December 23, 2021

Limited GovernmentPolicy

The Right and Celebrities Agree on School Choice

By: Cooper Conway

The right often cringes at the glorification of celebrities, understandably so. Often celebrities’ political stances and overall lack of knowledge on certain issues can be so out of touch and hypocritical it’s like their asking for conservative media attacks. Grandstanding on racial matters is particularly despicable, as calls for systemic change without actions continue a cycle of broken promises to disenfranchised communities. On the other hand, a select few celebrities are getting it right by providing increased education options for underserved communities. The right should encourage and work with these celebrities when at all possible. 

Celebrities including P.Diddy, Pitbull, and Lebron James aren’t just talking the talk; they are walking the walk when it comes to searching for solutions to our country’s low student achievement rates. Common themes among these celebrities include providing scholarships and opening schools for students. 

For example, in 2018, Lebron James launched his famous Ipromise school in Akron, Ohio. The school is young but has high hopes for success, providing an incentive for its students to graduate high school by offering free college tuition to Akron University.

Musician P Diddy may have outdone the King, creating the most successful school model amongst “celebrity schools,” starting Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School with Dr.Steve Perry in 2016. Capital Prep, as it is more commonly called, boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate for its graduates, furthering access to educational opportunities for Harlem’s children.

Ostensibly, Lebron, P. Diddy, and other celebrity school opening successes have started a trend, as Pharell Williams and Kanye West are building up their own respective tuition-free micro-schools for low-income families in the coming years. It’s likely many other celebrities will follow suit.

Luckily for students everywhere, celebrities are not the only ones opening new high-quality schools. Over the past few years, Covid-19 schooling disruptions galvanized innovative approaches to how learning is administered. Many communities have used unorthodox education options like micro-schooling or learning pods, allowing students to learn in small groups of peers with adult supervision. School entrepreneurs are even using new technologies, as one school in Florida employs virtual reality to administer a classical education to its students.

No matter how you look at it, Covid-19 disruptions, while not ideal, spurred innovation in the education space. Not to mention, Covid-19 stoked the fire for new education finance approaches in states. Indeed, demand for education finance flexibility with school choice legislation had a moment this past year as bills across the country were passed by mostly right-leaning politicians to give parents more financial say in their child’s education. The school choice legislation provided families funds to use at any government and non-government school so their child may choose the best educational environment for their learning style. 

In short, Republican policymakers affirmed the work celebrities and other school entrepreneurs have been doing in their efforts to dismantle the outdated notion of one-size fits all traditional public school. 

 Moving forward, school choice advocates on the right have a chance to find common ground with celebrities and other schooling entrepreneurs by working with them to help advance school choice legislation. It is a win-win situation for both sides. More schools outside of the traditional public school system have a chance to succeed financially with new revenue streams, and students’ lives in underserved communities can be changed for the better with increased access to learning environments that work best for them. 

Swallowing their pride and extending the olive branch to what has usually been the celebrity opposition to advance school choice may be a hurdle for right-leaning politicians but doing so could impact the lives of many children for the better. School choice legislation takes a step toward the goal of every child attending a school with the right resources to help them reach their full potential. No amount of ego should stand in the way of making that dream a reality.