The first-ever National School Choice Week is underway! This week, January 23rd - 29th, school choice advocates from across the country will host events and highlight the benefits of educational freedom.
More than 150 organizations are hosting events in nearly every state. It's a grassroots movement of national proportions to highlight the benefits of school choice and demand access to quality educational options. Speaker John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush - among many others - are all "in" for National School Choice Week.
And it's a movement whose time has come. Nationally, thousands of children are trapped in more than 1,700 public schools labeled as "dropout factories," in which less than 60 percent of students graduate within four years. But even for those students not assigned to the worst government schools, academic achievement has stagnated over the years, graduation rates have flat lined, and American students are out-competed by their international counterparts.
For hundreds of thousands of children, the opportunity to escape failing public schools and choose a school that best meets their needs would be life-changing.
But for too many families across the country, the possibility is out of their reach. President Obama told Matt Lauer last year:
Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.
It shouldn't come down to "connections" to ensure children have access to quality educational options. You shouldn't have to be the President of the United States to gain access to a good school.
Unfortunately, the president's words have been incongruous with the administration's actions. Under the Obama administration’s watch, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers to more than 1,200 low-income children to attend a private school of their choice, was placed in jeopardy. Because of pressure from special interest groups such as the education unions, no new children are allowed to receive vouchers, meaning the program will be phased-out over time.
But there is hope. Speaker John Boehner is a strong supporter of school choice and wants to breathe life back into the scholarship program.
And outside of Washington, state leaders across the country are pushing for more school choice options for families. Florida Governor Rick Scott is proposing Education Savings Accounts, a trailblazing new proposal in which the money the state sends to schools would instead be deposited directly into a family’s ESA, which parents could use to send their child to a public or private school of their choice. In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels is supporting a voucher plan, and opportunity scholarships for low-income children are under consideration in Pennsylvania.
School choice is about freedom and opportunity. It’s about giving families options when it comes to their children’s education – from charter schools and private schools, to online learning and homeschooling. The one-size-fits-all approach has never had a place in American life, and education should be no exception.
There are so many reasons to provide every child with the opportunity to choose a school that best meets his or her needs: School choice ensures students are safe, meets their social and emotional needs, increases academic achievement and attainment, and empowers parents. And for the first time, National School Choice Week will highlight those benefits as organizations and families across the country take part in events and demand better educational options.
To learn more about National School Choice Week and participate in an event near you, visit schoolchoiceweek.com