Today’s post is co-authored by ExcelinEd’s McKenzie Snow and Adam Peshek. Last week, they authored the post “ZIP codes are great for sorting mail. But kids?”
Children have just one opportunity to receive an excellent education.
Our parents were able select great schools for us. Because of our parents’ choices, we were each able to graduate high school with more than a semester of college credit and enter higher education prepared for what was to come next. The benefits of our parents’ choices were tangible.
Unfortunately, this simple act—to choose the best school for your child—is denied to far too many families desperate for change.
All Jessica Garcia wanted for her son Alex was a choice about his school. Alex has autism. He continually faced bullying at his traditional public school in Washington State, and Alex suffered 13 physical incidents beginning as early as fourth grade. Jessica told the Washington Examiner, “Our entire family was severely affected by what happened to Alex…he was suicidal.”
Alex graduated from his one-size-fits-all school last spring. Thankfully, Jessica was able to choose a different path for her daughter, Isadora. Due to a successful voter referendum in 2012 that authorized charter schools in the state, Isadora became one of Destiny Charter Middle School’s inaugural students in August 2015. However, on September 4th, 2015, the Garcia family was again flung into turmoil when the Washington Supreme Court became the first in the nation to overrule the will of voters to declare publicly-funded charters unconstitutional.
Four years ago, the documentary Waiting for Superman introduced us to Nakia Whitfield. When Nakia’s hours were cut at work, she was unable to make tuition payments to her daughter’s parochial school. Nakia then entered her daughter Bianca into the lottery for Harlem Success Academy, a high-performing charter school in her area. She explained to her daughter, “That was mommy’s choice to get you in that school, and it’s going to be mommy’s job to get you in another school that’s better.” But Bianca did not win the lottery, and Nakia couldn’t get her daughter into the better school.
The future of our nation’s students cannot be left to chance—to a law or a lottery or a zip code. When the United States denies the vast majority of children educational choice for a misguided vision of “uniformity,” we ignore the exceptionality of each individual child. And we deny their parents the ability to be the best caretakers possible. We are refusing to offer our future—the children who will one day be leaders in this country—the ability to pursue an education truly their own.
Next week, we’ll join with families, educators and leaders across the country to celebrate National School Choice Week. This annual event does more than recognize the great educational choices parents are making for their children; it also calls to attention families like the Garcias in Washington State and the Whitfields in New York who need access to better choices for their children.
We hope that you will join ExcelinEd in participating in National School Choice Week. To find local events near you, please visit SchoolChoiceWeek.com.
About the author
Adam Peshek @AdamPeshek
Adam Peshek is Managing Director of Opportunity Policy at ExcelinEd, where he provides strategic support to state leaders interested in developing, adopting, and implementing policies that increase educational options for children. He has provided expert testimony in more than a dozen state legislatures and is a frequent commentator on ESAs, school choice, and education policy across the country. He is also the is the co-editor of the first published volume on ESAs, Education Savings Accounts: The New Frontier in School Choice. Adam currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is a Senior Fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee.