By Amy Scott
I’m a mom. I wear many hats. But the most important job I’ll ever have is making sure my two children have the best start in life that I can possibly give them.
As a parent, we worry about a lot of things as our children grow up. First among those worries is whether or not our kids are getting the highest quality public education they deserve.
Thanks to school choice in South Carolina, my children have had an opportunity to succeed.
Recently, a series of articles appeared in The Post and Courier telling the stories of students the school choice movement has “left behind.” As a long-time advocate for school choice, I read this work with a heavy heart. Many of the students profiled have faced struggles in their lives that are unimaginable to many South Carolinians. Broken families. Homelessness. Gang violence. Friends gunned down in the streets.
Was it school choice that left them behind, or something else?
For many of them, it seemed that their high school was a bright spot in their lives. The teachers and administrators cared for these troubled students, and it’s important to remember that these neighborhood public schools have a very important purpose for the students they serve.
But what about the students whose needs aren’t being met?
School choice has grown in popularity for decades. In today’s wide-open world, with technology at our fingertips and a country with ambitions second to none, it no longer makes sense to fence our students into certain schools with arbitrary boundaries based on zip codes.
We know that different students learn in different ways. We have the ability to tailor education to the individual. Why would we teach to a generic average when we have the ability — through technology, new techniques and different options — to address students’ strengths and weaknesses individually?
And if that generic average is what our public education system strives to serve, then we’re doing a disservice to each and every child at the ends of the educational spectrum. With so many public school options available that give every child an equal opportunity for a great education, there is no need for any child to be left behind.
Charter schools, magnet schools, online schools, tax credit scholarships — these are all choices offered to families in many states around the country.
The idea is that the more options each family has, the more opportunities each child has.
While The Post and Courier series asks, “What about the kids these options leave behind?” my question is, “Why haven’t we provided options to better serve these kids?”.
The school choice movement isn’t about picking winners and losers — it’s about giving all students an opportunity to be winners.
In a perfect world for school choice advocates, every family would be the ones doing the picking. They would choose from a menu of education options with offerings for students who are working ahead of their grade-level to students who are behind in their coursework. Everybody would have the chance to find a school that best suits their learning needs.
In some states, this dream is a reality. Here in South Carolina, while there is still more work to be done to ensure every child has opportunities through school choice, many students are already being well-served with public school options.
The future isn’t rolling back the clock on school choice, but providing more of it, for every student.
Amy Scott is South Carolina Chapter chair for PublicSchoolOptions.org. She lives in Summerville.