By Robert Enlow, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Robert Enlow is President and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the legacy foundation of Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman and his wife, Rose.
(CNN) Twenty five years ago, President Reagan gave a speech in West Berlin where he exhorted Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Two years later, the barbed wire and wall that was a symbol of oppression came crashing down, ending decades of tyranny and leading to one of the greatest expansions of freedom and liberty in the 20th Century.
America has its own Berlin Wall. It is called K-12 education.
As schools let out for summer vacation, far too many parents, particularly low-income parents, are trapped behind the wall of their zip code or family income. They have no real freedom to send their child to a school that works best for them, and far too often they are forced to attend woefully underperforming schools or schools that just don't meet their child's individual learning needs.
This cannot go on.
Instead, we must tear down the Berlin Wall that holds back parents from being able to pick the school that best fits their child's unique learning style.
Thankfully, in the last two years, education reform and school choice have become front and center in America. As Mitt Romney said last week, we must put an end to the millions of children in our nation who receive a "third world education." And President Obama said, "Michelle and I are here only because we were given a chance at an education. I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance."
Editor's note: Pedro Noguera is a professor at New York University and director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. He is editor of "Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation's Schools" and author of "The Trouble With Black Boys ... And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education."
By Pedro Noguera, Special to CNN
(CNN) – For the past 25 years I have been working as an educator, researcher and policy advocate.
I am also the parent of four children who have attended public schools.
In each of these roles I have tried to improve public education and advance the educational rights of children, particularly those who have historically been poorly served.
Given my background, I was pleasantly surprised by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's recent assertion that education was "the civil rights issue of our time".
Romney is only the most recent politician to connect changes in education to civil rights. Similar remarks have been made by President Obama as well.
Typically, the politicians who make such declarations link it to a call for reform.
Romney has chosen to connect his declaration to the issue of choice and vouchers.
The question is: Why does Romney believe that simply by promoting school choice the problems that plague public education in America will go away?
by Rachel Streitfeld, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Calling the nation's falling educational standards "the civil rights issue of our time," on Wednesday Mitt Romney proposed dramatically expanding school choice for low-income and disabled children.
Romney told members of the Latino Coalition gathered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that millions of American children were "getting a third-world education," adding: "America's minority children suffer the most. This is the civil rights issue of our era."
The GOP hopeful said low-income and disabled students should be able to choose to attend any public or charter schools in a voucher-like program, with federal aid following them to their chosen schools.
Campaign advisers told reporters the plan would not require new federal spending. They did not discuss the plan's effect on schools largely supported by that same federal aid.
By Bethany Gardiner, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Bethany M. Gardiner, M.D., is a pediatrician and author of “Highlighting Homeschooling,” which guides parents through the educational options available to them and their children.
As a pediatrician, I was a dedicated career woman and never thought much
about the schooling options of either my children or my patients. I was a product of public schools and assumed the traditional schooling model was fine.
However, as I listened to my patients and their parents, I realized there was a theme being repeated many times over in family after family. They were stressed about their fast-paced lives and the futility of being forced into a box of expectations for a life that they did not fit into. Whether it was fighting against a system that penalized sick children for too many missed days, trying to challenge children that are bored in class, arguments about an ADHD diagnosis, to the hours of homework and busywork that intruded upon family time, parents were feeling overwhelmed and out of control, and these feelings were being transmitted to their children.
The more I considered these facts, I realized that I myself was losing a family-centric lifestyle, struggling against the demands of an outside system while trying to balance a career and my family. I knew that to impact my family and children in the most positive way possible, I needed to take control of my children’s education and tailor it to meet their needs and those of my family. By participating in their education, I could teach a love of learning and a passion for education that I saw missing in most of my patients that went to traditional brick and mortar schools. And while meeting the needs of my children, I could also improve my family life by adding to the time that we spent together rather than taking away from it.
by John Martin, CNN
(CNN) – On Wednesday, the Walton Family Foundation announced that it had made $159 million worth of investments in education reform and school improvement in 2011.
The Foundation said it focused on 16 lower-income communities that didn't already have school choice programs in place. Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado, the top three recipient communities, each received more than $7 million from the Foundation. A press release stated that the Foundation's goal "is to raise student achievement and close the persistent performance and attainment gap between low-income children and their affluent peers."
The Foundation announced strategic investment in three key initiatives: Shaping public policy, Creating quality schools and Improving existing schools. Among the largest grants awarded were to The Charter School Growth Fund, Teach for America, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Kipp Foundation and GreatSchools.
Sam and Helen Walton, who founded the Arkansas retail chain Wal-Mart, started the Walton Family Foundation.
By Jim Roope, CNN Radio
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on open enrollment from Jim Roope.
(CNN) Parents in Los Angeles may soon have the opportunity to apply to send their children to whatever school they choose. Open enrollment, the policy of eliminating school district boundaries, could, however, harm certain segments of the economy. One segment that could be adversely affected is real estate.
“Open enrollment is kind of a mirror to me of busing without the bus ride,” said Stuart Venner, a national real estate adviser and consultant. “People want pride in their neighborhood, pride in their area. When you have people coming in that may disrupt their way of life really, I think it’s going to lower and hurt the housing market in an area that doesn’t need to be hurt any worse right now.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District is considering open enrollment to stem the tide of kids leaving district schools for charter schools. But L.A. real estate agent Leti Venderstein doesn’t like the idea.
“I think it’s going to impact [real estate],” she said. “Values probably will come down in certain areas, what you would call good school districts.”
By Andrew Campanella, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrew Campanella is the vice president of public affairs for National School Choice Week. He is the former national director of communications at the American Federation for Children, the school choice movement’s largest lobbying and political organization, and was also a senior adviser for the federation’s nonprofit affiliate, the Alliance for School Choice.
For a moment, try to envision an America where, regardless of how much money you make or where you live, the government empowered you - even encouraged you - to send your children to better schools.
I’m talking about schools that inspire your children, challenge them to excel, and encourage them to dream big and plan for their futures, all while teaching them to love learning.
Sounds impossible. Sounds impractical. Sounds expensive.
But it isn’t.
It’s called school choice, and it’s the notion that across the country, families should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children - public schools, public charter schools, private schools, virtual schools and even home schooling.
Millions of Americans now agree that we must abandon archaic central planning that told us that if you live in one ZIP code, you can choose only one public school. Choice has become a centerpiece of American life, so why shouldn’t it extend to education?
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org