Parents should be at the center of their children’s education

By Sen. James Libby

As a parent of two teens, I face the same responsibility that other parents have in raising children. Generations of Americans before us formed the societal structure we have today, and parents have always been at the focal point of their children’s lives.

And with some exceptions that come from being human, most Maine parents provide a positive impact on the growth and development of their children every day. That’s the way it should be.

Hello, this is Senator Jim Libby of Cumberland County; and it’s my pleasure to join you for this week’s Republican Radio Address.

James Libby – Cumberland

Parents today face challenges that my grandparents couldn’t have even imagined. From smartphone addiction to online predators, we face a host of issues that are unfortunately a product of our society. But issues with our educational systems shouldn’t be one of them.

However, it’s become apparent that some people are trying to shift the space occupied by parents. A small minority feel they should be at the center of the child’s life instead of the parent. Unfortunately, a few school board members, wayward school administrators and even some lawmakers who don’t hold school officials accountable enable this activist mindset.

And more parents than ever are wondering if schools are withholding information about controversial policies or even about their own child. From age-appropriate content and the curricula taught in classrooms to information about whether your child is having a mental conflict, common decency and societal norms demand that parents are kept involved and informed.

I am concerned with these and other recent trends that have appeared in education over the past five years. From lower standardized test scores to a system that limits choices for parents, there is a great deal of work to be done.

According to the “Nation’s Report Card,” Maine public school students have now fallen below the national average in math scores for fourth-graders and are at the national average for eighth-graders. In both cases, experts consider the results to be below proficiency. Maine was above the national average in these scores just a decade ago.

Results in English have experienced a similar downward trend in Maine. During the COVID-19 years, Maine’s English proficiency declined at a greater rate than the nation.

Unfortunately, the Maine Department of Education wants to again change the standardized test that just allowed me to provide you with that scientific data. They want to move the goalposts.

So what’s the answer here? I believe competition provides a roadmap to help Maine experience a rebirth in our educational systems. For example, studies have shown that students perform better in states where parents have multiple options of where to send their kids.

Harvard economics professor Caroline Hoxby’s often-referenced 2003 study presented evidence on three parental choice reforms: vouchers in Milwaukee, charter schools in Michigan and charter schools in Arizona. In each case, her findings confirmed that public schools improved when they were exposed to competition.

But offering more options to parents is not the law in Maine. Instead, school systems can monopolize instruction by establishing geographic districts that control access and funding. Yet competition in most areas of life drives economies, fosters innovation, and leads to maximizing success in personal and professional development. Education is no different.

Today, states such as Arizona, Iowa, West Virginia and others have adopted parental choice policies where per-pupil funding generally follows the student and parents can choose between competing schools. I have introduced a bill this session that is modeled after Arizona’s law.

Under this bill, your child could attend any school of your choice without the permission of the sending school’s superintendent and your tax dollars would follow your child. We have nine charter schools in Maine where students can attend at no additional cost to families and an array of private schools at all levels of cost and specialty.

It’s too late for me – my son has chosen public school and my daughter is nearing completion at a private school. But I’d love to give Maine parents more options that best suit their situation.

Parental choice is a significant policy statement that differentiates Republicans and Democrats in Maine. It’s time we put parents back where they belong – enjoying the wonderful blessings of family.

Again, this is Senator Jim Libby of Cumberland County; and I hope you have a great weekend.

Senator James Libby represents the communities of District 22. He previously served in the Maine Senate during the 117th and 118th Legislatures after serving two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. He is the Senate Republican Lead for the Legislature’s Education Committee and the Taxation Committee.


  1. School Choice is a good goal but I don’t see it happening in the current political climate in Augusta. But thanks for putting forth the bill anyway.


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