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Guest Column
School choice helped prepare me to become a congressman | Column
My mother refused to accept the notion that a ZIP code should determine my success.
The author argues that "no longer are American parents blindly trusting their schools, the administrators and politicians to advocate for the well-being of students."
The author argues that "no longer are American parents blindly trusting their schools, the administrators and politicians to advocate for the well-being of students."
Published Feb. 11

“One-size-fits all” enthusiasts tell Americans that the idea of school choice hurts minorities, steals funds from public schools and hinders academic success — I’m living proof that their claims are wrong. My mother understood the need and value of school choice decades before the parent-led revolution our country is now witnessing.

Byron Donalds
Byron Donalds [ Provided ]

As a young child living in the inner-city of Brooklyn, my mother knew the public school education I was receiving didn’t challenge me enough and that I needed a better-quality education. My mother sacrificed, struggled and saved pennies to send me to a private school that better fit my academic needs and goals. My mother’s belief in the power of education and her determination to ensure her child achieved academic success is the reason I remain a committed proponent of school choice.

Just like millions of other parents across the nation, my mother refused to accept the notion that a ZIP code should determine her child’s success and ability to access quality education.

Throughout this pandemic, children have suffered and lost the most. As politicians and unelected union bureaucrats used students as political pawns and fought to keep schools closed, our children lost months and months of critical education fundamental to their growth, development and academic success.

I believe this pandemic has exposed and brought to light the politicians and supposed “educational leaders” who sometimes sacrificed the formative and defining years of a child’s education in exchange for political gain. This recklessness has awoken a sleeping giant: parents.

No longer are American parents blindly trusting their schools, the administrators and politicians to advocate for the well-being of students. The mismanagement of education during this pandemic has enlightened parents and reignited America’s fight, urgency and need for school choice. Parents are rightfully taking back control and demanding more from their school systems. They demand transparency, more opportunity and the ability to take back what is best for their children from an overreaching and out-of-touch government.

The injudicious and endless funding of perpetually deteriorating schools hinders academic growth, neglects the fundamental needs of students and appeases the systemic failure of the American public education system. Instead of forcing and molding children to fit into a traditional and outdated system, it is time we tailor education for student success.

Reforming education and adopting the principle of funding students, instead of schools, equips students with the financial means to achieve academic success. With funds following individual students, parents become empowered to choose the learning environment to best suit their child’s needs — without financial burden. This resurgence and revival of America’s education system is entirely student focused and brings a long overdue end to the cyclical funding of declining schools.

No two children are the same — therefore, no two children learn the same. By advocating for school choice expansion, we prevent complacency and stagnation within American school systems. Whereas the traditional “one size fits all” public school model stifles progress, school choice encourages innovation, competition, and an individualized educational experience that produces advantageous outcomes.

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The school choice revolution across the nation isn’t just a reignited flame for parental empowerment but the absolute rejection of mediocracy. No longer are parents settling as the supporting roles in education, sitting on the sidelines as the government and teachers’ unions determine the academic fate of their children. As energized and engaged parents advocate for the reimagining of schooling in America, the fight for school choice isn’t just for educational equity, but also academic freedom.

Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican, represents Florida congressional District 19 in southwest Florida, which includes Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples and Marco Island.

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