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Voices: Parents, students need more choice

Libby Moody, retired teacher and membership director for PACE, a non-union teachers group, says parents and students need more choice when it comes to what types of schools they attend. 

The last week of January is an important week for teachers, parents, and students. It is National School Choice Week, which is a time for Coloradans to be grateful for our history of supporting charter, virtual and other choice schools. Moving forward, it is also a time to contemplate ways that we can do more to ensure that every parent and student has a high quality choice for their education.
I recently watched a video that depicted a mother and child shopping in a grocery store for milk. This particularly store had an aisle filled with milk; however, it was all the same type. This store did not consider the customer on a diet that wanted skim milk, or the customer who was lactose intolerant and needed soy milk, or the customer who wanted to purchase a quart instead of a gallon. The same way that we do not want a one-size-fits-all approach to other products and services for which we pay, it is also time to demand a more tailored approach to the school choices being offered to parents and students.

There is a perception that exists in the public, propagated by the unions, that teachers do not support charter schools or other mechanisms that deliver choices for a public education. This perception is flat out false. Most teachers I speak to, especially when it comes to their own children, would love to see more choices in education. According to surveys conducted by the national Association of American Educators, a strong majority of teachers support charter schools and online options. There are over 4,000 charter school teachers in Colorado, with more and more every year taking their talents to a charter school.

Teachers support choices in education.

As a former teacher who spent 30 years in traditional, private and charter school classrooms, I’m proud to now work for the Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE), which openly supports public school choices for parents and students, as well as for teachers. To promote understanding about teaching in choice environments, PACE will celebrate National School Choice Week through Feb. 2 by inviting the public to a panel discussion on Wednesday, Jan. 30, to explore the topic, “What is it like to teach in a virtual or charter school?

It is time for people to demand more and for policy-makers to understand what it means to provide a high quality public education. A high quality public education system is not one in which every student is bound to attend a certain school determined by their zip code, or even one that allows a student to choose from different schools located throughout their district, but that all offer the same thing. We can no longer expect every parent to be satisfied sending their children to a one-size-fits-all option to earn their education.

Public education in the 21st century should be an offering of high quality, publically funded choices allowing each parent and student to choose which school works best for their situation. It should be a collection of classical schools, virtual schools, project-based learning schools, Core Knowledge schools, STEM schools, schools that focus on dyslexic students, or autistic students, or students that are multiple years behind in reading – the list could go on.

Again, as we celebrate National School Choice Week we should be grateful that many of these options do exist in Colorado; many states cannot say the same. Yet we must also recognize that these choices still come with a wait list and parents have to win a lottery for their students to get in. Until every parent and student can choose from an array of options for their education, we still have a lot of work to do in Colorado.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.