School Choice: It’s time for Georgia to take the lead by Allen West and Rich Thompson

by Maureen Downey for

Rich Thompson, an Atlanta parent, is executive director of the Georgia Parent Teacher Organization. Allen West, a former Florida congressman and Atlanta native, is CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. The pair co-wrote this essay to mark the 2015 National School Choice Week, which begins Sunday.

By Allen West and Rich Thompson

This is the story of two young black students who attended challenging Georgia public schools not long after the civil rights movement. They both share ties to a small Georgia town.

One attended a public school in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta. At length, his parents saved enough money to transfer the older boy to a parochial school and, eventually, to Atlanta’s Marist School. He spent a lot of time at his granddad’s house in Cuthbert in southwest Georgia, where his father grew up.

The other young man attended public school in Cuthbert. His parents had few choices for his education other than the county’s one-and-only elementary, middle and high school. Instead, it was cradle-to-college mentoring by family members and a few dedicated teachers who set boundless expectations and devoted years of selfless service to help turn several rural geographical obstacles into our stepping-stones of success — graduating from a major four-year college or university.

Our two stories are no different from what young boys and girls experience in Georgia public schools today. One of us got the opportunity for school choice because our family could afford to leave; the other did not. By the grace of God, we both turned out successful and now have careers trying to help others.

But Georgia – like most states – still restricts the future of too many students because of family income. It happens because pupils are assigned to a public school based on their address. If we truly believe in freedom, we will provide educational access to all children. That opportunity will come only when this state embraces free-market competition to improve education. That means school choice for all students.

This week is National School Choice Week. Throughout the nation, there will be more than 10,000 events – including here in Georgia – celebrating the strides made in offering parents options for their children other than the school assigned to them by their local address.


To improve education outcomes, advocates urge school choice for all students. | Get Schooled.

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