School Choice for Kids and Ideas to Enhance Community Outreach

My friends in the Education Policy Center are busy not only thinking about how to make schools work better for families and taxpayers, but also on how to communicate their research and ideas to all different kinds of people here in Colorado … and sometimes beyond.

I don’t like to think of myself as part of a communications and outreach strategy — because I just have too much fun blogging (it’s almost as fun as Legos) — but that’s definitely true. That’s why it was interesting to see the Colorado communications firm SE2 weigh in on the local education debate with the brief paper “Reform Isn’t Enough: New School Growth Requires Public Support”.

After surveying recent events and talking to different important people in the field, here is part of what the communication experts came up with:

Several years ago, SE2 proposed the creation of an informational tool designed to provide families with access to data about local school performance, as well as guidance on how to make school selections. At that time, the Independence Institute’s Pam Benigno already was at work on, which offers such an online tool. The Piton Foundation also undertook development of such a tool, which has been just launched as in collaboration with 9News.

The creation of such online tools is an important step towards the goal of informing parents. However, they shouldn’t be the last step. Also needed are:

  • Aggressive, culturally competent marketing and outreach efforts to inform families about the tools;
  • Strategies to make the information accessible offline and;
  • Efforts to make sure families fully appreciate why this information is relevant to their choices about schools.

[Links added]

I can assure you that the Education Policy Center is not just focused on keeping up the website — though they do a terrific job of it. Along with Pam, our Outreach Coordinator Raaki Garcia-Ulam has reached out to families, community leaders, nonprofit groups, churches, and more at various events and meetings. Best of all, have you seen the special School Choice for Kids bookmarks? We’ve given out tens of thousands of them.

But there certainly are some good ideas in the SE2 brief that groups like ours would be wise to consider. (We also appreciate the kind plug of the Independence Institute as a partner in this work.) Colorado could become an innovative beacon for school choice — not simply for passing laws or policies, but for effectively empowering parents as savvy education consumers that helps lead to real positive change from the ground up.

And my Education Policy Center friends are glad to work as partners right in the middle of this most important process.