This week is National School Choice Week and there will be over 40,000 events around the nation celebrating different educational options for K-12 students. The goal of school choice is to provide every child with an education that meets their needs, provides a challenge, and motivates them to learn. There will be thousands of school choice stories being told this week. I have a story of my own.
In third grade I received the Harry Potter series for Christmas. As a shock to my family, I was finished reading all six books by January 2. Being a shy child with the ability to read four years above my grade level, a large classroom setting was daunting and deterred me from participating in class discussions. My parents’ vision for my education was one that provided me with one-on-one instruction when needed while simultaneously challenging me. Once they understood my ability and passion for reading, my parents investigated ways to enroll me into a different school that would provide more of a challenge. After some research, my mother learned about other educational options, both private and public. For the rest of my grade school education I attended innovative private and charter public schools that were able to accommodate my high-level reading ability, offer small class sizes, and challenge me in STEM subjects.
When it came time for high school, my parents and I made the collective decision that I would attend a private high school. My neighborhood high school had a toxic, negative, and unsafe environment that my family wanted me to avoid. We found a school that aligned with my family’s values and offered a safe educational setting. Some of the other characteristics we looked for were small class sizes, more advanced courses, an academic challenge across the arts and sciences, and an emphasis on college preparation. Attending this private school brought me out of my shell. I competed in varsity athletics and became captain of the varsity debate team while also taking advanced courses in a variety of subjects.
Part of my school choice story is that I applied for a school voucher program to help pay for tuition at the private school. My sophomore year, I was awarded a school voucher by the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Pilot Program to continue my education at the academically rigorous and safe private school. Just before the start of the school year, the Douglas County scholarship program was swept into litigation, making it impossible for me to use the voucher. Thankfully, the school provided me a partial scholarship. I was fortunate that my family was able to pay the remaining tuition. Without the support system that has stood behind me, I would not have received the education that has brought me to where I am today, a graduating senior at the University of Denver.
Children have different learning styles and needs. Most students are not in the same fortunate situation that I was, which is why families need to be educated about all their educational options. However, if additional educational options, public or private, were made available, families could send their children to a school where they can reach their full potential, just like my family did. So today let us celebrate school choice but better educate tomorrow’s future citizens and leaders by expanding school choice for all!
Grace-Atchison-Reynolds is a senior at the University of Denver participating in the Future Leaders Internship Program at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.