Of all the disturbing things emerging out of the News & Observer’s week-long screed against charter schools, few are as head-shaking as Tom Benton’s quote about parental choice.
Commenting on the racial imbalance on the schools in Zebulon, Benton — a former chairman of the Wake County School Board—said:
“At some point, I think we need to have a serious public policy debate about how do we weigh this thing of parental choice.
Few quotes reflect the depth of the divide between parents, school choice supporters and public-school advocates than Tom Benton’s quote.
The language is certainly telling.
The phrase “This thing” makes it obvious parental choice is a concept that is foreign to Tom Benton. It does not dwell deep in his heart, nor does he believe that parents should have the right to determine how and where their child is educated.
It’s parent’s choices, Benton believes that have led to our schools resegregating.
Benton has it wrong. Is it parent’s choices that lead to resegregation or the lack of quality choices? Shouldn’t schools be held accountable and be asked: why are students opting to go elsewhere?
A January 2017 Civitas Poll found that 81 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “parents should have the ability to choose where their child attends school.”
Benton doesn’t believe so. He believes parental choice rights are conferred by the state – as long as they don’t interfere with other goals such as socio-economic diversity. If the racial composition of schools needs to be engineered to foster academic achievement – even though the research in support of such policies is at best inconclusive — so be it. If it happens that your child is placed in a less than optimum educational setting to achieve a better balance, well, that’s too bad. The most important thing is that our schools don’t segregate.
There’s the divide. And there’s why parental choice is proving more and more attractive each day.