Most people don’t know that I attended seven different schools during my K-12 years. It’s certainly no world record or even a story of pity. My dad was an Air Force pilot so I was able to see the world. Just in those K-12 years alone, I lived in Philadelphia, Pa, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Cairo, Egypt, and Mississippi.
Obviously, it was an adventure with many positives. However, moving around to so many different and diverse schools inevitably created gaps in learning. It’s no secret that public schools in Hawaii and Mississippi aren’t very good. Much of the sub-par instruction is more noticeable to me now but I absolutely knew it then too. I was bussed off base in Hawaii for 7th grade to the school that was designated for me. There was heavy racial tension, lots of fights, plenty of theft, and even a student bringing a loaded gun to school. Planned Parenthood taught sex-ed, I’ll let the reader use their imagination on how that went, but for the more curious, I wrote about some of it here.
I was in a math class where the teacher merely doled out assignments and cared little when we copied each other. It was a formative year where I fell behind in the subject and never really recovered.
When I moved to Egypt and attended a more academically rigorous private school, it was clearly evident I was behind in some areas. In moving to Mississippi, I had some exceptional public school teachers but some abysmal ones as well. Some classes were plagued by constant behavioral disruptions and other distractions unrelated to educational instruction. Given my middling grades, I even had a school counselor tell me I wasn’t college material, something I was quick to recall when I made the chancellor’s honor roll my last semester of college and later upon completing an advanced master’s degree. I credit my ability to catch up, in part, for a love of reading shaped at an early age and supportive parents.
I was overjoyed when I heard about Betsy DeVos coming to Ft. Bragg in 2017, where she advocated for school choice for military families. I wrote an editorial about it at the time and Civitas’s Brooke Medina has written about the need for school choice for military families in the Daily Signal and The Hill.
When I thought about my own story, DeVos’s advocacy and policy proposals made perfect sense to me. Local public schools don’t work for every child, particularly those in a military family. The child’s needs are totally different and often difficult to diagnose.
But that truth is universal, even a good local school may not be a great fit for every child. I have little doubt that school choice options would have benefited me immensely along with the millions of American kids who have a desire to learn but are kept in a poor or failing school through no fault of their own. Why don’t we offer them an escape hatch instead of continuing to double down on fruitless and partisan education fights? North Carolina should be the national leader on school choice instead of continuing to wait for politicians to catch up with public opinion.