The Inevitability of Educational Choice
Well, my friends, National School Choice Week 2016 is almost over. I know, I know. Every week should really be National School Choice Week. But let’s be honest, we can’t expect to pull together massive rallies like the one we had yesterday every week. And hey, at least you got to watch some sweet videos and learn a new dance.
As this year’s biggest school choice celebration winds down, I think it’s good for us to pause and consider how far educational choice has come in America. Private school choice experienced explosive growth across the country in 2015, with 15 states adopting or expanding 21 different educational choice programs. More than half the states in America now offer some type of private educational choice option—an astonishing 59 programs in total.
There are now 166,588 kids using school vouchers; 219,833 kids in scholarship tax credit programs; and 7,046 kids making use of education savings accounts in the United States. Sadly, Colorado has yet to unleash the full benefits of private school choice.
Growth in school choice hasn’t been limited to private schools. Public school choice is also expanding rapidly. There are 6,700 public charter schools in the United States. Those schools serve nearly three million kids.
There are an estimated 2.2 million kids being homeschooled in the United States. Another 320,000 students are enrolled in full-time online education, and 2.3 million students take online classes in addition to their brick-and-mortar education. Yet another 2.6 million students attend 3,200 magnet schools found in all 50 states.
Here in Colorado, there are now 226 charter schools serving more than 108,000 students. That’s about 12 percent of total public school enrollment in the state. Roughly 10 percent of PK-12 students in Colorado—nearly 87,000 kids—attend schools outside their districts of residence, and an uncountable number of others attend schools within their district other than their assigned neighborhood schools.
School choice is not just a thing. It is the thing.
And the best part? There’s no going back now. The educational choice movement has fundamentally altered the education paradigm. Now that parents and students have tasted educational freedom, there will be no returning to the days of rigid, monopolistic systems that too often fall short of meeting students’ needs. The Overton Window has shifted, and it will never shift back.
As Andy Smarick recently wrote in a piece fittingly titled “School Choice: The End of the Beginning”: “Increasingly, the conversation is no longer about whether to have school choice. It’s about how to make school choice work.”
We too often find ourselves sitting around tables talking about school choice as if it is still some newfangled, crazy idea. It’s not, and we should stop. We are not an idealistic minority, we are the majority. Choice in education is the rule, not the exception. We’re the tide, not the sand castle.
Let’s make sure we enter this year’s school choice battles with the right perspective. Victory is, after all, inevitable.