Raul Lopez is the executive director of Latinos for Tennessee. Raul believes that income and ZIP code shouldn’t be what determines the type of education a child receives. Raul wrote in the Tennessean how freedom in education will provide low-income families with the options their students need and deserve:
Tennessee students flourish with greater educational freedom
From last Sunday through Saturday, all across the country, millions of Americans are celebrating National School Choice Week – a week dedicated to celebrating effective educational options available for students.
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate educational freedom in the Volunteer State. Across Tennessee, tens of thousands of students in kindergarten through 12th grade attend public charter schools, independent schools, or home school.
But, even with these options, too many of our most vulnerable students are being left behind.
Unfortunately, far too many students are stuck in schools that are simply not a good fit for them. In Nashville public schools, fewer than 20 percent students of color are on grade level yet nearly 80 percent graduate each year. As a result, students are not set up for success after graduation.
It shouldn’t be this way.
Income and ZIP code shouldn’t be what determines whether a child gains the academic, social, and emotional skills to experience a safe and prosperous life. Instead of limiting educational options by arbitrary zones, we should erase the barriers that get in the way of families selecting the best educational setting for their child.
What works for one student may not work for another
As any parent will tell you, no two children are the same. And when it comes to learning, what works for one student, may not work for another. This is why increased educational options for families and students in Tennessee would benefit everyone.
Today, besides being able to enroll in a traditional public school, a growing number of Tennessee students attend public charter schools, which are public schools that operate with greater autonomy and freedom in exchange for increased accountability.
Other parents are enrolling their children into public magnet or virtual schools.
Home schooling is a growing trend, with nearly 1.7 million Americans choosing to home school their children and estimates as high as 70,000 Tennessee students learning at home.
We must embrace increased options for children’s education
This is a great program providing an important lifeline for many families, and it’s a program that should be expanded to include all Tennessee families.
Meanwhile some are convinced that what Tennessee needs is more of a one-size-fits-all approach to education. But this approach to education is becoming harder and harder to square, as Tennessee families realize that we should embrace increased options, innovation, and customization in education.
This is why Tennessee educators, students, lawmakers and community organizers are taking part in National School Choice Week. They know that students thrive when they are able to choose the educational setting that works best for them.
Let’s celebrate this week, and let’s keep fighting to expand educational options until the day when every child has a school that uniquely matches him or her.