LETTERS: A bevy of reasons to celebrate school choice

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Editor: If I told you there is a program that narrows achievement gaps for kids, empowers choice for families and teachers, and uses our tax dollars more efficiently, you’d say that’s worthy of celebrating, right? Well that’s exactly what school choice does and why we should celebrate National School Choice Week which is going on now.

National School Choice Week highlights the community-wide benefits of education choice and provides resources for parents to choose the right school for their kids. In recognition of its importance, Governor Jared Polis proclaimed this week Colorado School Choice Week.

Indeed, Coloradans can revel in this week’s party given our robust public-school choice programs. These programs allow families to choose from neighborhood schools (in or outside their district) as well as magnet, online, and charter schools—independently-run schools that can innovate within the public-school system (and have frequently remained safely open for in-person learning this past year). 

Open enrollment, the vehicle for accessing public school choice for this coming year, is going on now in many districts.

And oh, is school choice popular! Hundreds of thousands—around 30% of all Colorado public school students—take advantage of it every year. Support for school choice is now up to 77% among parents of public school students. 

Why is school choice so popular and why is it worth celebrating this and every week? As I’ll explain, the benefits go well beyond helping families navigate the challenges of this past year.

Why Celebrate School Choice?

Places children’s education first: School Choice empowers parents to choose the right school for their unique child. Choosing the right school means the child has a greater opportunity to flourish. A child’s education is no longer dictated by their zip code or size of house their parents can afford. 

Narrows achievement gaps: A great education helps set a child on a path for a successful life. Too often though, children are falling behind in part because their school isn’t the right fit to help them unlock their potential. Enter school choice—where schools such as charters often shine in closing academic achievement gaps for minority and low-income students in Denver specifically and Colorado more broadly. School choice receives strong support from minority families and helps deliver equality of opportunity that our kids deserve.     

Benefits teachers: Just as it provides more choice to families, school choice also presents more options to teachers. It provides teachers a broader selection of learning environments and, as studies show, can lead to higher salaries for teachers as schools compete to employ them. 

Improves public schools: Choice, as it does in other sectors, motivates schools to earn students’ “business” through better serving their needs. Where choice exists, neighborhood school performance is shown to improve in an effort to retain students. Competition benefits everyone!

More efficient use of tax payer money: Charter schools receive lower funding per pupil than neighborhood schools–36% lower in Denver—and are a great education choice for many. School choice makes our tax dollars go farther!

Innovation: Choice, not control, is how we set the stage for innovation. And our education system is primed for modernization. Indeed, it’s already starting with growth in micro-schools, hybrid homeschooling, and other formats that better meet our children’s unique needs. If we fund the student, instead of a rigid system, Colorado can be at the forefront of innovating for our children and teachers. 

Given it delivers so much for so many, why be against school choice? Unfortunately, the Biden administration signals it intends to be just that. The majority of Coloradans hope our state doesn’t go the same route. Our kids’ future, and therefore our community’s future, would be worse for it. 

Instead, let’s celebrate school choice for the opportunity it creates—empowering families, benefitting teachers, and putting our children’s education (and therefore their future) first.

Happy National School Choice Week, everyone!

WILL JOHNSON, Letter to the Editor

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