Jan 24, 2014 - 3:45pm

School Choice Prepares Today’s Students for Real Life, Real Jobs


President, National School Choice Week

Today's students are tomorrow's leaders. 

But before the next generation assumes positions of leadership and writes the next chapter in America's history, it needs a quality education. It needs the skills and the knowledge that prepares Americans for the next chapter in their lives.

To make this vision a reality, every American family must be able to access a school of their choosing.

Giving children the opportunity to succeed in life isn't impossible. We can and must harness the individual interests and talents of every child by pairing them with an elementary, middle and high school that meets their unique needs. 

National School Choice Week begins January 26th and will involve an unprecedented 5,500 events all across the country designed to shine a spotlight on the need for effective education options for children. The time has come for America's businesses, business leaders and chambers of commerce to recommit themselves to leading this effort for educational opportunity across the country.

National School Choice Week gives every business organization a national platform to stand on in order to talk about the importance of educational opportunity in their community — and to stand with students, parents, teachers and community leaders in celebrating educational opportunity where it exists, while demanding it where it doesn't. 

This nonpolitical, nonpartisan and entirely positive celebration doesn't advocate for any legislation or policy. Instead, it raises the level and quality of public discourse over educational options in America, an issue with significant implications for the success for small and large businesses across our country. 

America has been too slow to adapt to the challenges posed by a world where free trade and international competition for high-paying jobs is the new normal. Instead of moving quickly to prepare America's students for the jobs of the future — via a model of education where each parent is given diverse education options for their children — education reform became mired in politics. For many years, the structure of our education system closely resembled a system built around the agricultural and manufacturing-based economies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The result was, and remains, catastrophic. Every 26 seconds, another student drops out of school in America. This takes away $150 billion from our economy. And America has fallen behind more than a dozen other industrialized countries in math and literacy. 

Thankfully, states have picked up the pace of reform. More states are empowering more parents with different choices for their children's education than ever before. These choices exist largely within the public sector. For example, some states allow parents to select public schools within their district, or outside of their district, regardless of their family's ZIP code. All states now have either theme-based or magnet schools, which emphasize curriculum based in certain subjects, such as science, technology, engineering or the arts. Forty two states now allow the chartering of public charter schools, which are given the freedom to use innovative methods of instruction and curriculum in return for stricter accountability. And multi-district, fully online schools exist in 29 states, with even more embracing part-time and supplemental online learning.

The result of all of these types of public school choice, as well as private school choice, has increased student achievement and increased graduation rates. School choice is changing lives, and a growing coalition of Democrats and Republicans are working together to advance educational opportunity for families.

I invite you during National School Choice Week 2014 to join in the discussion about what education options work for you and your community. You can talk about school choice during a previously-scheduled meeting or event for your members, recognize great teachers and students in your community with special awards or send e-blasts to your members reminding them of the importance of educational choice.

And if you're in a state without many options, use the platform National School Choice Week provides to demand greater options and opportunities. 

Together, we can work to improve educational opportunity for all families, put America solidly on the path to growth and ensure each child can realize their own American dream. 

Campanella is President of National School Choice Week.

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President, National School Choice Week