OP-ED | 50-State Showcase Highlights School Choice
It’s about options.
Education isn’t one-size-fits-all, and National School Choice Week (NSCW) is about ensuring that families have more than one high-quality choice when it comes to educating their children.
NSCW 2013, which runs from January 27 through February 2, shines a spotlight on the need for effective education options for all American children. In only its third year, this bipartisan, grassroots effort features more than 3,000 events spanning all 50 states.
ConnCAN, like other organizations working with NSCW, advocates for strengthening, supporting and growing high-quality public schools of choice.
Every parent, including me, wants their children to thrive in whatever school they attend. Many Connecticut families are pleased with their local district’s schools, but not every child lives in a neighborhood or town with a school that is right for them.
Too often, factors that are beyond a child’s control, most notably his or her zip code, create insurmountable hurdles to obtaining an excellent education. Families with means who are unhappy with their neighborhood schools move to another school district, opt for private schools, or purchase out-of-school tutoring and academic supports.
Those options aren’t possible for all families.
As a result, Connecticut families are applying to public schools of choice – district, magnet, and charter – in record numbers. In New Haven, close to 10,000 parents applied to a regional choice lottery for only 2,667 seats. Their children only had a 29 percent chance to enroll in a public school of their choice.
Nearly 16,000 parents in the Hartford area applied to a regional choice lottery. Only 4,153 seats were available. Their children only had a 26 percent chance to enroll in a public school of their choice.
The number of students on wait lists for our public schools of choice far exceeds the number of students enrolled.
Families across Connecticut are trying to get their children into these high quality public schools, but our education policy isn’t responding quickly enough to their needs.
Right now, for example, there are only 17 charter schools in Connecticut, many in the lowest performing school districts as designated by the State Department of Education. The vast majority of students at Connecticut’s public charter schools achieve at higher levels than their peers at traditional public schools.
Education and community leaders are lining up to start more charter schools in our state. Twenty-four formal letters of intent have been filed with the State Department of Education to start new charters. A majority of these individuals plan to open a charter in the lowest performing communities in our state, and many of the applicants noted that a primary goal is to help English Language Learners and special needs students.
Creating more high quality options is a key strategy to close Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap.
Every child in Connecticut, and our nation, regardless of race, class, language or zip code, should have the opportunity to succeed in school. NSCW participants in Connecticut and all 50 states have seen the positive results when children, families and communities have access to better public schools. Take part in a NSCW event, and help make choice and excellence for all children Connecticut’s educational legacy.
Jen Alexander is the acting CEO of ConnCAN, a National School Choice Week partner dedicated to advocating school choice in Connecticut.