June 14, 2022

What’s Better for Educational Outcomes: Parental Choice or Parental Engagement?

By: David Collins

Obviously both.

Parental choice allows parents to apply some or all of their educational tax dollars to their kids’ education — allowing more kids to attend better schools with better teachers and more resources. Inevitably, this leads to increased competition amongst schools and pushes schools to earn students’ dollars rather than merely receive them because of their zip code.

Parental engagement is the foolproof way to ensure, regardless of where one’s child goes to school, improved educational outcomes will emerge. These parents strike the perfect balance between being aloof and a “helicopter parent”; the ones who attend school board meetings and workshop classes, and who voice their opinion on behalf of their children in the face of backlash.

It’s hard to say which is better, parental choice or parental engagement, but I propose that parental engagement is far more important for individual children, but school choice is far better for children across the board. To be clear, both parental choice and parental engagement benefit the individual and society, both directly and indirectly. That is because of the spheres of influences parents have — beginning in their own home and in their local community.

Wayne Dyer once said, “You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”

Parents have the most control over their own home and their children’s education. With the increasingly popular school choice movement, however, parents are learning that they can impact educational policy through local school boards. This is not some far-fetched ideal, like trying to end world hunger or climate change, but a pragmatic, utilitarian level of engagement that can directly lead to better outcomes, whether it be in the school/county budget, policies, or curriculum.

Children benefit when their education is reinforced at home, and when they see their parents involved and concerned with the bigger picture. Children also benefit when they have the ability to attend the best school, regardless of their zip code.

Ultimately, parents are the actors who can mend our broken education system. First and foremost, they must get involved with their own child’s education. Then, they can advocate for broader educational policies more honestly and effectively, knowing firsthand the systemic improvements that need to be made.

Either way, parental engagement can lead to better educational outcomes, both for their children and societally, through local school board activism.

Parents, there’s no better time than now to get involved!