This week is “National School Choice Week,” and around the country more than 3500 events are planned over the next several days.
Dozens of events aimed at raising awareness around School Choice are taking place in Ohio, and the Miami Valley. Events in Middletown, Troy, Oakwood, Springfield, and last night in Dayton, an event organized by Parents Advancing Choice in Education, or PACE. Program Manager Daria Dillard-Stone says its purpose was to highlight the need to expand educational options for students, and to ask some simple questions.
Stone asks, "Is your school working? Is your school making a difference? Why do you exist? Would we miss your school if you left? If you’re making an impact, you be missed. And those are things that those organizations that are open to educate the kids need to be asking themselves; what differences are you making in a positive way?"
Arguments against school choice include the concern that options like voucher programs will sap the most talented students, and funding dollars tied to enrollment numbers from the public school system. And Stone admits there’s a racial component to some school choice opposition as well.
Candidly, she says "Many of them don’t want to support school choice because of the struggles that went on years ago ... especially when it comes to minorities, that they fought for us to get in a public school, a good public school, and now they felt like when other choices became available,... the powers that be were trying to maybe destroy the public school system. Well that has never been PACE’s stance. That has never been our goal. Our public school system now is one of our allies, and we work closely with them.
Stone contends the idea of school choice has evolved since the late 90’s when it was introduced, and the interests of children should remain at the heart of any education reform effort.
Kaleigh Frazier, with the non-profit outreach and advocacy group School Choice Ohio agrees. Frazier says it’s about getting kids into an environment where they thrive.
She says, "The results that we’ve seen from students getting into these environments are better suited for their needs are just outstanding, I mean it really is life changing what these programs are doing. So, from our perspective, across the board, school choice is a hundred percent ‘pro’ for Ohio families."
With School Choice scholarships, and voucher programs on the rise - Frazier says economically disadvantaged students are getting the same options in education
She believes [programs] are "Really helping families with finding a good option, without the financial burden, through the scholarship. So, it really, really been great to see school choice in all sectors of Ohio."
Charter schools and voucher systems do provide some options for students in poorly performing schools, and many believe the competition created among schools will generate systemic change, and improvements in education overall.
According to Education Choice data – that’s just one of the four state funded programs – almost 1800 students residing within the Dayton City School District received scholarships for the 2011-2012 school year, and more than 2000 students applied for scholarships this year.