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Uvalde Makes The Somber Case For School Choice

The nation mourns the loss of so many innocent lives. How do we prevent future tragedy? The answer is school choice.

In New Mexico, Senator Martin Heinrich is capitalizing on the Uvalde school shooting to demand changes in gun laws. Elsewhere, former President Barack Obama is using the crisis to stoke racial tension. They are both employing Rahm Emanuel’s tactic of never letting a crisis go to waste.

Meanwhile, the entire nation mourns. On May 24, 2022, nineteen students and two teachers lost their lives at the hands of a mentally deranged individual. The perpetrator was also killed.

Democrats are exploiting the tragedy to push a political agenda to disarm Americans. But their blame is misplaced.

Hypothetical: Mr. John Smith is a driver who is texting and driving simultaneously. His vehicle is a 2013 Kia Optima. His cell phone is a 2020 Samsung Galaxy. While Smith is distracted, he hits and kills two pedestrians in a crosswalk after running a red light. Is there a nationwide movement to ban cell phones? No. Do we need to ban the Kia Optima? No. Will the families of the victims sue Kia for the deaths of their loved ones? No.

Why? Because in this instance, the blame is rightly placed with John Smith. He was operating his vehicle outside of safe conditions. The only thing to be blamed for this “accident” is the individual behind the wheel.

Cars and firearms are both tools. When used outside of the bounds of the law or normal operation, they can both be used to intimidate, to further break the law, and even to murder.

The blame for the Uvalde shooting does not rest with Daniel Defense or long-deceased AR-15 designer Eugene Stoner. The blame for Uvalde should not be placed on anyone but the individual behind the trigger, and that criminal no longer walks the earth. Furthermore, the shooting at Uvalde highlights a fundamental problem with public schools, government action, and government inaction.

Metadata screenshot from the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Preventative Security Measures documentation.

Analyzing the Preventative Security Measures of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, the last update to the security document was on November 7, 2019 by the district webmaster, Yvette Gomez.

Are the four police officers employed by the district enough to protect the nine schools in the over one thousand square miles of area encompassing the district? I am no security expert, but those resources seem woefully insufficient to protect incredibly vulnerable children.

Thanks to George H. W. Bush’s Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, deranged school shooters know that they will face little armed resistance at schools, as school safety is limited to designated police or security officers. This restricts any school’s armed response to intruders.

New Mexico State Representative Stefani Lord aptly points out that to “get into the roundhouse, there are metal detectors, guards at the gate, armed state police, and a slew of sergeant-at-arms to protect the legislators.” She is referring to the state capitol building in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Are we doing enough to protect children at school? Since public schools are extensions of the government, is the government doing enough to protect children at school?

As a parent, if I deem the security of my local elementary school insufficient, am I able to withdraw my children from that school? Can I choose to send them to a school where they employ sufficient resources to keep my children safe? In New Mexico, no.

But other states in the southwest have comprehensive school choice programs with more states on the way. Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Utah all employ some form of school choice, enabling parents to take the education dollars of their children to their school of choice.

New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, and California lack any school choice programs, though Governor Gregg Abbott of Texas embraces the platform and is working with the Texas legislature to adopt comprehensive school choice reform in the lone star state.

Senator Ted Cruz says that “no parent should be forced to send their children to failing schools, which is why I’m glad my friend Governor Abbott is so fervently supporting school choice. School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century and I’m excited to see Texas take the lead.”

It is no secret that homeschooling can be expensive. The likely scenario is that one parent will not be able to work for the duration of their children’s schooling. Some school choice programs, like those implemented in West Virginia last year, deliver funding back to families for a variety of schooling options, including homeschool.

Senator Cruz is right, and government schools are failing at the most basic level: keeping our children safe. If more parents were able to afford homeschooling their children, the Uvalde school district might not exist, and the Uvalde shooting might not have happened.

Let us mourn the loss of these innocent lives, but let us endeavor to work to ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again. We can save lives by adopting school choice, now.

By Patrick M. Brenner

Patrick Brenner is the founder and president of the Southwest Public Policy Institute, a limited-government research institute and think tank focused on the southwestern United States. An advocate for open government, he leads the institute's government transparency and accountability efforts.

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