Whatever negative you can say about President Donald Trump (which is plenty!), he has been unwavering and full-throated in his support for increasing school choice for K-12 students and their parents.
His controversial Education Secretary pick, Betsy DeVos, is an activist in the school-choice movement and now Trump has issued the first-ever presidential proclamation recognizing National School Choice Week (NSCW). Now in its seventh year, NSCW runs through January 28 this year and involves over 21,000 events in all 50 states the celebrate school choice in all its forms. Go here for more information and to find events happening near you.
Trump's proclamation begins by noting "too many of our children are stuck in schools that do not provide…[a great education]." "By expanding school choice and providing more educational opportunities for every American family," it continues, "we can help make sure every child has an equal shot at achieving the American Dream."
By most accounts, about 3 million students attend charter schools, which are publicly funded indpendent schools that receive a portion of the typical per-pupil funding of traditional public schools and operate with greater autonomy. The first charter school law was passed about 25 years ago in Minnesota and now most states have some version of them. Other popular forms of school choice include home schooling, private and publicly funded voucher programs, and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which operate like Health Savings Accounts, giving families varying amounts of money to spend on their children's educational needs.
Last summer in a widely viewed segment, HBO's John Oliver glibly and inaccurately attacked charters as largely unregulated scams. Such dismissals are possible only if one doesn't bother to look at the large and growing body of research that shows charters, which educate a majority of children in school districts such as New Orleans and Detroit, produce better results especially for urban, low-income students. Education researchers such as Jay P. Greene at the University of Arkansas argue that despite only currently teaching about 6 percent of the country's 55 million K-12 students, school choice has "reached escape velocity" because the same demand for increasing personalization and individualization that we prize in our commercial lives is making itself known in the educational sphere. (Click here for Reason's podcast with Greene about why the benefits of school choice extend far beyond test scores and academics).
Andrew Campanella, the head of National School Week, notes that the president joins a unanimous U.S. Senate, 29 governors, and over 700 city and county officials in celebrating NSCW. Here's the text of Trump's proclamation:
National School Choice Week runs from through January 28. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice—charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans.
As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radically altered and made better by letting more people have more choices when it comes to learning. For a constantly updated list of stories, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice."