Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hofmeister: 'I have a very open door when it comes to all forms of school choice'

Does Joy Hofmeister favor parental choice in education?

It's hard to say. Certainly the case can be made that she does not. She is, after all, part and parcel of Oklahoma's educational statist quo (and the particularly nettlesome Jenks branch at that). "My commitment, and the reason I actually ran, is I believe there’s an attempt to privatize public schools," she says. So, not exactly Scott Walker stuff.

Nevertheless, she did run as a Republican (that's how one gets elected in Oklahoma), so she is forced to acknowledge and deal with the ramifications of doing so. Her supporters overwhelmingly — and I do mean overwhelmingly — favor parental choice. Thus, Mrs. Hofmeister is on record saying she supports the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program. And the tax-credit scholarship program. And the prospect of Education Savings Accounts.

To her great credit, Mrs. Hofmeister affirms that parents "are the most important person in the life of their students' education," as you can see below in an interview which aired this week on KOKH FOX 25 in Oklahoma City. "It's a parent's responsibility to educate their children."

She's right. Indeed, as Professor Jay Greene has noted, in a free society the government rightly defers to parents when it comes to raising their children. And since education is simply a subcategory of parenting, the government should defer to parents when it comes to educating their children. "The state's role and authority to foster the well-being of children is a subsidiary one," writes Melissa Moschella, an assistant professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America, "meaning that it is secondary to the role of the parents, and serves the function of helping parents in their educational task, not usurping or undermining the parents' educational efforts.
Parents should not be forced, for financial reasons, to send their children to schools in which the values taught conflict with those they want to pass on to their children. An effective voucher or scholarship program of some sort is therefore also a requirement of parental rights.
One doubts that Mrs. Hofmeister would go that far. However, "as a state superintendent, my goal is to be able to stand with parents in supporting their decisions for the best learning environment for their own children," she says in the interview below. And what might those decisions be? Well, a Braun Research survey released this year asked Oklahoma parents what type of school they would select in order to obtain the best education for their children. While 33 percent of Oklahoma parents said they would select a traditional public school, 38 percent said they would choose a private school, 14 percent said home school, and 7 percent said charter school.

"We certainly want to support any kind of choice that works for kids and the best student outcomes," Mrs. Hofmeister says. "That’s what I am for. I have a very open door when it comes to all forms of school choice, but I also think that a focus for the state Department of Education — of public instruction — is to focus attention right now on our neediest of schools and make certain that the school around the corner is also a top choice."

Fair enough. If I'm a GOP politician, but also a Jenks insider and a longtime supporter of the monopoly system, that's pretty much how I'd finesse it. The good news is that the empirical research is clear on one way to fix those neediest of schools. Dr. Greg Forster recently surveyed the empirical research on school choice and found that "23 empirical studies have examined school choice's impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools."

I have no doubt that Mrs. Hofmeister wants what is best for children. Here's hoping for a successful 2015 (and beyond) for her and her team.

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