When it comes to K-12 education, almost two-thirds of America’s parents – 64 percent – say they wish they had more options for their children’s education.
In a society where Americans have numerous choices from the brands of coffee they drink to the types of cars they drive, it is understandable that parents are demanding more of a say in where they send their children to school.
Every child is unique, with distinctive interests and learning styles. Parents know that a school that might work for one student may not be a good fit for another.
In many states, South Carolina included, lawmakers have taken action to provide a more diverse variety of school choices for families.
Next week, the importance of school choice will be emphasized at an unprecedented 16,140 events, including 218 events in South Carolina. All are planned to coincide with National School Choice Week, Jan. 24-30, the largest celebration of opportunity in education in U.S. history.
National School Choice Week provides parents a good opportunity to review the six different education options now available in the Palmetto State.
First: South Carolinians can choose traditional public schools for their kids. With some limitations, the state allows parents to choose traditional public schools outside of their existing school zones.
Second: Magnet schools, which focus on themes such as math, science, technology and the performing arts, also exist. Both are part of open enrollment, or public school choice.
Third: The Palmetto State also offers a variety of charter schools – tuition-free public schools that are given the leeway to be more innovative.
Fourth: South Carolina is one of 41 states with a tuition-free online academy, allowing students to go to school entirely online.
Fifth: Parents in South Carolina can also send their children to private schools, and the state offers assistance in the form of scholarships or tax deductions to qualifying families.
Sixth: Parents have the freedom to educate their children at home, a choice more parents are making than ever before.
Parents who are not happy with their children’s current schools, or would like to explore other options, should use January to consider the alternatives available to them. National School Choice Week offers an opportunity to visit schools, ask questions of teachers and administrators, and talk with other parents to find a school that may be a better fit.
Why is this process important? In addition to ensuring greater peace of mind, research has shown that when parents actively choose the schools their children attend, or choose to educate their children in the home, high school graduation rates increase dramatically.
A student with a high school diploma will, over the course of his or her life, earn more than a quarter million dollars more than a student who has dropped out.
High school graduates are far less likely to be incarcerated, and are six times more likely to participate in community and civic affairs, than individuals without high school diplomas.
Most importantly, school choice matters because every child in America has potential. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and together, we must do everything possible to prepare them for success.
Andrew R. Campanella is president of National School Choice Week, the nation’s largest annual celebration of opportunity in education.