Recently, Josh Boak, a Washington, DC-based AP economics reporter, penned an article with a provocative headline titled, “As affluent parents accelerate spending on kids’ education, wealth gap could widen further” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 09/30/2014). With the headline alone, Mr. Boak no doubt was able to get a flurry of page views given the controversial and divisive nature of his word selection. This, of course, is the goal – to attract readers by automatically seizing upon rhetoric that would strike a chord among many American parents who prize quality education.
While Mr. Boak certainly outlines the reasoning for quality education – to improve one’s economic circumstances and grow the U.S. economy at a faster rate – and takes note of the often high costs of private K-12 tuition, he conveniently overlooks the growing popularity of homeschooling and the availability of both charter schools and school voucher programs across the nation, in various states where such programs are available.
However – what Mr. Boak fails to mention – or (conveniently?) overlooks – is that not all of the parents of private school students are necessarily affluent, although his misleading headline construes that conclusion. What about the highly successful DC school voucher program, intended for those who meet a certain income threshold? One such DC student, Sanya Amancio, whose single mom hails from the Dominican Republic is quoted as saying, “The scholarship has been able to give my daughter an opportunity to go to a Catholic private school and learn in an environment that is safer, academic(s) are enforced more, and the teachers and staff’s goals are to see the students succeed in life. I don’t have money to afford sending Sanya to Archbishop Carroll … I only work part-time, and I am a single parent, so it is hard to gather money to have at home, less raise about $9,000 or more a year to send her to school,” she tells the Catholic Standard.
Let’s also not forget that our own President proposed to eliminate the DC school voucher program as one of his first duties in public office despite he and the First Lady’s choosing to send their daughters Malia and Sasha to the highly elite Sidwell Friends school, alma mater of Chelsea Clinton and President Nixon’s daughters rather than a neighborhood public or even charter school.
There are also a number of middle-class parents who are able to simply prioritize their children’s education, whether by purchasing a home in a pricey school district or who scrimp and save for a private school tuition. For most, though, neither are options nor are charter schools available where they happen to reside. The expansion of school choice via charter schools, homeschooling and private school vouchers can help parents of lower incomes receive the a wider range of educational opportunities rather than being stuck with a school they are assigned to – which may or may not fulfill their child’s needs, and those of the parents.