In April, I was invited to attend one of the best conferences of which I have ever been a part. The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity (http://franklincenterhq.org/) hosted the Amplify School Choice Atlanta Conference, and I have to tell all of you: I am excited!
I firmly believe that School Choice is the most important issue of our time. Why? Many of our children are stuck in schools that underperform, and they and their parents have had no options. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, and they deserve to learn and thrive in the best possible environment that is right for them. One speaker rightly explained that the wealthy in this country have always had school choice. They can afford to put their children in private schools. They can afford to have a parent stay home and homeschool their kids. They can afford to move to better school districts where there are award-winning public schools. The School Choice endeavors that are being fought for today will afford those options to lower and middle class students, too. A true win-win!
First, I wanted to give you all a few quick definitions on the many options that are becoming more available for our young people. Thanks to *SchoolChoiceWeek.com for providing this information to us.
Public School Open Enrollment
This option allows parents to choose the best public schools for their children, no matter where the school is located.
Public Charter Schools
These tuition-free schools are independent public schools that have the freedom to be more innovative with their teaching while, at the same time, being held accountable for the students’ academic achievement.
These schools are tuition-free public schools that have a focused and specific curriculum such as Science, Math, Fine Arts, etc.
Private School Choice Programs
These programs allow parents to use state-funded opportunity scholarships (school vouchers), tax credits or corporate-funded scholarships to send their children to qualified private schools. Each state has its own program.
Virtual School and Online Learning
These schools are internet-based schools/academies that instruct students via a very tough online curriculum. These programs can be combined with any type of schools listed above.
Homeschooling is where the parents educate their kids in their home. Over the years, this option has grown in popularity. All states permit homeschooling and require scores, approval and evaluation of homeschooled students.
(*Information obtained from www.schoolchoiceweek.com)
For me, one of the biggest takeaways from this conference is that concerned parents are not anti-public schools or anti-teachers. There are amazing public schools and teachers in ALL communities (and some not-so-amazing ones). As parents and school choice advocates, we want the option to CHOOSE the best educational environment for our kids. That is NOT the federal and state governments’ jobs! We want to be able to take advantage of any of the above-referenced educational avenues.
The attendees were also afforded a real treat! We got to visit the most amazing charter school in the city of Atlanta: Westside Atlanta Charter School (http://www.wacs.us/). Their vision is inspiring:
“Our innovative language and literacy focus will provide a firm educational foundation for the students we serve, enabling them to grow in leadership and character through applied learning opportunities. Each child entrusted to our care should leave our school ready to engage in meaningful ways with their broader community, having internalized our core values of imagination, rigor and service.”
Pete Settelmayer, Executive Director and Founding Principal of Westside Atlanta Charter School, is nothing short of awesome. His love for education, leading and learning is not only apparent when I talked with him, but it was even more apparent when the kids would literally run up to him with smiles on their faces.
Right now, Westside’s charter is to add a grade each year until they reach 8th grade. At this time, they have Kindergarten through 2nd grade. There is a huge waiting list to apply to Westside. I understand why. My prayer is that they extend their charter to high school. I might just go back to high school. (Not really! J)
The hardest part for me in writing this article was to choose my focus! I learned so much about School Choice, the options we have, and the hurdles we face.
I am dedicating myself to this fight, so much so that I will be totally revamping my blog and website to reflect my love and heart for kids, teachers, education and choice.
Fasten your seatbelts and stay tuned!Written by - Visit Website