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Parents Deserve a Choice About Where Their Child Attends School

By: Jane Brady, Chair, A Better Delaware

The government doesn’t tell you where to get your car fixed or where to buy your groceries, but they do tell you where you have to send your child to school. 

Just for a moment, let’s suppose the government did tell you where to get your groceries, and they assigned you to a grocery store that, when you came to shop, only had 8% of what you wanted to buy in stock. You would probably say “I want to go over there and buy food in the store that has what my kids and I want to eat.” The government will tell you, “You are assigned to the store with the 8% rating, but if you ask a certain other store’s permission and they let you come, then we will let you.” But, of course, the better stores all have a waiting list, so you are stuck getting less than you want and need.

Like that result? Of course not. But that is what is happening to your children. If your child is assigned to Bancroft School, according to the Delaware Department of Education, only 6% can read at grade level, and only 3% are at grade level in math.  Those results are equally unacceptable. The only option to try to get your child in a better school is to ask another public school if your child can transfer in. And the better performing schools mostly have waiting lists.

Historically, the answers from the government to “fix” education are to spend more money, hire more paraprofessionals or reduce class size. None of these appears to be the issue. If you look at where the highest expenditures per student are, more money is spent in the poorest performing schools. Again, according to the Department of Education, Warner School spends a little over $30,000 per student, as compared to the average of approximately $17,000, statewide. Warner also has a teacher- student ratio of 12-1. Yet the test scores for Warner show less than 5% of students are performing at grade level in both math and English. Clearly, the same old answers are not working.

Just like when they choose where to go grocery shopping, parents should be able to choose the best school for their child – public, private, or parochial (that is, a school with a religious affiliation). The government denies them that option right now. Unless you have the financial resources to escape these poor performing schools, you are stuck with less than what you want for your kids and what they deserve.

Because of a law passed many decades ago, Delaware taxpayer funds cannot be used to send a child to a private or parochial school. However, there is an alternative. A Better Delaware supports a program, modeled after one in Pennsylvania, that will provide businesses and individuals with a tax credit for a percentage of the amount they donate to an education scholarship fund run by a not-for-profit organization. Those donated monies can then be used by children who live in poverty or are assigned to attend poor performing schools to pay tuition at the private or parochial school of their choice. Pennsylvania has a limit of $125 million in tax credits each year. The concept is so popular, there is a waiting list to donate. We support introducing legislation to adopt that plan in Delaware. Imagine how many Delaware students those scholarships would help to get a better education.

The ability to read, make calculations and communicate effectively, with a sound vocabulary and good grammar skills, is critical to personal growth and future academic and economic success. Imagine the transformation of the futures of the children who could access these scholarships. All of Delaware would benefit, because businesses looking to locate here could have more confidence in our state’s workforce, and the skills available here. 

Some elected officials in Delaware don’t support school choice – they want to give districts or teachers more money. The Department of Education’s own website proves that does not work. You now know that doesn’t work. 

Parents need to stand up and demand a better education for their children, so that they can enjoy the economic prosperity that will come with it. School choice is the answer. Our children deserve better. So, when those elected officials ask for your vote, you tell them, “This year, I am voting for my kids. Give me a choice so they have a chance.” 

Jane Bady serves as Chair of A Better Delaware. She previously served as Attorney General of Delaware and as a Judge of the Delaware Superior Court.