By Bay Collyns
I grew up around an extended family of public-school educators and like many of my family members, I obtained my degree in education. During my tenure as a teacher in the public school system, I learned about school choice, read the frequent controversies surrounding the programs, and often listened attentively to parents’ rationales for selecting an alternative school choice program. At the time, I never imagined that years later I would be making a school choice option for my child.
School choice means giving parents the power to select the best education environment for their children grades K-12. In the year 1962, the concept of school vouchers was introduced by Milton Friedman, an American economist and statistician. By year 1997, his support for school choice lead Milton and Rose Friedman to establish the school choice foundation; that foundation is known as Ed-Choice. The Ed-Choice mission is to advance educational freedom and choice for all as a pathway to successful lives and a stronger society.
Today, the universal school choice modules are: tax credit scholarships, school vouchers, education savings accounts, individual tax credits and deductions, charter schools, magnet schools, micro- schooling, online learning, hybrid homeschooling and more.Despite having various school choice modules in the United States, not all modules are available in every state.
Where is school choice now? A review of March 2021 literature reveals that school choice has a progressive outlook. Currently, there are thirty-three (33) states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico that have one or more school choice modules; There are currently 329,933 students using tax credit scholarships, 248,825 using vouchers and 29,475 students participating in the education savings accounts. Recent research for students’ participation in other school choice modules statistics dates from 2018 and earlier therefore were not inclusive.
It is also intuitive to look at school choice from a global focus with the Organization for Economic Co-operation Development (OCED). The OCED school choice platform expands across the USA to Europe and Asia; OCED provides resources to help families understand their school choice options and its school choice modules are comparable to Ed-Choice and the National School Choice Week. Supporters of these three organizations promote quality and innovation in school systems which allows parents to make objective and informed choices.
School choice has been and continues to be explored and debated; The pros and cons presented by religious and non-religious groups, state and local representatives, congress and the supreme court are with ongoing attempts to find resolutions. Therefore, education in public and private schools must offer the best academic alternatives for children to succeed.
Society has learned that education gaps of today are income gaps of tomorrow and with that knowledge, the education field has seen a reduction of dropout rates nationally along with an increase of high school students attending at least one year of college.
How does school choice improve the lives of the students? According to parents who enrolled their children in school choice programs, the students are more likely to achieve high standards because the parent and child have a say in how they reach their academic goals. By meeting the high standards, the students can focus on the development of character which means respecting the teacher, peers, and the school building and its contents. The parents that were interviewed placed a strong value on highly effective educators introducing the curriculum to the students. The educators, parents and students agree that learning cannot take place without a safe, structured, nurturing environment.
A concern among public school advocates that needs to be addressed is how these nontraditional schools are cherry-picking the students who attend their school. There are beliefs and discussions that if taxpayer funds are being used, a fair lottery system needs to be implemented to ensure all students have equal opportunity to attend that nontraditional school.
My family and I had to make a prudent decision to locate, transfer, and placement of our daughter into a private school in order for her identified learning needs to be met; our state offered the school choice voucher program which was our best option. Certainly, I have a success story to share…. after four years in a private school setting, my daughter returned to public schools and graduated from public high school with her age-appropriate peers.
Today, I remain admissive, yet concerned for the many families that are seeking school choice alternatives for their children. When proceeding to find the best fit in a school, it often takes plenty of time and research. Nevertheless, it’s rewarding when making a decision on a school choice to help your child to succeed. Educating society continues to be the most important job in the world, without an equal public school system, education would fail.
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