Having been a Rotarian for 30 years I am dismayed to see the Rotary Club’s Four Way Test being used for political purposes in various editorials circulated around the state recently.  Rotary is a non-political civic club and its four way test signifies the club’s values: truth; fairness; good will and better friendships; and beneficial to all.

Recent editorials attempt to use the four way test to discredit the concept of parental choice in education.  In doing so these editorials violate the very first element of the four way test-–truth. The writers claim that kids are not trapped in poor performing schools yet over 100,000 kids are on waiting lists for charter schools because they want another educational choice.  These kids feel trapped!

In addition, according to the Texas Education Agency almost 900 campuses in Texas are rated as low performing.  Many of these kids feel trapped!  See following link for full list: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/peg/2013/peg_list_2014-15.pdf

Judge John Dietz recently ruled that our public schools are failing to meet the needs of “hundreds of thousands” of Texas students.  The simple truth is many kids are happy in their public schools, however, far too many are not being well served.  Providing parents an option, if their child needs something else, is the essence of freedom.  The writers of those editorials want to deny parents that choice!

The old worn out arguments used to protect the status quo are repeated throughout these misleading editorials.  They falsely claim that private school tuition is “$20,000-plus.”  Although high-end schools do exist, the average private school tuition in Texas is closer to $5,000.  They also claim that private schools will fail to meet the special needs of some students.  The truth is that instead of one-size-fits-all, new schools will be formed to meet the needs of various student populations, when markets are allowed to function.  For years many parents of autistic children have begged the state to allow them such alternative.

The authors claim that poor kids will not be treated fairly.  However, today many parents without the means to move to better schools or pay for private school are stuck in failing schools.  School choice would be a lifeline to those parents, one which many parents of means already enjoy. 

Lastly these authors, in defense of the status quo, propose something we can all agree upon:  “Let’s all work together to improve public schools.”  The simple truth-–the only way to meaningfully improve our public schools is to implement school choice.  We have endured decades of reform efforts and spent billions in additional funding, yet today far too many students are still underserved.  Research proves that where parental choice has been adopted, the public schools improve. 

Besides improving our public schools research indicates that parental choice in education will actually increase property values around the state, enhance teacher job satisfaction, and drive up teacher pay.  School choice is good for public schools, for students, for teachers, and the public at large.

So let’s review the four way test:  The truth is parental choice enhances freedom.  Parental choice would be fair to all concerned.  It would build good will and better friendships.  And, it would be beneficial to all concerned with the possible exception of special interests and bureaucratic administrators who are the primary opponents to allowing parents the freedom of choice.