When it comes to K-12 education, America’s parents want more choices.
In fact, almost two thirds of parents — 64 percent — say they wish they had more options for their children’s education.
In a society where Americans choose practically everything, from the brands of coffee they drink in the morning to the types of cars they drive, it is understandable that parents are demanding more of a say in where they send their children to school.
Parents understand that with greater options come better results for their children. Every child is unique, with distinctive interests and learning styles. Moms and dads know that a school that might work for one student might not be a good fit for another.
From Jan. 24-30, millions of Americans will raise awareness about the importance of school choice at an unprecedented 16,140 events — including 882 events in Illinois. These events are planned to coincide with National School Choice Week, the largest celebration of opportunity in education in U.S. history.
For families in the Prairie State, National School Choice Week provides a good opportunity to review the different types of education options available to their children.
Parents can choose from schools in the public sector — such as traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools or online academies. Parents can also pay to send their children to private schools, or educate their children in the home.
Parents who are not happy with their children’s current schools, or would like to explore their options, should use January to consider the alternatives available to them. Families can use National School Choice Week as an opportunity to visit schools, ask lots of questions of teachers and administrators, and talk with other parents to find a school that may be a better fit.
Starting the school search process in January, rather than waiting until summer break, means parents have more options available to them.
Of course, some — if not many — parents in Illinois will find that they do not have as many education options as children and families in other states. For these families, National School Choice Week provides an opportunity to stand up and have their voices and opinions heard.
Providing greater access to education options in Illinois and across the country is essential, not just for individual families, but for the future prosperity of communities.
Research has demonstrated that when parents actively choose the schools their children attend, or choose to educate their children in the home, high school graduation rates increase dramatically.
A student with a high school diploma will, over the course of his or her life, earn more than a quarter million dollars more than a student who has dropped out. High school graduates are far less likely to be incarcerated, and are six times more likely to participate in community and civic affairs, than individuals without high school diplomas.
In the short term, and over the long haul, school choice pays dividends.
Most importantly, though: school choice matters because every child in America has potential. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and together, we must do everything possible to prepare them for success.
Andrew R. Campanella is president of National School Choice Week, the nation’s largest annual celebration of opportunity in education. A recognized expert on education reform, Andrew lives in Blue Mountain Beach, Florida.