Real Accountability to Parents Trumps Fake Accountability to Government

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my latest, on the rumblings in Oklahoma about holding school choice programs “accountable”:

This concern-trolling about data is almost always the first step toward demanding new restrictions on parents’ control of the education of their own children. State Rep. Mark McBride commented on the new data collection, for which he led the push: “We wanted to make sure there’s no disparities and it’s fair.” So the goal is not something like monitoring compliance with nondiscrimination laws, which would be legitimate, but to take away parents’ control of education if the decisions they make for their own children produce any aggregate pattern that can be framed and presented as “unfair” in any possible respect, or as containing anything that can be used to create a narrative about “disparities.” It is, of course, literally impossible for parental choices to produce any aggregate pattern that will not be presented as “unfair” and “inequitable” by the special interests who line their own pockets by destroying children’s lives.

The new data collection on one Oklahoma choice program is payback for the recently enacted huge expansion of its other program. The special interests can’t stand to lose – it reveals too clearly how powerless they have become, and the perception of power is power – so we can expect more of the same in the coming year.

Limits on schools in the program are, of course, actually limits on how parents are permitted by the state to educate their children. You can have accountability to parents or to politicians, but not both.

Thankfully, efforts to impose substantive regulations on choice programs after they’re created are a losing proposition:

Any effort of this kind in Oklahoma should be expected to fail. Despite enormous effort over the last 30 years, the special interests have never succeeded in imposing curricular restrictions on existing choice programs, nor have they managed to exert serious increased influence on school policy. At an earlier period in the choice movement’s history, before the steep decline of the special interests’ political power over the past decade and the dramatic increase in popular support for choice since the pandemic, there were occasional minor setbacks in this fight. But the track record on the whole, and especially in the past decade, is one of stunning and consistent defeat for efforts to impose fake accountability on choice programs.

Why? Simple: After a program is created, the parents in the program will show up and fight to defend it. Contrary to the ideological claptrap of the special interests, parents are not stupid, and they are not easily cowed by “experts” and “leaders” when it comes to the education of their own children. Where I live, in Wisconsin, when our very anti-choice governor tried to impose modest reductions in the size of our choice programs, the state Capitol building was flooded with children holding signs that said things like: “Please don’t take away my school!” The effort was crushed, and the governor found other issues to busy himself with. That story has been repeated time and again across the country.

Recent events, including lawless new “guidance” from the US Education Department attempting to bully colleges and universities into adopting the government’s official ideology on human sexuality, demonstrate that choice policies don’t create the danger of government attempting to control private schools; what choice policies create is a constituency that fights back.

Shout-out to my amazing friends at a certain small but truly outstanding Christian university in Seattle, which is currently fighting off a lawsuit attempting to impose the new orthodoxy on their community!

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