“School Choice!” “Fund Students, Not Schools!” These short quips have dominated the conversation about school reforms for quite some time, and they have merit. In just a few words, they convey the belief that public schools are deeply flawed and it is time to break up the monopoly, create real competition, and improve outcomes for our children. While I wholeheartedly agree it is time to build a new system, these slogans omit a crucial piece to the puzzle: teachers! “Educational Freedom” better defines our cause by highlighting the solution while including the significant stakeholders—students, families, and teachers.
If you judge all teachers by the self-serving behaviors of some on social media, I understand why you might deem classroom educators the problem. However, my experience as a former teacher and principal led me to a different conclusion. The virtue-signaling social media influencers are the outliers. Most teachers are professionals who push aside their personal needs and work hard to serve kids and families. Unfortunately, they work in a toxic context where well-paid “leaders” rank the academic outcomes of our children far beneath their ideologies and desire to appease or impress others. Many individuals, including some teachers, have hijacked the system, and we must reclaim it from them. However, I can also confidently say there is a silent majority buried within the system that is just as frustrated as I am.
For example, in September of 2022, I was suspended from my role as an educator because I refused to follow the Kentucky Department of Education guidelines for using LGBTQ+ pronouns. My district asked me to use these at student requests and hide this from parents. I was eventually allowed to return to work, but my dream job became a nightmare. I couldn’t stomach being part of the mechanism working against healthy families, so I resigned and changed careers a few months later.
My wife and I faced another difficult decision. Most families considering leaving public for private education hesitate because they love their children’s teachers. They respect them as heroes who show up daily and simply want to teach an outstanding curriculum in a loving environment. They view each child’s academic success as their triumph. When we transferred, we felt compelled to express our appreciation for the love teachers showed our children. We explained our children could not remain in a system that labeled our values and belief in God’s Word and His Truth as bigotry and ignorance.
Educational Freedom will liberate educators tired of academia’s lack of common sense and respect for others’ values and families who want their children to achieve success. Teachers and advocates for school choice share the same disappointment in public education—the inability to prioritize educating children above ideology. This movement isn’t just for people who share my values and political affiliation. I have encountered many effective teachers who vote, worship, and live differently than I do, but we find common ground in the desire for public schools to be better.
Those of us with a vested interest in Educational Freedom and choice must recognize that teachers are integral to better outcomes for children—the very goal we all share. To that Silent Majority of teachers who have witnessed the erosion of public education’s noble mission and values, remember change is always scary because this is your livelihood. But while many are making a living, they aren’t living well because of immeasurable stress. Too many people are miserable, and the teacher shortage is evidence of that.
In a future Op-Ed, I will describe the frustrations teachers are facing today which can be alleviated with educational freedom. We hear all the time that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Public schools are failing families, but they are also failing teachers. You deserve better; join the movement for Educational Freedom!
Randy Adams is the pastor of Ballard Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, KY. He has worked in the education arena for over 10 years. He was previously a principal in the Anderson County School district.