Guest Editorial: School choice week is about making a choice

RBC | This week brings the annual celebration of National School Choice Week, a week in which we are all

Jen Hill
reminded that no matter your family’s desires and needs—homeschool, private, public or charter school—we are each, as parents, gloriously entitled to make that choice for our own families.
While Rio Blanco County is abundant in many things, school choice isn’t an area where parents will find a wide diversity of options. Both ends of the county offer public education and a growing homeschool movement. However, we have a very limited number of private school options, with only one private school, located in Rangely.
The matter of school choice revolves around the very fundamental issue of parental rights. Nobody should have the right to determine best educational practices for a child other than the parents. While most parents choose to partner with a local public school and accept the school’s educational goals, a growing number prefer to be more hands on in determining the educational path of their children. And why shouldn’t they? In fact, I would argue that parents taking on the tough job of researching school options are fulfilling their responsibility as parents.
From the moment we become parents we are inundated with choices. Bottle vs. formula, pacifier vs. thumb sucker, when to vaccinate, when to introduce solid food, sleep training. The list goes on and on and each one brings about an active decision by the parent. School choice should be no different. Taking the time to make an active decision about which education choice works better for your family should be treated equally important as the parental choices you’ve been making all along.
I am not advocating any particular form of education over another, as each family has very distinct needs and goals. What I am suggesting is that we as parents should own the decision of how best to educate our children. And that it should be a conscious decision, one that we give substantial consideration to. Whether preferring public, private or home education is a decision that can only be made by parents, and one that we as a community should respect. If we are truly for quality education it shouldn’t matter what form it takes.
Over the years the choice of educational preference has become a highly politicized issue. Because public schools are taxpayer funded, the use of those dollars is something that concerns each and every taxpayer. In Colorado, where public schools receive funds on a per pupil basis, choosing to remove a child from the rolls has a direct correlation with district budget. This means that parents who prefer alternative education options often find themselves taking a brunt of criticism for “hurting the schools.” However, it’s important for these concerned citizens to remember that home and private school parents still pay their equal share of the tax bill. Parents who choose not to utilize the public school system are not exempt from any of the taxes which fund the public school districts. Their money is still collected by the state, who determines the method of dispersal. Frustrations about public school funding are really best directed at government and representatives instead of parents.
The decision to celebrate National School Choice Week has nothing to do with declaring one type of education superior to another, or disparaging any particular choice, but is merely the acknowledgment that parents have the ultimate right to that choice, and should take it very seriously. Thankfully, we live in a community where each of these options—public, private and home education—can have tremendous results for kids, especially when they are backed up by supportive, involved parents.