by Jo Anna Gogl
As a mother of seven, I can assure you that no two children are alike. They all have different personalities, preferences, and educational needs. We have been fortunate in our community to have a variety of educational opportunities available to us as we decided how each of our children would be best educated.
Public schools – Our children spent the majority of their school age years attending public schools. However, thanks to a wide variety of options in our local community, none of them had an identical experience. Two gifted children were well-served in the gifted program. One child with an IEP had extensive Special Education services and also attended an alternative high school. Another child open-enrolled in a small public high school in a neighboring district. Several children took advantage of a vocational program offered to high schoolers in conjunction with the local community college. At one point we had four children attending five different high school programs, all at the same time!
Home school – We home schooled several of our children for various reasons. One child had a medical need and there was no school nurse at our local school. Another needed more structure and individual coaching than was practical in a larger classroom setting.
Private schools – When one of our children needed a smaller setting so he’d have the necessary level of accountability, we opted for our local Catholic school. Funding was a problem; the only way we could afford this was because a family friend stepped up to help with tuition. Another child had behavioral challenges, so again, we chose a private school that could give the support he needed.
As a teacher with 26 years of experience teaching in public schools and several years in a private school, I can say without hesitation that when parents can provide what their children need, the entire community benefits. No school setting can provide everything every child needs all the time, and there is nothing wrong with this! When we try to serve every possible need, our resources, staff, and energy are spread too thin and no one can do their best.
So why is school choice good for all stakeholders?
Children – Children are much more likely to succeed in school when they are placed in a program that best matches their needs. If they are successful, they are more likely to be happy with their school experience and stay in school. Since no two children are alike, we cannot assume that the same school setting will be appropriate for all children. A variety of educational options ensures children will be successful.
Parents – It is empowering to parents to know that they can freely make the educational decision that will best help their child succeed. They are then more invested in supporting the school community in which their child participates. School choice removes the burden of worrying that one’s child needs a school program that the family cannot afford.
Teachers – With school choice, teachers are freer to specialize and develop their teaching strengths. For example, if a high school has a vocational focus, the teachers there are experts in their fields and are well-equipped to train students in specific skills. Teachers also benefit from having the support of parents who choose to have their children in a particular setting. Parents who are more invested in their child’s education are more supportive of the teachers their child works with.
Schools – When parents choose the school into which they place their child, they are more positive toward and supportive of the school. Schools benefit greatly from parent involvement; school choice creates an environment that encourages parent participation.
Community members – Whether or not a community member has school-aged children, he or she will benefit from school choice at some point. If children and families are happier with their school experiences, children are more likely to stay in school and become contributing members of society which benefits everyone. The bottom line – School choice means happier, more appropriately placed children. Successful, happy children mean happy parents. Happy children and parents lead to happier teachers and schools where families are invested in the success of the school community. All stakeholders benefit from school choice.