by David Safier
This is National Public School Choice Week — NPSCW. Actually, NPSCW is something I created and only exists on BfA. But it has as much official stature as National School Choice Week, which has been declared by a bunch of organizations which put vouchers first, charter schools second and public schools last. The only difference is, they have the money and connections to make a big to-do about their made-up special week. I don't.
"School Choice" is the euphemism-du-jour for vouchers, a term no one much likes. (There's a new euphemism in town these days — "education savings accounts" — but that's the subject of a whole 'nother post.) You'll rarely hear a voucher advocate use the "V" word. It doesn't even play well in Utah. Or Arizona.
But I want to look at the rich choices we Arizonans have in our public school system.
- Magnet Schools: Most districts have some schools with open enrollment, often schools with a "magnet" specialty. Students may choose to attend them rather than their local schools.
- School District Open Enrollment: According to A.R.S. § 15-816.01, students may enroll in schools in districts other than their own, subject to space availability.
- Charter Schools: Every charter school in the state has open enrollment based on space. If too many students apply, their names are put in a lottery and chosen at random.
- Online Schools and Instruction: Arizona has a number of online charter schools, and many school districts have online course options.
That's one hell of a lot of school choices. Charter schools are basically private schools where the state picks up the tuition. They're where private and public schools meet. A number of Arizona's charters were once private schools which made the switch without having to change much other than not collecting tuition.
The only choice I've left out are private schools, which basically come in three flavors: religious schools, high priced prep schools and high priced prep/religious schools. Religious schools, by the way, make up about 80% of Arizona's private schools, as they do in the rest of the country. Take private schools out of the mix, and students still have a wealth of school choices.