Back to School Shouldn’t Be Like This
Imagine if your child’s “back to school” day meant that he or she was attending a school that was safe and high-performing—for the very first time—after years of being restricted by his or her ZIP code to a zoned school that was dangerous and failing. This is the reality for thousands of kids across the country who live in states that have passed school choice, including opportunity scholarships, tax-credit scholarships, course access, and education savings accounts. In fact, nearly all of Tennessee’s neighbors have a substantial school choice program. So what’s taking us so long to make this life changing hope a reality for our children?
Indeed, school choice is not a new idea. States like Florida, Indiana, and Wisconsin have some of the most well established programs in the nation, and have watched their public and private school students flourish in these models for more than a decade. Looking back to 2004, 11 states and the District of Columbia had implemented some form of educational choice in their respective school systems. Today, 23 states plus Douglas Co., CO and Washington, D.C offer substantial educational freedom to families.
Juxtapose that with the Volunteer State. This week, many parents were snapping photos of their smiling children wearing oversized backpacks and preparing for their first day of the 2015-2016 school year. Yet, while many of these parents could decide what their child ate for breakfast that morning, they cannot decide what his or her education will look like. Instead, they must hope that the one-size-fits-all model we still adhere to will not be too big or small for their child.
Imagine if that wasn’t the case. Imagine if you could pick the education that best suits your child like you pick his or her lunchbox each day. Imagine if you could partner with educators to select course options for your child that ranged from the public school social studies class, to geometry at the private school, to online language instruction, to private tutoring for their reading, and even a trade course for computer science.
These choices shouldn’t be hypothetical hopes for Tennessee parents any longer. It is our hope that this year’s “back to school” day for parents and children will be the last one they experience without the eagerness and excitement that comes with knowing that they’ve had a hand in charting their academic future.