Do I want my child to be bilingual?
Will the school across the street be best option for my child if he has a physical or learning disability?
What if my child excels in the arts, STEM or a trade? Perhaps a school dedicated to that particular craft would be the best route for him.
As a mother-to-be, such questions are starting to pop into my head. I want the best for my son and know I’ll want him to be in an environment suited for his learning style. I don’t yet know what will be best; I’ll get those answers as he grows and shows his unique character and capabilities.
I also know I am not alone. Other parents across America want what’s best for the unique children they are working hard to raise. Thankfully, where I live in the District of Columbia there are options so that parents can find a good match for their children. That’s something I’m celebrating this week, which is National School Choice Week.
National School Choice Week celebrates school choice and raises awareness of the different education options available to students. These options include public neighborhood schools, public charter schools and public magnet schools as well as private schools, online academies and homeschooling.
Education is not a one-size-fits-all process. Beyond these specific schooling categories, these education providers offer different specialties. Some offer a bilingual experience; others embrace a specific curriculum or emphasize group learning or the arts. Allowing schools to focus on offering experiences that are tailored to individual needs helps more parents find the right environment for their child.
And just as we know that the new restaurant across the street helps ensure that other neighborhood restaurants are providing better value and service, competition strengthens our school system, encouraging existing schools to make sure they are focused on serving the needs of their students.
As an elected official for D.C., I am proud to be a vocal proponent of school choice in its many forms. D.C. is often recognized as a model for school choice in America. As our nation’s capital, D.C. offers the only federally funded school choice program in the country.
Since its inception, The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has enabled more than 8,000 D.C. students to receive a voucher toward the cost of private school tuition. This puts the option of private school in reach for more families, not just those who can afford the high cost of tuition. Currently, 47.3 percent of D.C. public school students attend charter schools, showing that choice is needed, and wanted across the city.
D.C. isn’t alone. Fifteen states across America offer state-funded vouchers and many more states offer choices like education savings accounts and tax-credit scholarships to help remove the financial barriers that may come with better educational opportunities. More and more states are catching up to D.C.’s model of offering choice programs. Forty-three states now allow charter schools to operate in their state and the number of homeschooled children across America has more than doubled since 1999. This is tremendous progress, but should be just the beginning.
A ZIP code or income level should not determine a child’s future. Every child deserves an effective, challenging as well as motivating education. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and I am proud that my city offers an array of diverse options for our students to learn. I will continue to advocate for a system that empowers parents, not the government, to make the best possible choices for their children, just as I’ll make the best choices I can for mine.