School Choice: Empowering Teachers’ Voices

School Choice: Empowering Teachers’ Voices

Educational Choice is Necessary for Teachers

When the topic of school choice is discussed, the first thing that usually comes to mind is students and families, but one group that is often not mentioned is the educators who will be impacted by educational freedom. Countless teachers who entered the profession to make a difference in their students’ lives have had their voices stifled. They aren’t suffering from laryngitis, they are suffering from the self-censorship that allows them to go about their day without causing controversy among their schools’ community. While they may avoid some negative external consequences through their silence, they often suffer the internal consequences of frustration, conviction, and dispiritedness from feeling that they are unable to speak the truth. 

School choice for teachers in the classroom

James Billot defines self-censorship as “individuals voluntarily and intentionally hesitating to express their personal beliefs and opinions on controversial issues, and concealing their true views from those who may disagree.” While many in our society claim to champion diversity and inclusion, the reality is that intellectual diversity, or diversity of thought, is often frowned upon in education, and only particular views are genuinely “included” in the conversation. Studies have shown that social conservatives are much more likely to self-censor than their liberal counterparts. The reasons vary, but the result is that it stifles civil discourse and viewpoint diversity. 

What does this have to do with School Choice?

Imagine educators having the freedom to choose the environment to teach in that aligns with their values and beliefs so they no longer have to guard their tongues. Imagine schools striving to create workplace environments that promote, rather than stifle, intellectual diversity among the staff to retain high-quality educators who value freedom of expression and oppose compelled speech. Imagine teachers being free to voice their opinions to their colleagues or administrators without fear because they know alternative– and competitive–  teaching positions are available should they discover irreconcilable differences. 

Ashley Berner of John Hopkins University wrote in a review of the research on school choice that “many educators will find [this] pluralistic system professionally attractive. Funding an increasingly diverse spectrum of schools will likely generate innovative working environments and strong school cultures that mirror teachers’ individual commitments and pedagogical styles.”

teacher choice and voiceFreedom of choice needs to be more than something that exists in an imaginary time and place. This needs to become a reality for all teachers across the country. Teachers like John Kluge in Indiana, Peter Vlaming in Virginia, Yojary Mundaray in Florida, and Randy Adams in Kentucky wouldn’t have had to choose between compromising their religious beliefs to comply with their schools’ policies on preferred names and pronouns and keeping the jobs they love, or speaking up for their convictions and leaving the profession.

 

Teacher retention has been a genuine concern in recent years, and it has become clear that some are leaving due to a conflict of values. Providing viable options for educators would allow them to do what they are called to do while maintaining a clear conscience.

What are the benefits?

Many studies demonstrate that school choice benefits students and families, which is why most voters support giving families the ability to choose the best educational environment for their children. We’re discovering that there are countless benefits for educators as well. Not only has it been shown to raise the average salary of educators in communities where it is adopted, but it stands to reason that it will allow those teachers to raise their voices when they need to speak up about topics, policies, and issues that concern them.

The classroom is not the place to pontificate about personal beliefs or indoctrinate a captive audience of students to a particular set of values. This doesn’t change the fact that teachers should be free to express their views and opinions to other professional adults in the building without the risk of being ostracized or condemned.

School choice for teachers in the classroom
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