Choice offered as solution to 'fever pitch' debates at school board meetings

Choice offered as solution to 'fever pitch' debates at school board meetings

Parents demonstrated their frustrations during a school board meeting earlier this summer in Loudoun County, Virginia

Choice offered as solution to 'fever pitch' debates at school board meetings

A growing number of school board meetings nationwide are turning into shouting matches, pitting one parent against another. AFN spoke with an education researcher who thinks there's a better way.

Neal McCluskey is director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute. In a recent article, McCluskey acknowledges that the recent ability of citizens to access board meetings through the Internet – even in real time – has contributed to a spike in anger regarding a number of education issues, such as the teaching of critical race theory.

In addition, he says, the pandemic has inflamed animosity between educators and parents. "COVID has really provided a whole lot more angry fuel," McCluskey describes, "and it's just now all pouring out in some of these school board meetings."

McCluskey, Neal (Cato Institute) McCluskey

He points out that explosive issues – such as transgenders in women's sports, mask mandates, and CRT – are being debated at board meetings. He offers what he considers to be a reasonable alternative.

"The only way to satisfy most of those groups is school choice, [which allows parents to] choose among schools that have different policies," he tells AFN. As he writes:

"What choice does is lower the stakes on intensely personal and controversial issues because, unlike public schooling, it is not winner-take-all …. Notably, many countries have implemented choice for peace, allowing people to select schools in order to defuse sometimes centuries of religious, social, and political warfare. And it has frequently worked."

McCluskey has long been a proponent of school choice, and recently co-wrote that combining that option with curriculum transparency would enable families to get what they need for their children – and, hopefully, defuse the rising anger being witnessed at school board meetings.