The empowerment and transformation of parents into active agents is the foundation of educational choice theory. As a review of any literature on the subject of choice will indicate, parents are the primary advocates for school choice. A strong correlation has long been noted between parental involvement and childrens success in school. Parents who advocate choice have asserted consistently that they consider their childrens education a significant responsibility. The concept of choice takes full advantage of parents valuable knowledge about their children and their respective talents, abilities, and learning styles. This information equips parents to make optimal choices about where their children should attend school and what kind of school might best suit their childrens temperaments. Parents thus have the opportunity to become active agents in their childrens education. Rather than be intimidated by this responsibility, parents who are able to make choices about schools generally feel empowered, which allows them to continue to play a full, active role in their childrens education. 8
A second reason parental choice works is that it allows educational programs to be tailored to the needs of individual students, not simply provided as a one-size-fits-all package. In what has become one of the seminal works on the educational choice movement, Politics, Markets, and Americas Schools, John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe explain that the system of public education created in the early twentieth century "was bureaucratic and professional, designed to ensure, so the story goes, that education would be taken out of politics and placed in the hands of impartial experts devoted to the public interest. It was the one best system."9 As they argue against the one-system concept, Chubb and Moe emphasize the role that a market system could play in education:
A market system is not built to enable the imposition of higher order values on the schools, nor is it driven by a democratic struggle to exercise public authority. Instead, the authority to make educational choices is radically decentralized to those most immediately involved. Schools compete for the support of parents and students, and parents and students are free to choose among schools. The system is built around decentralization, competition, and choice.10
The work of Chubb and Moe underscores a basic tenet of choicethe idea that competition will enhance the diversity and the quality of the entire educational system. As parents choose schools for their children, the schools they leave behind are forced to improve in order to compete; engaged in competition, these schools provide the energy for their own regeneration, thus improving the entire educational system.
The market approach that provides the philosophical underpinnings for the concept of school choice acknowledges the truth about children as students: that they have different educational needs and learning styles, and that they have a right to seek out a school that will best match their needs and aptitudes. The market system can offer diversity in the type of education offered to students as well as improved quality of the schools.