A recent column by the Eagle County superintendent of schools (http://bit.ly/glasscolumn) outlined why the public education system is as good, or better than, private or charter school alternatives based a “recent” study. Given this premise, the article dismisses any public policies supporting school choice as unnecessary diversions of public school dollars or as politically motivated schemes to dismantle the public education system.
As a parent and board member at Vail Christian Academy, I was drawn to the article and referenced studies. After reading the research online, I found the information to be interesting, but limited to specific grade levels, groups, and test scores. I also found similar studies with opposing views and counter arguments. So, despite the articles assertions, there is no conclusive evidence on either side of the argument as to which school alternative is “best.”
As a private, K-8 Christian school, VCA’s mission is to prepare tomorrow’s leaders by educating the whole student — mind, heart, spirit and body. We strive to accomplish this by challenging the mind through curriculum using a classical approach; by engaging the heart through meaningful service projects and outreach in the community; by nourishing the spirit through performing arts and exploring God’s word; and by working the body through sports, outdoor programs and PE. While we strive for excellence, it is not out of a desire to be “better” than the public or charter schools. Instead, it stems from a desire to be “different” and offer a choice in education that is not just about test scores.
So, while I agree with the superintendent that “we are fortunate to have quality public, private, religious, and charter school options as choices,” I disagree with the conclusion that school choice is not needed. In fact, I believe the cited studies and the superintendent’s column suggest some strong arguments for school choice:
• High achieving public schools will be competitive with any alternatives.
• Every student is unique. One size does not fit all.
• Families are responsible for the education of their children. Choices should reflect their values, beliefs and traditions.
• “Public school dollars” are intended for all students, and funds should follow the student.
• Education is more than test scores and families should have choices of curriculum, teaching styles, physical environments, etc.
I concede that school choice is an ideological position, but no more so than the position that the public school system should be the only option unless you have additional resources to choose an alternative. Personally, I will continue to advocate for school choice based on my belief in individual liberty and freedom. I encourage everyone to read the studies for themselves, explore the many wonderful options Eagle County has to offer (public and private), and make the best choice for your families. Whatever you choose, please take an active role to support your school, teachers, and students. For my family, we have done our homework and VCA is our school of choice!