- - Thursday, January 29, 2015

One of the biggest choices I had to make as a young child was figuring out what bike I wanted for my eighth birthday. Up to that point, I largely had hand-me-downs from my older brother. As he grew too big for his bike, he would get a new one and I would get his old one – the “perks” of being a younger sibling.

But when it came to my birthday that year, I knew I was finally going to get my own bike. You see, I didn’t mind getting my brother’s old bikes before then, but they were never the perfect fit for me. This time, it was going to be different.

I had the coolest dark blue Huffy picked out. I looked at so many bikes that summer with my parents, and that was the one for me. Then on that warm July morning, I woke up to a shiny, new Huffy in the living room.

For me, it was perfect.

But no matter how perfect it was for me, none of my friends had that bike. They all had different ones that were the perfect fit for them.

We all had a choice, something that is largely missing in education in our country.

If purchasing a bike was the same as our education bureaucracy, all the kids in my neighborhood would have had the exact same bike – no matter what their needs and wants were. For a kid who was about a foot taller than everyone else, that would not have worked out well for me.

This is why we need to expand school choice in America. Parents deserve options that give their kids the best education possible that is perfect for them. A one-size-fits-all approach simply is not working. Yes, it is great for some. I went to public school my whole life and got an excellent education, but a public education might not be what is best for everyone.

This week, January 25 to 31, is National School Choice Week. It is a time that we can highlight the successes of school choice and ensure parents are aware of their options.

Whether it is a voucher program in Arizona, Louisiana or North Carolina or the independent public charter schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, parents have many educational options. But parents deserve more.

Paul Davis, a single father in St. Louis, Missouri, is one of those parents. His 16-year-old son, Robert, attended Normandy High School until its accreditation was revoked. This allowed Robert, who has mild to moderate autism, to transfer to a different school.

While Paul’s son had been repeatedly bullied at his old school and struggled in class, he was quickly succeeding at his new school.

“The one year at Francis Howell opened our eyes to what a good school can be,” Paul said of his son’s new school in a nearby district.

After learning that his son may have to go back to Normandy High School, Paul used what little savings he had to rent an apartment in the Francis Howell school district to ensure Robert would not have to return to a school that was failing him.

No parent should be left without any options but to move to a different district. That is why policymakers should listen to the students, teachers and families that are calling for greater educational options during School Choice Week.

Voucher programs should be expanded to help parents pay for tuition at private schools. Charter schools that have a proven track record of success should be given the opportunity to open new campuses. And successful virtual schools should be expanded, especially in rural areas of our country.

There are countless ways to expand school choice, both in public and private schools. Instead of taking away choice from parents, lawmakers should be embracing educational reform.

I trust parents to make the best decision for their children. Let’s give them a choice.

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