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My cab ride started with simple chit-chat and ended with a discussion of school choice.

• Jess Langhaim

Well, it was not technically a “cab.” It was an Uber car that I requested with my phone. I have no aversion to cabs or our public transportation system, but I enjoy Uber’s convenience and have always had good experiences with their drivers, so I decided to choose that mode of transportation home on this particular evening. I hopped in the car and started chatting casually with my friendly driver.

He and his family immigrated to this country and initially settled in Maryland. He is the father of two sons, a 14-year-old freshman in high school and a 10-year-old fifth grader. He bragged about the older boy’s love of reading and his younger son’s passion for cooking and how he assists his mother and grandmother (who lives with them) in the kitchen.

He also told me about the sacrifices he was making to send his children to a better school.

The family originally lived in a large house in Maryland, but it was zoned for a low-performing school district. So, to ensure a better future for his sons, he made the decision to move to a much better school district in Virginia, where housing costs forced the family to move from their large home into a small, cramped apartment.

I immediately felt a great respect for him and his prioritization of education, but I was also reminded that we have a lot of work to do on school choice.

“School choice” is presented as a bad thing by anti-reformers, but the “school choice” effort is truly focused on parents and “parental choices.” If you truly believe that a parent knows which environment(s) is best for their child, then letting a parent decide what is best is a no brainer.

As James Courtovich explained in his September Wall Street Journal piece, What do Uber and school choice have in common?, Uber’s tagline “Choice is a beautiful thing” is an accurate reflection of the company matching the consumer’s demand for alternative transportation choices. But not everyone is happy with consumers having additional options. Choice is change, and change rocks the status quo. But isn’t it a good thing to rock the status quo sometimes? As Courtovich said, “…what is needed is new thinking, new leadership and a new collaborative relationship among union representatives, policy makers and business. At stake is not just our failing infrastructure and failing schools, it’s the country’s ability to compete successfully on a global scale.”

ExcelinEd believes that all children can learn, all children should be learning a year’s worth of knowledge in a year, and a parent knows which learning environment is best for their child. We fully support a parent’s right to choose the district, charter, online, blended, private, or home school that they know is the right fit for their children. And the demand for choice is impossible to ignore. In 2014, more than 2.5 million students were enrolled in charter schools across the country—a 635 percent growth from 2000. Yet, despite this incredible growth, more than a million student names are on waiting lists for charter schools across the country.

We see the need for the traditional choices, but also new and innovative choices, like blended learning to combine the benefits of online learning and brick-and-mortar school instruction and Education Savings Accounts that allow parents to direct their child’s funding to the schools, courses, programs, and services of their choice.

We see the demand for choice and we are excited about the innovative supply. Because in education, and transportation, choice is a beautiful thing.

About the author

Jess Langhaim

Jess is the National Advocacy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jess worked for a political consulting firm in Nevada on local, state and national campaigns. Prior to that, Jess worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Romney for President 2008, the Florida House of Representatives and the Legislative Affairs office of Governor Jeb Bush. Jess is a graduate of Florida State University. In addition to helping coordinate nationwide advocacy efforts, Jess’s portfolio of states includes: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC and West Virginia.