Today’s post is co-authored by ExcelinEd’s McKenzie Snow and Adam Peshek. They also authored the post “Kids have one shot at education. Help parents make it count.“
Today you decided how many times to press the snooze button. You selected clothes to wear and breakfast to eat. Life is full of choices. Choice is what defines individuals and makes us accountable for our own lives.
Why then is one of the most important choices in life—how to educate your child—denied to millions of American parents?
Next week, National School Choice Week celebrations will take place in more than 16,000 locations across the country. These events will spotlight effective education options—including magnet schools, charter schools, private schools and homeschooling—that are changing lives.
Twenty-five years ago, school choice was something you had to purchase by moving to a pricey neighborhood for the right public school or paying thousands of dollars for private education. But thanks to the tireless efforts of parents, lawmakers, advocates and other concerned citizens, the school choice movement is growing.
Today, more than 2.5 million students (six percent of America’s students) are enrolled in public charter schools, with millions more on waiting lists. These schools do something small, yet radical: instead of receiving students based on zoning regulations, charter schools have to attract and retain each student. Parents must choose to enroll their child in a charter school.
Meanwhile, private school choice is also growing at a faster rate than ever. In 2000, only four private school choice programs existed in the U.S.—these are state programs that offer eligible students scholarships to pay for private school tuition. By 2010, 20 such programs were operating across the country. Today, there are 45 private school choice programs in 24 states and Washington, D.C. educating nearly 400,000 students.
The newest policy development, Education Savings Accounts, gives parents access to much more than private and charter schools. ESAs provide parents with funds in accounts that can be used for a variety of educational purposes, like tuition, tutoring, online courses, therapies for special needs, even college savings. The school choice movement’s growth is evolving into educational choice.
Why the growth in choice? Because people across the country are beginning to act on something they knew all along—education cannot be delivered like the mail. Sorting kids by ZIP code into government-run schools is not the way to develop a dynamic and diverse generation who will face a future we cannot possibly envision.
Each child has unique needs: some thrive in large schools, others need a smaller environment; some students need strict codes of conduct and uniforms, while others perform best in a relaxed atmosphere; some students benefit from the discipline and culture of competitive sports, while others gravitate towards art, music and acting; one child may flourish in a tech-heavy classroom full of computer-guided instructions, yet her sibling may do better in a completely different setting.
The school choice movement is not about creating the perfect, utopian school. School choice is about giving parents the ability to match their children’s needs to the best available education for them.
I hope you’ll join us later this month as we celebrate National School Choice Week with millions of families across the nation. School choice is changing kids, families and communities, and that is worth celebrating.
Visit SchoolChoiceWeek.com to find a #NSCW event in your area.
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.