Ray Carter | March 17, 2022
Lankford fights for school choice
In comments made this week, U.S. Sen. James Lankford urged his colleagues to approve a resolution that “recognizes the necessity of school choice as a tool to empower all parents with the freedom to choose the best educational environment for their children.”
“Giving parents the ability to be able to make the choice between public schools, charter schools, private schools, whatever may work best for their school and for their state and the policies their state has created, seems like a smart thing to be able to do,” said Lankford, R-Oklahoma City.
He said the resolution addresses an issue that is important not just to Oklahomans, but families nationwide.
“This comes from a very basic conversation that happens in my state. Quite frankly, it’s happening in states all around the country,” Lankford said. “Parents should be the primary decision maker for their children.”
Lankford noted that children within the same family may have different needs that make different schools a necessity, saying that “one child may be a great fit for one school, and a younger child may be a better fit for a different school.”
“Not every kid is the same and not every educational environment is the same,” Lankford said. “And I would say in my state, and I would assume in other states as well, not every school district is the same.”
While officials should seek to make each public school district as successful as possible, Lankford said, “We should all admit the facts: not every school district is thriving.”
Telling families whose children are in those struggling districts that they must remain there and wait for improvement does not benefit families, Lankford noted.
“That child that’s in that district that is not being successful is trapped in a location that’s currently not successful,” Lankford said. “Maybe they can be successful in five years from now when they work through the different issues they have, but that child doesn’t have a second shot if that child has no other opportunity to be able to choose and their parents are locked into that spot. We basically say, ‘We’ll fix everything at this district in a few years,’ and that child is just not allowed to get an option out. I don’t think that’s helpful for that child and that parent at that time.”
Lankford’s comments come as Oklahoma state lawmakers are debating legislation that would allow state education funding to follow a child to any school chosen by a parent, including private schools. Senate Bill 1647, by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, would provide that option to Oklahoma parents. The bill currently awaits a vote from the full Oklahoma Senate.
Lankford’s resolution has been endorsed by groups that include Heritage Action, ParentalRights.org, Center for Urban Renewal and Education, American Conservative Union, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Family Policy Alliance, American Association of Christian Schools, Association of Christian Schools International, First Liberty Institute, Alliance Defending Freedom, American Center for Law and Justice, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, and Family Research Council.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.