WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 2, 2017
The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), held a hearing today to discuss the power of school choice and explore opportunities to extend more educational opportunities to students across the country.
“Charter schools are currently serving close to 3 million students, and nearly 400,000 kids are benefitting from a private school choice program — more than ever before,” Chairman Rokita said. “However, while these numbers help illustrate the growing popularity of school choice, they can’t capture the promise of hope and opportunity school choice provides.”
At the hearing, witnesses described their personal experiences with the promise of school choice, explaining how it has made a positive difference for children in their lives.
During a difficult time, school choice gave the Cherry family peace of mind knowing their children were able to continue receiving a high-quality education.
When her husband lost his job, Nina Cherry and her family also lost their home. With no permanent address, her children could no longer attend their local public school. Fortunately, thanks to Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program, all four children were able to attend Tampa Bay Christian Academy, a nearby independent Christian school.
Calling school choice a “lifeline,” Cherry stated, “School choice provided my family with the hope and stability my children badly needed.”
“For parents, it’s not about public schools versus private schools,” she added. “We are just looking for schools that meet our children’s needs.”
The desire for schools to view students as individuals with unique needs led another witness, Kevin Kubacki, to become a school choice leader.
Kubacki, the founder and executive director of the Neighborhood Charter Network in Indianapolis, Indiana, explained, “I began this work as a charter school leader because I am first and foremost a father.”
Recognizing that school choice places parents firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to their children’s education, Kubacki launched a public charter school in Indianapolis in 2013. Today, Enlace Academy has 365 students and serves families who are predominantly English learners and low-income students.
“Parents, not zip codes, get to decide what school meets the specific needs of their children,” he said. “Charter schools provide parents with options for their child to access a high-quality education.”
Another witness, Michael Williams, also expressed his support for parental choice. A former education commissioner in Texas, Williams explained, “There is no one best school for every child; however, there is a best school for an individual child.”
He also urged members to change the direction of the school choice discussion, saying, “School choice, including private school choice, is not a threat to strong public schools … The conversation we need to be having is one aimed solely at creating high-quality, diverse opportunities to fit the unique needs of children.”
Echoing support for providing more children opportunities like those described at the hearing, Chairman Rokita said, “Across the country, efforts are underway to empower parents with more options when it comes to their children’s education … With a new Congress and a new administration, we now have an opportunity to extend the power of school choice to other families as well.”
He concluded by saying, “We will never turn our backs on the millions of students who attend our nation’s public schools, but we also want to ensure parents have the opportunity to choose the best school for their children.”
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