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Record Participation Anticipated for National School Choice Week Thanks to Inclusion in National Conversation

January 22-28 marks National School Choice Week, a week-long event that has been held annually since 2011. This year, however, is anticipated to generate the highest level of participation yet thanks to the inclusion of school choice into the national conversation as a result of President-elect Donald Trump and education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos’ support.

According to National School Choice Week, there are well over 20,000 events planned throughout the country with intentions of shining a light on "effective education options for children, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling."

National School Choice Week saw just 16,745 national events conducted in its honor last year.

The increase of support is due largely in part because of the momentum established in the 2016 presidential election.

Future President Donald Trump, while not taking positions on many educational issues during his campaign, made school choice the central focus of his stance on education.

"As your president I will be the nation's biggest cheerleader for school choice...I understand many stale old politicians will resist, but it's time for our country to start thinking big and correct once again," said Trump in September.

Trump’s nomination for education secretary further validated his support of school choice; Betsy DeVos has been a school choice proponent for decades and has done considerable work advocating for its practice in her home-state of Michigan.

"The status quo in education is not acceptable...Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential," said DeVos after accepting Trump’s nomination.

Advocates of school choice argue that giving parents options in addition to a traditional public school allows them to decide what kind of educational setting is ultimately best for their child. Opponents argue that school choice siphons money from public schools, waging an all-out war on public education in favor of for-profit education.

In other words, school choice remains an incredibly divisive issue despite growing support.

Further, some states are more supportive of the measure than others. In Florida, for example, which held the most events during National School Choice Week with 2,057 events (the state with the second-most barely cracked 1,000), school choice has become a central focus of the government for years.

Considering itself a national leader of school choice, the state recently further committed to the movement by creating a first-of-its-kind website designed to help supplement parental decisions for picking the best school.

In other states, however, school choice is not nearly as popular. Last year in Wyoming (what is ironically known as The Equality State), for example, only 24 events were held. Other large states like Mississippi and Arkansas barely held over 100 events.

According to National School Choice Week, events can be considered anything from policy sessions, rallies, open houses and the like. This year so far, "6,159 are being planned by schools, 2,157 by homeschooling groups and 1,355 by chambers of commerce who are also participating in the Week by holding their own events, meetings or activities. Individuals, organizations, teachers, and coalitions are planning hundreds of additional events."

"With 2017 poised to be a pivotal year for school choice, National School Choice Week will provide an unprecedented chance to celebrate school choice where it exists, and demand it where it does not," National School Choice Week said in a statement on its website.

To find out more about National School Choice Week and how to participate, see here.

 

Do you support school choice? Take our survey below to weigh-in. 

 

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

1/3/2017

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