Biden failed students in State of the Union — but Republicans are ready to work with him


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President Joe Biden had a unique opportunity during this year’s State of the Union to express a bold vision to expand access to a quality education for all Americans, but, in the typical fashion of his presidency, he fell short. The only thing more disappointing than what he said during his brief mention of our nation’s education system was what he didn’t say.

I grew up in a single-parent household, and like so many children growing up in poverty, I moved from school to school throughout my childhood, attending four different elementary schools by the fourth grade. There is a transient nature to poverty that is a powerful headwind for kids trying to beat their circumstances.

I know firsthand the life-changing impact of a quality education, and I’ve witnessed the miracles that can happen when parents have the choice my mother never had.

When parents choose from every educational option, their kids have a chance. Unfortunately, instead of committing to equipping and empowering all families to make the choices best suited to their children — public charter schools, parochial schools, homeschooling and more — President Biden committed to doubling down on the same system that’s been failing too many students for too long.

Biden didn’t mention that many kids in underserved communities are being left behind in the classroom simply because of their ZIP code. He didn’t mention that last year, math scores saw their largest-ever decreases while reading scores dropped to levels not seen since 1992. It’s estimated this learning loss could cost American students $2 trillion in lifetime earnings

Parents across the US have been disappointed with the quality of the US public school system.
David Zalubowski/AP

This devastating and unprecedented learning loss affected students from every walk of life — from the rural poor to the inner cities and everywhere in between — and will have lifelong consequences for these children. 

But Biden’s once again committed to the broken system that has failed a generation of American kids.

The bottom line: Right now we have a system that’s built for adults. We need a system that’s built for kids. I trust parents and students to make the best decisions for themselves. I trust them more than I ever will the whims and political calculations of big labor unions and their lobbyists.

The greatest misconception about the school-choice movement is that we’re anti-public-school. We’re not anti-public-school. We’re anti-underperforming-school. We’re anti-failing-school. We’re pro-students no matter where they get the education that best serves them. 

Kids trapped in failing and underperforming schools deserve an opportunity. No child should be denied a chance to learn because of where he lives or how much money her family makes. And no parent should have to buy their child’s way out of a failing school. I know there is no silver bullet, but school choice is a large step — a leap — in the right direction. 

Ultimately, President Biden had an opportunity to open the door to working with Republicans to expand educational opportunity. He had an opportunity to apologize for his administration labeling parents at school-board meetings terrorists, protect parental rights and stand up for kids. He failed to do so.

In fact, his administration is blocking the expansion of charter schools by adding burdensome regulations to charter schools’ mission to acquire funding.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union
Biden failed at a chance to expand educational opportunities.

If the president has a change of heart, Republicans stand ready to put parents, students and families first.

A quality education is the closest thing to magic in America. It creates viable options for all families regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s how more young kids with the world stacked against them can find their way to the United States Senate.

Sen. Tim Scott is a Republican representing South Carolina.

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