Celebrating Education Freedom During National School Choice Week
National School Choice Week reminds us that every child is unique, and parents must have equal access to education choices that best meet their children’s needs. For the past ten years, National School Choice week has informed parents and teachers of these options in their states, raising awareness on this important bipartisan issue that 69% of Americans support. I was also thrilled to be interviewed by FreedomWorks for this year’s celebration and to discuss the need for school choice with them.
As COVID-19 has forced teachers, parents and students into an emergency remote learning environment that many were ill-prepared for, the spotlight is now shining even brighter on school choice. For example, virtual schools (not to be confused with the emergency remote learning environment that most traditional public schools are currently in) have been effectively teaching students for twenty years with teachers certified in virtual instruction. For many students and parents, virtual schools may provide an effective alternative to emergency remote learning during this pandemic, and some may even want to make it a permanent change.
While many parents are more comfortable remaining in a remote environment during COVID, there are also many who feel that it is best for their children to return to hybrid or full in-person instruction. As school districts were preparing to being fall classes in a mostly virtual setting last year, Gallup asked parents what learning environment they would most prefer for their children. Not surprisingly, the results were almost equally split, with 36% of parents preferring a full-time return to in-person instruction, 36% preferring a hybrid approach and 28% wanting to remain fully virtual. These differences underscore the need for enhanced flexibility and choice in education.
ALEC members continue to advocate for parents and children around the country with innovative free market and limited government solutions such as education freedom scholarships and voucher programs for low-income families, charter, virtual and homeschool expansion and education savings accounts. These proven approaches are encapsulated in various ALEC model policies and are designed to meet the personalized needs of each individual child by putting education decisions in the hands of parents, not government bureaucrats. Examples of these ALEC model policies include:
- Education Savings Account Act – The Education Savings Account Act allows parents to use the funds that would have been allocated to their child at their resident school district for an education program of the parents’ choosing.
- Digital Teaching and Learning Plan – This bill requires the State Board of Education to develop a digital teaching and learning plan to prepare the state to implement a statewide initiative that will result in dramatic improvements in student achievement.
- Homeschool Credential Recognition Act – This bill requires all state and local agencies, as well as institutions of higher education, to recognize diplomas and credentials issued by homeschool administrators in a secondary education setting as equivalent to a high school diploma.
During this year’s National School Choice Week, we encourage leaders at all levels of government to focus less on systems of education and more on individual children and families.