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Recognition of School Choice

January 27, 2020
Weekly Columns

As a former educator, I understand how important it is for our children to have access to a quality education. And when it comes to educating our young people in the United States, we are fortunate to have numerous options to ensure the best results and learning for every child. In recognizing National School Choice Week, we celebrate the freedom of parents and guardians to determine and decide in what setting their kids should receive their education.

I believe strongly in the authority of parents to guide the education and upbringing of their children with minimal interference from the government. Whether it’s in public schools, private schools, charter schools, religious schools or at home, there is a school environment that is best for the unique needs of each student. I fully support enabling and empowering parents to educate their children in the ways best suited for their kids and within their individual households and families.

Alternatives to the traditional public education system are all driven by one idea – helping all students achieve academic success. In recent years, access has grown to charter and magnet schools, making these schools an option for more families. A charter school is a public school that often operates independently of the local school system, giving the school the freedom to design classrooms that meet their students’ needs. The charter school movement began as a reaction to the one-size-fits-all model of traditional public schools, a model that has clearly failed some – though certainly not all – students and families. In our state of Oklahoma, there are currently 41 charter schools serving more than 24,000 students; two are in the Fourth District.  

In addition to charter and magnet schools, families might decide to send their children to private or religious schools or to educate at home. If relevant or accessible for families, these options can also cater to the curriculum preferences and learning needs of students that might not be addressed in traditional public-school settings. There are a number of reasons why parents might go this route for the education of their children, including the desire for a different approach to classroom curriculum or to incorporate religious viewpoints excluded in public schools. And due to smaller class size, these options typically offer more individualized attention toward students as well.

During my tenure as Chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Education, I advocated for and oversaw implementation of more funding for charter schools. Like public schools, charter schools are held accountable for academic success, tuition is free, and no entry exams are required to attend. However, in contrast to public schools, charter schools test innovative and different service delivery models – such as focusing on science and mathematics. Charter schools have more flexibility in responding quickly to student needs without asking for permission from a cumbersome school district. For parents who want a more targeted approach to their child’s education, charter schools provide an affordable alternative, especially if private school is too expensive or home schooling is not an option.

The United States was built on freedom, and our forefathers fought hard to deliver unique liberties to all Americans. Certainly, our educational systems should reflect that founding belief, empowering families to help their kids reach their fullest potential in life. Indeed, education is one of the most important building blocks for success, and access to quality learning directly impacts lifelong development and individual potential. When our children have a solid foundation of learning, they are better equipped to flourish throughout their lives. During National School Choice Week, we celebrate the freedom of American families to not only the provide their children with the best opportunity to learn, but the best chance to excel in their individual “pursuit of happiness.”