By Tillie Elvrum
Do you worry about your child’s future? Me too. We’re parents, it’s what we do. We worry about the kind of friends our children choose. We worry they’re getting the proper nutrition to build strong and healthy bones. We worry when they put on those football pads and head out to practice, and we worry when they start driving. We worry – and hope – that our kids are getting the best education possible.
But simply hoping that our kids are learning the best they can isn’t enough. As parents, it’s our right and responsibility to make decisions about our children’s education, because we know how our kids learn best. Simply put: I trust parents.
Last week something great happened at Londonderry High School. Many of the Republican presidential candidates gathered to talk about education. It’s the most important issue for the future of our country, but one that’s not given as much time in forums and debates. Candidates focus on issues like job creation, our economy, and foreign policy – all of which are important. But they often fail to address the issues in our education system, including government overreach and the lack of choices for parents.
I, along with parents from around the country, were pleased to see The Seventy Four and the American Federation for Children organize an event that forced the candidates to sit down and talk at length about education in a meaningful way – drawing out of them more than just zinger sounds bites.
We liked what we heard. Time and again the candidates talked about the importance of trusting parents, accountability, and taking the power of education decisions out of Washington and putting them back into the hands of parents and local communities. As president of PublicSchoolOptions.org, a parent-led non-profit advocacy organization that supports and defends parents’ rights to choose the school where their children will learn best, this was music to my ears. And for parents across the country who simply want options when it comes to their child’s education, it was music to their ears.
We believe that every child, regardless of their zip code or how much money their parents make, deserves the best start in life. We firmly believe that begins with a parent’s ability to choose the school where their child will thrive – whether that’s in a traditional brick and mortar school, public virtual school, charter school, home school, or private school. Every child learns differently, even within the same family. I know this from personal experience.
As a military family we moved many times during my kids’ K-12 years. My daughter did well in each school she was enrolled, and went on to graduate from Penn State University. For my son, who has a learning disability, it was a different story. We moved to a new school district at the start of his kindergarten year that was burdened with teacher strikes and what seemed like constant contract disputes. That meant a lack of consistency and student-centered environment. For my son to learn, those things were essential. I am glad that I sought out and found options that worked for him – an online school with world-class curriculum, qualified teachers, and the support I needed as a parent to help my student one-on-one. He is now enrolled for his first semester in college and begins this month.
Trusting parents and giving them options so their child can succeed is critical. We are pleased that the candidates agreed.
When the Democrats convene for their summit later this year, we look forward to attending and hearing about their plans for more public school options.
Tillie Elvrum is president of PublicSchoolOptions.org and the parent of a virtual school graduate.