School Choice: No Longer "If," but "How"
(NewsUSA) - Over the last thirty years, the efforts of parents, educators, and state leaders have laid the foundation for a pluralistic sea change in how we think about the education options available to families in the U.S. But over the last four, things went from incremental to warp speed. In 2023, 20 states added or expanded school choice programs, which, in sum, affected the largest group of eligible families in a single year, ever.
Some of the things most commonly associated with the modern school choice movement, like public charter schools and private school scholarship programs, are as old as I am, dating back to the early 90's. Others, like microschooling and hybrid homeschooling, have exploded in popularity due to the decidedly different lifestyles of the 2020s.
With so much change, it is critical that parents around the country understand the new landscape in American education. Events like National School Choice Week, a celebration organized by the National School Choice Awareness Foundation and happening nationwide from January 21-27, can be the perfect place for parents to explore changing options.
What does school choice look like in the country today? 33 states ensure parents can choose a traditional public school other than the one to which they're assigned, making it mandatory in at least some cases. 46 states (Montana being the newest) allow charter schools. All 50 states offer public magnet schools. 31 states offer private school choice programs. 35 states have a free, full-time online public school option for students. And the number of homeschooled students has nearly doubled in the last 7 years, now topping 3.1 million.
Today, the question for families is not whether they have school choice, but how they will utilize these transformative opportunities. By understanding the array of options, making personalized choices based on each unique child, and collaborating with educators, parents hold the key to shaping a future where every child has the chance to thrive. School choice is not just a policy; it's a pathway to a more personalized and empowering educational experience for our children and all families have the right to choose what's best for their kids.
Shelby Doyle, based in Nashville, TN, is the vice president of public awareness at the National School Choice Awareness Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that hosts National School Choice Week each January and maintains the nation’s largest online portfolio of English- and Spanish-language school navigation resources.