Clarksville native and school choice supporter Tommy Vallejos wrote the following letter to the Leaf-Chronicle to explain why he thinks empowering parents with options will improve education in Tennessee:
School choice is the best way to improve Tennessee education
This past week we recognized National School Choice Week; we evaluated the progress we have made improving Tennessee’s education system and the opportunities that exist for us to continue that improvement.
We know that we cannot turn our education system around overnight. Former Gov. Bill Haslam increased the quality of education available for every student in Tennessee, but we still have a great deal of work to do to make sure Tennessee’s graduates are able to compete with children across the country. According to the Tennessee Department of Education’s report card, only 35.8 percent are college ready. That number is cut in half when you look at black, Hispanic and Native American students and students who are economically disadvantaged.
We must do better by increasing the education opportunities available to our students to ensure that every child can pursue the path that works best for them. That means looking at educational opportunities outside of traditional public schools and making those opportunities are within reach for Tennessee families.
We live in a world of choice. You can order a coffee at Starbucks a seemingly endless number of ways, but you likely only have one choice when it comes to your child’s education. That’s really no choice at all. We must not allow income and zip code to determine whether a child gains the academic, social and emotional skills needed to prosper in life. Every parent should have the fundamental right to access the educational environment that serves their children best.
The vast majority of credible evidence shows that school choice programs improve academic outcomes for not only the program participants, but also the students in public schools and saves taxpayers money.
There are currently 54 private school choice programs in 26 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The numbers continue to grow because of the great success of giving parents a choice.
School choice programs are the best avenue to do that, and I encourage the General Assembly and Gov. Bill Lee to support school choice programs at every opportunity during this legislative session.