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School choice equals opportunity for America's children

By Brad Jewitt
web posted June 14, 2004

Education is a key component of success in our communities. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to ensure that all Americans have an equal opportunity to learn. School choice will help give them that opportunity. Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige said, "Educational choice is important for two reasons. First, it extends civil rights and social justice. Second, it enhances school effectiveness." I couldn't agree more.

School choice programs offer not only educational opportunities for children, but the programs are designed to improve student achievement, challenge public schools to raise standards, and enable low-income families to provide the best education possible for their children.

I strongly support President Bush's school choice plan for the District of Columbia. The president's five-year, federally funded school voucher program will provide nearly 2,000 low-income students with grants of up to $7,500 each to attend the school of their choice. I am committed to supporting similar programs here in Maryland, along with charter and magnet schools and tax credits.

Our public schools are currently failing many of America's children. Some in Congress push for more of your tax dollars, including my opponent, Rep. Steny Hoyer. Frankly, I'm concerned about how the educational crisis is being handled by representatives such as Mr. Hoyer. They believe more of your hard-earned money is necessary to save a worsening system. I believe it is time for a new approach. Not only is it time for a more efficient system -- it is time for school choice.

The federal government spends more on K-12 schools than any other developed country (Maryland spent $8,256 per pupil in 2003), but American students rank consistently at the bottom on international assessments. Standardized test scores remain low and the achievement gap between white and black students still exists. Public school failures significantly impact low-income students who don't have the option to attend better schools.

Parents want choice, and I want to give it to them. Thousands of private schools exist and 2 million children are home-schooled. These parents are exercising their choice, but many parents are not in a position to do so. Fifty years after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education outlawed segregated public schools, these schools are still largely unequal. My focus is on giving parents the option to choose schools for their kids, and at the same time provide incentives for public schools to improve. Perhaps in this effort, the promise of Brown will be fulfilled.

Studies have shown that vouchers actually help public schools perform better. Competition in the marketplace improves goods and services. Likewise, competition in the education "marketplace" will improve school performance. In Florida, for example, vouchers have provided public schools with powerful incentives to improve. A recent study has shown that public schools in Florida whose students were eligible for vouchers made significantly larger gains in test scores than other public schools in the state. At the same time, low-scoring schools not threatened with voucher competition did not make similar gains. If public schools in that state do not improve, they face the possibility of losing students. And money -- a powerful incentive.

I am troubled by my opponent's unwillingness to support school choice. Our children deserve the absolute best. We cannot cheat them of the opportunity to learn, develop, and achieve a level of education that will allow them to compete in our increasingly specialized and technological world. As your representative, I will work to improve their chances for success by increasing their opportunities. 

Brad Jewitt is the Republican Nominee for U.S. Congress in Maryland's 5th Congressional District. To learn more about the Jewitt for Congress campaign, please visit www.jewitt2004.com, or call (301) 486-0089.

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