‘Tis the Season for Parents to Explore School Options

Published January 29, 2016

Exercising school choice is at or near the top of parental to-do lists as the new year starts rolling.

School choice has been trending for a good many Januarys now, and that’s not just because of the successful promotion efforts of National School Choice Week (NSCW), held annually during the final week of January. After launching five years ago with just a few hundred public events, NSCW will sponsor 16,140 rallies, forums and the like in all 50 states this Jan. 24-30.

Educational choice also independently springs up in January as families turn out in great numbers for school choice expos and fairs, many of which are not related to NSCW, held in major cities across the nation to help families gather firsthand intelligence about their options.

Consider Jacksonville, Fla., where 17,000 parents and kids packed a convention center to weigh their traditional neighborhood public schools against charter, magnet and other public school alternatives. Parents’ considerations included the availability of accelerated learning and bilingual, artistic and athletic programs.

A couple attending the Jacksonville event who had moved from Tennessee found Florida to be “radically different.” They offered this explanation to the Florida Times-Union in a Jan. 9 story: “Here in Duval County, children have a lot of options. They have the neighborhood school where they’re districted. They have charter schools. They have private schools. They have dedicated magnet schools without neighborhood borders. Or they can apply to attend any school in the district.”

A good share of the credit for a healthy mix of public and private choice in the Sunshine State surely belongs to former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush’s activism for that cause during his two terms in office. His current standing in the race for the GOP presidential nomination might well be much higher had he identified himself more closely with parental choice than with one-size-fits-all Common Core.

In Baltimore, a city roiled by riots last summer, an annual middle and high school choice fair drew thousands of families, and small charter schools had a chance to compete for attention with large public high schools. Cheerleaders waving pompoms may have caught some eyes, but presumably more families gathered at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute to hear about a robotics program now available in 19 schools for aspiring engineers, and the Green Street Academy, a charter school with an environmental slant, according to a report by the Baltimore Sun.

In Tulsa, several black leaders are using the slogan #MyDreamIsSchoolChoice on social media. On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, congregations from churches in Tulsa are expected to gather to share information about school choice and urge volunteerism in schools, all while enjoying the music of Grammy Award-winning gospel artist Marvin Sapp.

“We are not talking about dismantling public schools,” the Rev. Ray A. Owens of Metropolitan Baptist Church told the Tulsa World. “It is about creating more options for kids who are really locked into schools.”

[Originally published at the Washington Examiner]