I hereby declare National Public School Choice Week

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.

0 responses to “I hereby declare National Public School Choice Week

  1. This is an interesting post, but it’s troubling that the author does not discuss what is in the best interests of the children.

    The fact remains that more than 7 out of 10 Arizona fourth graders and eighth graders are not proficient in math and reading. (Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress). Some might argue that such statistics point to the need for increased spending on education. But if the nation’s educational woes could be simply solved with the checkbook, our public education system would be world class by now.

    The fact is that every student in America should graduate from high school ready for life. Every child. No exceptions. Whether they’re going off to college or to the workforce or a combination of the two. It is the responsibility of public education to give our children and grandchildren the skills, knowledge and preparation for life.

    School Choice Week participants believe that the best way to achieve those goals is by allowing parents to choose where their children attend school.

    Mr. Safier wants to make School Choice Week appear to be all about charter schools, but it’s not. School Choice Week is not about elevating one model above all others. It’s about putting parents in charge of their children’s education. And most Americans don’t find that to be a radical idea at all.