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The church has always affirmed the role of parents as the primary educators of their children. The responsibility begins at home to raise children in a Christ-centered environment and encourage a strong educational foundation.

Giving parents choices to tailor their children’s educational experience is the single most effective way of ensuring those children can make the most of their instruction, which is why supporting legislation creating Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, is crucial.

I am very pro public schools. In Oklahoma, lower and middle-income families often suffer disproportionately from a lack of school choice. This issue becomes more acute when there are no quality public schools in the area. Education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty, and children of all income levels need and deserve access to a good school.

Some say the top two reasons for the difficulties in K-12 public education are the need for more teachers due to overcrowded classrooms and a lack of special education services. But these are the problems ESAs are in a position to fix. When students take advantage of Education Savings Accounts, they are able to pursue the type of education that best suit their learning, while simultaneously reducing the burden on the public school system.

And while we should strongly support a faith-based education for children, ESAs provide options for students who can benefit from all types of educational settings, including tutoring, online education or non-religious private school.

Children only have one chance at an education, especially when they’re young, and if they’re in a school where they’re not flourishing academically or spiritually, forcing them to continue in that situation would be unjust when there are options that could be made available.

According to a report by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, school choice and ESA programs lead to higher achievement for students participating in choice programs and in public schools. Choice creates an education marketplace where public and private schools have to perform well and meet the needs of students to keep them in their classrooms. Data shows that choice also has a positive fiscal effect for taxpayers, a positive racial integration effect, and promotes civic values.

God gives parents the responsibility to be the primary educators and formers of their children’s faith. Parents should be able to consider the best option for their children’s whole education and formation — not simply in academic subjects, but in the formation of the whole person.

Families of all backgrounds deserve access to a faith-based education, or whatever education they believe is best. We cannot and should not allow the status quo to stand in the way of this vital evangelizing mission.

It is time for Oklahomans to take bold action. We cannot let Oklahoma’s children continue to fall behind in the most crucial education formation years due to lack of opportunity.