K-12 Parents Need Same Choices As College Athletes – OpEd


As millions of fans looked on, college basketball stars Caitlin Clark of Iowa and Zach Edey of Purdue both lost their championship games. Clark was able to cash in on her NIL revenue—name, image and likeness—but that was not true of Zach Edey, a seven-foot-four scoring and rebounding machine. This disparity calls attention to several back stories.

In 2021, according to Businessinsider.com, “student athletes gained the right to make money from their names, images and likenesses.” In reality, the athlete-students were born with that right and previous to 2021, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) took it away.

People paid big money to see college athletes, but college and NCAA bosses reaped the profits from television rights and so forth. For the athletes, their tuition was payment in kind, and exploitation on a massive scale. Reform was long overdue.

According to athleticdirectoru.com, the first college athlete to profit from NIL was Chloe Mitchell, a volleyball player at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her father was an avid golfer, so Mitchell set up a mini-golf course in the living room, “filmed it, put it up, and got paid.” Mitchell was able to pay off student loans, buy a car, and start saving to buy a house.

If Mitchell, not exactly a household name, can cash in, imagine the prospects for athlete-students such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Sheryl Swoopes, Chamique Holdsclaw, and other collegiate basketball and football stars down through the decades. Reparations could well be in order, but nobody is making that case.

The NCAA warned that NIL would ruin college athletics, but nothing of the kind took place. Much of the money simply shifted to those who earned it by their performance. Caitlin Clark, who drains three-pointers with the ease of Stephen Curry, has cashed in, big time.

The Iowa star has earned an estimated $3.1 million. For Purdue’s Zach Edey, a ballpark figure would be zero, but it’s not a matter of his performance on the court. “Big Maple,” as the towering center is known, hails from Toronto, Canada, and under a student visa such earnings are off limits.

I obviously lost out on a lot of money this year,” Edey told reporters. “At the end of the day, it needs to change for sure. I understand the legal process. It takes a while.”

While Edey has been piling up points, some eight million people have been allowed into the United States of America with no visas, no vaccination records, no background checks, and no job prospects. According to Judicial Watch, these entrants are the recipients of massive federal aid.

That is profoundly unfair to taxpayers, legal immigrants, legitimate citizens, and talented visa holders such as Zack Edey. He and Caitlin Clark, both highly recruited, also illustrate another longstanding disparity.

College Students Have a Choice, Parents Don’t 

Edey chose to attend Purdue and Caitlin Clark picked Iowa, but freedom of choice is not limited to athlete-students. Beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill and other scholarships are free to choose UCLA, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, and countless other campuses. Unfortunately, that is not the case with government K-12 education.

Taxpayer dollars go directly to the education bureaucracy and parents must send children to the government schools in their designated area, many of them dysfunctional and dangerous. If they opt out, the money still feeds the government system, forcing parents to pay twice. This is profoundly unfair to parents and students alike.

Parents and students always had the right to choose but the government K-12 system takes it away, just as the NCAA took away athlete-students’ right to market their own name, image, and likeness. The time is long past to restore the right of school choice, with the dollars following the scholars. Free choice, as a matter of basic civil rights, will make winners of parents, students, and taxpayers all across the land.

This article was also published in The American Spectator

K. Lloyd Billingsley

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.

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