouch for school choice as a feasible alternative to improving schooling through competition and parental empowerment, even as Republicans in some states stand with the unions to block opportunity too.

It’s been seven years since my first appearance before Congress to discuss expanding education choice, and students’ lives are still a political football. Too many children are still being failed by the system. And too few elected leaders are willing to put families first.

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BY Special to NextSteps