“The group consisting of mother, father and child is the main educational agency of mankind,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said. Yet for years our education system has tried its best to ignore parents and discouraged involvement. That must change.
Across the country and here in the Golden State, a revolution in education is taking place. Parent engagement and empowerment is helping to drive higher quality and more educational options for families. And as National School Choice Week approaches, we can recognize the ways in which providing parents with more and better options improves the education — and ultimately the future — for millions of children.
There are a variety of school choice options available for many of the 9.2 million children living in California. Families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, virtual academies, and homeschooling.
One size doesn’t fit all – each child has his or her own unique talents, needs, interests, challenges, and learning style. That is why it essential that parents have options. School choice ensures we can address students’ unique qualities or challenges, by providing parents with a diverse array of educational options for their children.
School choice includes charter schools, taxpayer funded academies with more flexibility and accountability than traditional public schools. School choice also includes open enrollment, where parents can place their students in public schools outside their traditional neighborhood boundaries.
Other school options for parents highlight specialized or non-traditional learning. For instance, California’s magnet schools offer programs in math, science, the arts, or other focused topics. And virtual schools, along with a variety of blended learning options, give students the ability to study outside the classic classroom setting.
This effort to give parents more options empowers the ultimate stakeholder in a child’s education with the ultimate form of school accountability — the power to select the right school that is in the best interest of the child. No one, however well-intentioned, can better argue on behalf of a student than that student’s own parents. And no parent should face the disempowerment and disillusionment that comes from seeing their child stuck in a failing school, or a classroom that does not meet the student’s academic or physical needs.
Throughout the state, parents have led the school choice movement every step of the way—demanding more and better options for their sons and daughters. This grassroots advocacy and movement for greater accountability is transforming our educational landscape in California.
The movement for school choice couldn’t have come at a better time, as poor academic outcomes demonstrate the failure to come to grips with the challenges facing our current educational system. Last week, the California Department of Education issued a new study reporting students suffered academically during the 2020-2021 school year amid COVID-19 lockdowns. Sadly, 41% of students in all grade levels did not meet math standards.
And equally troubling, minority students fared worse academically, with more than 60% of Black and Latino students not meeting English standards, and about 80% of minority students not meeting math expectations. Various California studies have shown that the pandemic and put lower-income and minority students at a significant disadvantage due to a lack of available resources like computers and WiFi.
That’s why it’s important for parents to advocate for increased accountability, promote new and innovative educational models, and encourage students’ love of learning by placing them in the school that best meets their needs.
This January 23-29, parents, teachers, and students in California will gather at more than 2,000 events to celebrate National School Choice Week. These activities celebrate the efforts by many longstanding supporters—not least, impassioned parents—to make the dream of school choice a reality for millions of students. By improving our educational system, these committed parents are making a difference—not just for their own children, but for our entire state.
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