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Barfoot: School choice won’t result in ‘mass exodus’ from public schools

This month, the state Department of Education released its list of failing schools for 2022. The number of schools with a failing grade increased by four, bringing the total to 79 schools this year.

There has been discussion among Alabama lawmakers about addressing the state’s underperforming educational system, including from newly elected House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), who said it will be one of a top “priority” in the next session.

Recently on WVNN’s “The Yaffee Program,” State Sen. William Barfoot (R-Pike Road) said expanding school choice is one way to improve the education system in the Yellowhammer State.

“A lot of times people throw money at problems and rarely is money the solution to the problem,” Barfoot said, “sometimes it can be a part of the solution to the problem, but I certainly think one of the things the Legislature needs to look at is parental choice.”

The senator believes giving more power to the parents to be able to make more decision of their children’s education is a good thing.

“We have choices in life that we’re able to make whether we want to go shop at a Publix or a Walmart or another store,” he argued, “and we do that based on service, we do that based on price, maybe location or convenience, and certainly education is more important to the state of Alabama than where you go find the best deals on a can of soup.”

Barfoot said parents should have the option to use their tax dollars they way they see fit.

“We need to give parents information to make an informed decision and the ability to use their tax dollars the best that they see fit to educate their child or their children,” he advised. “I’ve got five children and they all learn differently…if you give that choice to parents that ‘hey I can live in an area [where] maybe the schools aren’t that great, but I’ve got the ability to use my tax dollars to make an informed decision about where my child should be educated outside of the school district potentially,’ then I think that’s a powerful economic driver throughout the state, and it certainly is a good choice or good opportunity for parents to weigh in on where and how to best educate their children.”

The lawmaker also responded to the fear by some of school choice damaging the public school system.

“If your school system is truly a good school system, you won’t have a mass exodus from that school,” he said, “because parents are satisfied that their children are getting a great education and they will continue to stay there. So you won’t have a exodus from that school system…if you have a good school system: guess what? March on. You won’t be affected.

“Public schools are an interictal and important part of this system and will remain that, and I think that it’s just folly to thing that just because we have parental choice, you’ll have mass exodus from public schools.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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