School Choice is an Economic Imperative

As our nation continues to recover from the Great Recession, we as Americans must do everything in our power to ensure that our economic future is brighter than our past.
 
We must fight to make sure every child is empowered to succeed in life and to achieve his or her American dream.
 
To do that, we need to tear down barriers that are holding America back from reaching her fullest potential as the brightest beacon of freedom and opportunity on the globe.
 
These barriers are not abstract or rhetorical, they are direct, immediate, and understandable: more than 60 percent of high school seniors are not proficient in reading, and more than 70 percent of twelfth graders cannot write at a proficient level.
 
For families, communities and small businesses, this skills deficit represents a massive, hidden, and incredibly expensive roadblock threatening to derail growth and prosperity in the years ahead.
 
Think about these numbers for a moment and consider: how many opportunities in life will someone miss – if he or she cannot read or write at a proficient level?
 
For communities and small businesses, these statistics pose equally daunting questions, such as: are we quickly approaching a time when we, as a country, have more open jobs than skilled workers qualified to fill those positions?
 
The trend does not look good.
 
But there is some positive news: we know how to overcome these challenges – or at least make a decent dent in surmounting the obstacles. 
 
It is called school choice, and it works. Giving parents more power to choose the very best education environments for their kids yields proven and impressive results.
 
School choice increases graduation rates. It improves student achievement in the cornerstone subjects of reading and writing. And it boosts parental satisfaction with education. 
 
This week, millions of Americans are celebrating school choice. And for many other families, they are using this week to demand even greater opportunity in education.
 
It’s National School Choice Week, a nonpartisan, nonpolitical series of 11,082 events across the country, designed to raise awareness of the need to provide every child with access to a challenging, motivating education.
 
During the Week, students, parents, teachers and community leaders are shining a positive spotlight on all types of educational options that parents have, or want to have, for their children’s education. In the process, we hope to depoliticize and demystify school choice – a movement which has, for too long, been shrouded in confusion and unnecessary controversy.
 
The reality is that school choice is simply common sense. It does not mean elevating one type of school above another, but instead, recognizes that each child is unique and different, with different talents, skills, and needs.
 
Moreover, school choice does not mean abandoning the urgent importance of strong traditional public schools. The opposite is true: school choice empowers all types of schools to get even better.
 
In fact, school choice can take many forms.
 
There are a multitude of school choice solutions within the public sector, such as open enrollment in traditional public schools, innovative magnet schools, public charter schools, or online academies. Of course, there is also private school choice and homeschooling. 
 
But regardless of the school a parent chooses, the simple act of being able to make an educational choice creates a new era of empowerment for families, and it incentivizes parental involvement. 
 
More American families are actively choosing schools for their kids than at any other time in U.S. history. But school choice is far from a wide-ranging reality for all children. Too many civic leaders are too leery of the cliché’d controversies over “school choice” to embrace the issue with the excitement and enthusiasm it deserves. 
 
It is time to change that, and to bring greater educational options to more families in America. During National School Choice Week, let us celebrate the benefits of educational opportunity, while each vowing to do more to see school choice offered to more American families.
 
With more school choice, we can experience a real renaissance in America; one where students in the U.S. are the best prepared, best educated, and most qualified applicants for any job across the globe. 
 
That’s the America we’re meant to be – and with the right amount of commitment and dedication – that’s the America we will be. 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
Andrew Campanella is the president of National School Choice Week.