WASHINGTON — It is a question many parents have to consider: Where will I send my child to school? A new movement, called the school choice program, is working to give parents more options to answer that question.
Tenth grader Amaria Jones is learning about biology at Cornerstone, a Christian school in Washington, D.C. that she managed to get into thanks to school choice.
"I'm able to have more time to learn, I guess, and also go to teachers for extra help," the teen told CBN News.
Her mom, Chrystal Jones, noted, "She is excited about getting up every day to get here on time to learn and maintain her grades."
The school choice movement aims to let parents decide where their child is educated, giving them options other than just the public school in their neighborhood. State-run programs even provide scholarships for low income families, like the Joneses, to help cover tuition.
"We didn't become eligible until my husband had an accident and I had to leave to become a caregiver, but it's always been important to us to find the best schools that we could," Chrystal said.
"It was worth it," Amaria chimed in. "Somebody gave me the choice to choose."
For Amaria, it was "very important" that she attend a faith-based school.
"I think this makes me comfortable," she said. "At the public school I went to I didn't feel I could share my faith with others and I wasn't as strong in my faith."
Opponents of school choice argue that it affects the public education system and that it turns education into a profit-making industry.
Derrick Max, executive director and principal at Cornerstone, disagrees.
"The voucher that we receive from the federal government is far less than the per people allotment given to the public schools," Max explained. "So in essence, every student that comes to Cornerstone using that voucher we actually save the public schools money so I think it's a false argument to say that we hurt the public schools in anyway."
In President Donald Trump's recent address to Congress, he called education the civil rights issue of our day and suggested that allowing school choice will help revitalize urban regions that are failing minority youths.
"These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them," he said, drawing applause from lawmakers.
After the speech, Trump traveled to Orlando, Florida, with his education secretary, Betsy Devos, who has been a national leader in the school choice movement.
"We see that in D.C., our school choice parents who are in school choice programs –especially the D.C. opportunity scholarship program – they have higher rates of graduation," noted Ashley Carter, at-large member of the D.C. State Board of Education.
Amaria is on track to graduate and just thankful she got the chance to choose.
"I'm just lucky to have the school choice and the opportunity scholarship," she said.