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Ensuring Access to a Quality Education: What the Chicago Teacher Strike Says About School Choice

Leave it to a kid to succinctly get to the heart of a complicated issue.

When asked for his thoughts on his city’s ongoing teacher strike, Chicago charter school student Andy Anderson told CBS News the strike forces his friends at traditional public schools to spend the day "sitting at home, frying their brains" when they should have the chance to "come to school and get to learn more, and get a good education, so they could all become lawyers and doctors."

Young Mr. Anderson is right: Every child deserves the opportunity to go to school and learn more. Instead of subjecting students’ education to the whims of the teachers’ unions, families need more opportunities to choose the school that’s best for their children.

The benefits of school choice programs are undeniable. According to a recent study released by researchers at the Brookings Institution and Harvard University, African American students who received a scholarship to attend the private school of their choice in New York were 24 percent more likely to attend college, and more than twice as likely to attend selective four-year institutions.

An editorial in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune notes this isn’t the only example of a successful school choice program – the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program has also had an impressive effect on graduation rates:

A 2010 federal Department of Education study of students in Washington, D.C., found the 202 students who randomly had won "opportunity scholarships" to attend a private school were much more likely to graduate from high school than similar youths who applied for vouchers, but hadn't won them.
 
An amazing 91 percent of the D.C. students who received the voucher scholarships graduated, according to lead researcher Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas. That's compared to a 70 percent graduation rate for the kids who hadn't won vouchers.
 

Unfortunately, barriers to school choice exist not only in the Illinois legislature, which the Chicago Tribune reports has been sitting on a bill to promote school choice for more than two years, but also in the Oval Office.

President Obama continues to put up roadblocks to student choice, limiting students’ access to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and refusing to work with Republicans to advance legislation that would provide states more opportunities to award grants to school districts that wish to establish or expand public school choice programs. 

America’s children deserve a better chance for success, not more days stuck in underperforming schools at the mercy of teachers’ unions. House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans will continue fighting to expand school choice, promote the growth of quality charter schools, and support home school options so families nationwide can ensure a brighter future for their children.

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