Hayakata: Voters support school choice agenda

David Hayataka

Every child is different. Children learn differently. They engage differently. And their family circumstances can differ dramatically. That’s why Michigan parents are clamoring for public school options, including the opportunity to connect with teachers one-on-one through online learning.

Whether a family makes the decision to leave their local traditional public school because of serious medical challenges, bullying, or because of a student’s special needs, public school options have been a godsend for thousands of Michigan children.

That’s why it was so disappointing to see opponents of parental choice attacking state House and Senate candidates across Michigan for their past support of public school options.

But on Election Day, after school choice opponents spent months and big dollars to attack these reformers, voters fought back and they spoke with a single, overwhelming voice. Michigan voters trust parents to do what’s right for their children.

Gov. Rick Snyder and a majority of state lawmakers in Lansing have consistently emphasized the importance of high quality public school options for students. Not only have they given parents more choices, but study after study has validated parents’ choices and proven their wisdom. Research shows new K-12 choices—including charter public schools—have been performing at higher levels than traditional public schools.

That didn’t stop opponents of school choice from declaring war on public school options.

In just the last year, there was a one-sided newspaper crusade against charter schools. There were attacks from the state Board of Education. There’s new legislation by anti-school-choice lawmakers in Lansing designed to dramatically limit parents’ ability to choose the best educational option for their children.

Then this campaign season, holdout interest groups took their battle against choice a step further. In many Michigan legislative districts, lawmakers who voted to give parents the ability to choose came under fire from supporters of the status quo. School choice opponents made rolling back educational options one of their primary campaign issues.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher for families like mine. If choice opponents had their way, Michigan kids like ours would be trapped in a system that doesn’t work for them. And some of the biggest parent advocates in the Michigan Legislature would be packing their offices at the end of the year.

But a funny thing happened on Nov. 4. Voters saw through anti-parent attacks and sent a crystal clear message to Lansing.

All across the state, lawmakers who voted to give parents the right to choose their children’s schools won re-election. In fact, despite constant attacks and big dollars spent by their opponents, not one lawmaker attacked for expanding public school options in Michigan was defeated.

Voters understand what Lansing so often doesn’t—when it comes to kids, parents know best.

Messages don’t get much clearer than the one delivered last Tuesday. When it comes to making educational choices for children, voters trusted parents.

The rest of Lansing should, too.

David Hayataka is chair of the Michigan Chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org.