National School Choice Week began as an annual celebration in 2011, with only 150 events. Since then, it has grown exponentially, and a record 10,100 events are planned for January 2015 to raise awareness of the benefits of alternative education, which supporters call a matter of “simple justice.”
Organizers are billing National School Choice Week 2015 as the “largest celebration of educational opportunity in US history.”
The core principle of the school choice philosophy is simply to channel public education resources through parents, rather than through the government, to allow mothers and fathers to apply the funds to whatever educational institution best meets the needs of their children. Where school choice programs do not exist, parents who cannot afford private education are forced to enroll their children in government schools, which exercise an effective monopoly on public education.
Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, attributes the growth in enthusiasm for school choice to a simple question of supply and demand.
“More American families than ever before are actively choosing the best educational environments for their children, which has galvanized millions of additional parents—those without options—to demand greater choices for their own children,” Campanella said.
He also said that National School Choice Week will furnish a platform for people to “celebrate school choice where it exists and demand it where it does not.”
A rally will also be held in Fort Wayne, home to the nation’s largest school voucher program, which serves more than 29,000 Indiana students. They plan to celebrate that achievement and urge legislators to continue the momentum.
School choice encourages accountability from educators by offering competitive options for parents, which in turn carry funding.
Since its inception, school choice has developed into multiple types of effective education options for children, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, homeschooling, private schools, and online academies.
Surprisingly, in the remarkably pluralistic United States, educational pluralism languishes far behind other countries. In Italy, nearly a quarter of schools are fully supported, yet not government run. The Netherlands supports more than thirty types of schools on equal footing, and in England over 60 percent of Jewish children attend Jewish day school at state expense. Educational diversity is also growing exponentially in places such as Australia and Sweden, and India is introducing vouchers in some of its provinces.
Meanwhile, legislation is beginning to appear in America, as well. The Scholarship for Kids Act, for instance, would consolidate nearly 80 small-batch federal programs into a block grant for state vouchers.
The bill would save nearly $24 billion over six years, which would be channeled to states for awarding vouchers to students. The vouchers could be used by parents to supplement fees for district transfers between public schools or for a portion of tuition to attend a state-approved private school.
National School Choice Week 2015 will run from January 25-31 and will feature independently funded events, including information sessions, roundtable discussions, movie screenings, rallies, and other special events. It will officially begin on Friday, January 23, with a kickoff event in Jacksonville, Florida.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.