WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 3, 2016 -
This committee’s work to improve K-12 education has always been guided by the belief that every child – regardless of where they come from or how much money their parents make – should receive an excellent education. Unfortunately, some schools are failing to provide students that opportunity. Too many of our nation’s students are entering high school without the critical skills they need to complete their education, and too many graduates are going off to college or entering the workforce without the tools they need to succeed in life.
Everyone here agrees our children deserve better. They deserve the opportunity to receive a better education and pursue a better life. That’s why improving K-12 education continues to be such an important priority at the federal, state, and local levels. By empowering parents to do what’s best for their child, school choice has been an instrumental part of that effort.
When we passed legislation last year to improve K-12 education, empowering parents was one of our primary goals, because we know parents can make the most meaningful difference in their child’s education. Several reforms in the Every Student Succeeds Act help parents do what’s best for their child’s education by expanding school choice, reforms such as: increasing access to quality charter schools and magnet schools; protecting home schools from federal interference; and launching a pilot program that will encourage excellent schools to enroll harder to serve students.
While these reforms are encouraging, education leaders in state capitals and local school districts are the real reason why the promise of school choice has touched the lives of so many parents and children. The progress we have seen over the last 25 years is remarkable.
The school choice movement began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1990, where local leaders piloted the first private school choice program. Known as the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the pilot provided low-income families scholarships to attend a quality school. Since then, the program has paved the way for thousands of students to receive a better education and inspired 27 other states to create different types of private school choice programs – many of which have been credited with helping students graduate not only from high school, but from college as well.
My home state of Minnesota was not far behind Milwaukee in expanding educational opportunities for students and families. In 1991, the state passed the nation’s first charter school law, providing parents an alternative public school option that better met their child’s needs. Today more than 40 states have passed charter school laws, opening the doors to thousands of schools that have served millions of students.
These are just a few examples of how school choice is helping students and families. Last week marked the 5th annual National School Choice Week, where more than 16,000 events in all 50 states showcased the success of school choice, from private school scholarships and public charter schools to homeschooling and education savings accounts. In all its forms, school choice has provided real hope to moms, dads, and children across the country.
Today, as we learn more about how states and local communities are expanding school choice, I encourage my colleagues to ask how we can support these efforts and help more children receive the education they deserve.