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OPINION

Parents, students need school choice now more than ever

 

Across our country, there are millions of moms and dads who fear for their children’s futures.

They know their children aren’t on track to graduate from high school. They worry that their kids are not being prepared for the rigors of real life.

These parents lack good school choices for their children. They want to send their children to different schools, but they can’t afford to move to school districts where traditional public schools are better for their kids, and they can’t afford private school tuition. 

It should not matter to us what types of schools parents choose for their children as long as the schools they choose prepare those children for productive, rewarding lives.

These parents want, and they deserve, increased educational opportunities for their children — school choice.

The concept of school choice isn’t about elevating one choice above another, or about demonizing any schools as “failures.” It’s about recognizing the individual needs of individual students, and pairing students with the schools that best meet their needs.

We owe it to parents across our country -- and more importantly, to their children – to accelerate the momentum for school choice in our country. 

We must advance school choice in all of its forms – in the traditional public sector, through charter and magnet schools, via private school choice programs, by creating online academies, and through protecting the rights of parents to home school their children.

After all, it should not matter to us what types of schools parents choose for their children – as long as the schools they choose prepare those children for productive, rewarding lives.

As we prepare to commemorate National School Choice Week next week (from Jan. 2 - Feb. 1) with an unprecedented 5,500 events across all 50 states, let us remember the parents who want increased educational options for their children, and let us hear their voices anew.

These parents live in rural areas and inner cities and suburbs. They are poor families and working families and middle-income families. They are of every religion and race and background. 

The need and demand for educational opportunity truly knows no boundaries.

History tells us that fighting for school choice is worth it. When parents and community leaders join with teachers and local businesses and champion greater opportunities, most of the time, they win.

These victories have played out on a national stage, as the landscape of public education has truly been transformed over the past 20 years.

Thanks to tremendous progress over the past two decades, for millions of children and families, school choice is a way of life.

In 21 states, the law requires traditional public schools to accept students, regardless of their home district. All but eight states allow of the creation of public charter schools. 

Every state has magnet schools, which focus instruction on themes such as science, math, or the arts. In 29 states, students can attend full-time, free, public online academies. And remarkably, 23 states and Washington, D.C. allow parents to access tuition vouchers or opportunity scholarships to send their children to private schools.

The results of these policies are clear and convincing: when students access the schools and education environments chosen for them by their parents, achievement increases, graduation rates go up, and parents are more involved in their children’s education. 

In addition, all schools – benefiting from the competitive pressure to keep existing students enrolled and recruit additional students into their classes – improve.

To me, these policies and their successes reflect what is best about American society – the freedom to make good choices for yourself and your family. After all, in a nation when we can choose the cars we drive, the meals we eat, and the cell phone plans we use to talk and text, isn’t choosing schools just common sense?

Andrew Campanella is president of National School Choice Week, a non-partisan, independent grassroots effort to highlight the importance of all forms of school choice for all children.