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#AskExcelinEd: What does National School Choice Week mean to you?

• Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds

Next week we celebrate National School Choice Week with more than 32,000 events and activities across the country. Parents, teachers and students will be featuring traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, magnet schools, online schools and homeschooling. I personally will be among an estimated 6.7 million participants at National School Choice Week events.

My first stop is Austin, Texas, to hear Tim Keller and Arif Panju, attorneys from the Institute for Justice, discuss their work defending educational choice. On Wednesday in Dallas, I’ll be among families and students whose lives were positively impacted by educational opportunities. We’ll be honoring legislative champions of choice in Texas: Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Senator Larry Taylor and Representative Ron Simmons. I cannot wait!

As a mother, I’m a strong believer in having the ability to choose the best learning environment for my three kids. A few years ago, despite the valiant efforts of my son’s teachers, I did not feel confident in my neighborhood school’s ability to fully meet his educational needs. My husband and I took out a loan to send him to a small private school for several years.

When my daughter decided to pursue her talents in visual arts, she applied and was accepted to our district’s fine arts middle school magnet. Now my youngest son is about to transition from fifth to sixth grade, and he’s on the lottery list to a public charter school and also applying to the fine arts middle school. I know how fortunate we were to have these choices for our kids.

In states across the country, too many parents and guardians of too many kids do not have educational options. They may be zoned into failing schools or schools that do not adequately meet the needs of their children. They may struggle to demand that the schools meet their needs because they are disenfranchised or intimidated by barriers of language, income or education. In the end, their choices for their children are not valued—or choices don’t exist at all.

For me, National School Choice Week represents how critical it is to level the playing field for every parent or guardian who simply strives to find the best learning environment for their child. Disadvantages of any kind should never be a barrier to a quality education and a bright future for our kids, nor should they matter.

About the author

Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds

Lizzette serves as Vice President of Policy for ExcelinEd, bringing almost three decades of policy and legislative experience at both the state and federal level to the organization. In her home state of Texas, Lizzette served as deputy legislative director for then-Gov. George W. Bush and most recently as Chief Deputy Commissioner for the Texas Education Agency. Under Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Lizzette served as Special Assistant in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, where she guided the reauthorizations of IDEA and Head Start. She also served as the Secretary’s Regional Representative under Secretary Margaret Spellings. Her career reflects deep experience in education policy development and implementation as well as the “how-to” of legislative work needed to advance education reforms. Among her numerous appointments, Lizzette currently sits on the board of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Austin advisory board of IDEA Public Schools and the advisory board of UTeach. She received her undergraduate degree from Southwestern University.