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School Shootings Make The Case For School Choice

The Uvalde shooting reflects starkly on our education system as a whole

July 12, 2022

Schools are now out in most of the country. But many parents are worried about the safety of their children while in the classroom.

There are many things being discussed as ways to keep children safe in school. But one option that is not being discussed is expanding school choice.

The recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas shocked and horrified the nation. A shooter shot and killed 21 people while wounding 17 others.

The nation has been shocked and horrified by the response of the school district’s police department to the shooting. After initially claiming that the responding officers did not have the equipment to confront the heavily armed shooter, surveillance video from the school showed that heavily armed police officers arrived to the scene within minutes. Yet those heavily armed and well-equipped police officers did not try to confront the shooter, despite the fact that they were being urged to go in the classroom by agents from the Texas Department of Public Safety. 

Because the police officers waited to breach the classroom, the killer was able to conduct his murders with little opposition. The refusal of the police officers to confront the killer cost untold lives.

The police chief of the school district’s police force was placed on leave pending an investigation. But parents should not have to hope for some semblance of justice after their children have been slaughtered. They should have the sense of security that their children will be safe. 

One of the reasons the Uvalde school district could be so lackadaisical about the safety of their students is that essentially, they don’t face any competition. Therefore, the children are not treated as paying customers and instead are treated as a captive audience, subject to the whims of unelected officials. 

A well-designed school choice program will allow the money to follow the student to whatever school they attend. These programs provide incentives for school systems, whether they are public or private, to compete with one another. 

Most of the arguments for school choice are made in the context of improving academics or providing special needs programs that traditional government schools do not. But a similar argument can be made in the context of the important issue of school security. 

Just as school systems under school choice compete for students on their academic programs, and now in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling the type of religious and moral instruction the schools offer, schools can compete on school security. Schools will have more incentive to learn the lessons of the failed response by the Uvalde school district because school districts that do not incorporate those lessons will lose students and funding as parents take their children elsewhere. 

Thankfully, incidents like the Uvalde school shooting, while horrifying for parents, are rare. The biggest drivers of school violence are disputes between classmates and bullying, both online and on campus. Once again school choice can offer solutions for parents. Schools can compete for the dollars and attendance of students by detailing how they will keep students safe from bullying, drugs, and acts of violence. If parents do not feel secure in how schools will keep their children safe, they will simply take their children and their dollars elsewhere.

In addition, a way that expanding school choice can keep children safe is by expanding homeschooling. After all, children cannot be subject to an unsafe school campus if they do not attend a conventional school. But for most parents, homeschooling is simply not an option for many reasons.

Political commentator Michael Malice said, “Schools are literal prisons for children and the only place where many people will experience violence from their peers for their entire lives.” By expanding school choice, we can change this reality for many students.

Kevin Boyd is a freelance writer and researcher based in Louisiana. You can subscribe to his Substack and follow him on Twitter @TheKevinBoyd