School Choice: Empowering Parents, Unleashing Students


By Matt Sharp

The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this [nation] repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.

The ‘liberty’ specially protected by the [Constitution] includes the rights…to direct the education and upbringing of one’s children.

The Constitution protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

You may think that the above quotes come from the press releases or websites of one of the many school choice advocacy groups, since it is National School Choice Week.  The rhetoric about the “right” of parents to determine how their child is educated, and that the state doesn’t have the power to “standardize its children” through public education sounds like something a school choice group would say.

But you would be wrong.

These words are from our U.S. Supreme Court.* And they go to the heart of what the School Choice movement stands for: defending and restoring the fundamental right of parents to decide what is best for their children.

Every child is unique. Some are book smart, others are street smart. Some are artistic, others are athletic. Some excel in math, others in history or grammar. No one knows the unique qualities, talents, and strengths each child possesses better than his or her parents.

And it is parents who, equipped with this deep knowledge of their children, are best positioned to make important decisions regarding their students’ education and training so that they can unleash their full potential.

Indeed, for most of human history, the burden and duty to direct children’s development rested solely on their parents. The farmer trained his kids how to work the land so that one day, when the children inherited it, they could continue to produce food for our nation. The soldier showed his child what it meant to sacrifice for others, and beamed with pride years later when that child followed in his father’s footsteps and signed up for military service.

School choice empowers parents to be more involved in their children’s education by giving them options. A child with a strong interest in science can attend a math and science-focused charter school. A religious family can send their child to a private, religious school that emphasizes both spiritual and educational development. And a child with special learning needs can find a school that provides him with the best personalized instructional program.

But the opponents of school choice seek to deprive parents and students of these options. They want to impose a one-size-fits-all, standardized approach that excludes parents and denies the uniqueness of each child.

Alliance Defending Freedom believes that school choice is best for parents and students. It respects the important role that parents play in raising their children. And it creates more opportunities for students to find a school where they can thrive.

Thus, Alliance Defending has defended school choice programs in Arizona (this case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court!), Indiana, Colorado, Louisiana, Georgia, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. And we will continue to defend parents’ fundamental right to choose the best education for their children.


* Pierce v. Soc’y of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925); Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720 (1997); and Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 66 (2000), respectively. (Internal citations, quotations, and alterations omitted).

Author: Alliance Defending Freedom