As education options continue to increase for parents and students, one organization is set to help spread the word later this month championing school choice with thousands of events and millions of participants.
National School Choice Week, which started in 2011 and “is now the world’s largest annual celebration of opportunity in education,” is Jan. 21-27.
During the week, public and private schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals plan independent events to celebrate.
The NSCW said it is estimating about 6.7 million people to participate in a record-breaking 32,240 celebrations during the week later this month. The organization said there have been more than 58,000 events planned across the U.S. and around the world since 2011.
Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, said the week is all about raising awareness for parents and their children.
“National School Choice Week is designed to raise awareness among parents about all the different education options they have for their kids,” Campanella said. “So we want parents to know when it comes to their children’s education, they do have choices and they can look into traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies and home schooling, and we encourage schools and organizations and groups across the country to hold events and activities during National School Choice Week so they can raise their own awareness and raise their own profile in their communities.”
According to its website, the NSCW is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical, independent public awareness effort not associated with legislative lobbying or advocacy.
“We just want families and individuals and communities across the country to learn about school choice and to join us in celebrating all the great work that teachers and school administrators and parents and students themselves are doing in all different types of schools and education environments,” Campanella said.
School choice has been a proponent of President Donald Trump, who issued a presidential proclamation in January 2017, declaring National School Choice Week as Jan. 22-27 of that year.
In the proclamation, Trump said school choice gives children an equal chance to succeed.
“By expanding school choice and providing more educational opportunities for every American family, we can help make sure that every child has an equal shot at achieving the American Dream,” Trump said. “More choices for our students will make our schools better for everybody.”
Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, also is a supporter of school choice. DeVos’ biography on the United States Department of Education website said her interest in education was sparked by her mother, who was a public school teacher. The biography said DeVos saw not every child has the same opportunity and she “has been involved in the fight to provide better educational options across the nation ever since.”
Campanella said the recognition from Trump was appreciated.
“We certainly appreciate when any elected official at any level of government, whether it is a mayor, a county executive, a governor or now the president of the United States recognizing National School Choice Week and encouraging parents to celebrate school choice where it exists and to look into educational opportunities for their own kids,” Campanella said.
Josh Collins, director of communications for the Minnesota Department of Education, said the state did not have any specific plans for the week, but said there would be information available on the department’s websites and social media channels, along with profiles of student success stories.
Collins said different educational options in Minnesota have proven beneficial because some public schools have started to offer better programs because of the competition and families have more choices.
“Different families and different students thrive in many different settings, so having those options has proven to be beneficial,” Collins said. “It’s allowed traditional schools to kind of step up their game in some areas, so to speak, by making sure that they are offering programs like ID, Advanced Placement and college in the schools. So, on the whole, I think there is a benefit to every student regardless of what type of program they are in, because you have a much greater focus on addressing individual student needs and so that really does create opportunity for everyone.”
Jennifer Foskey, director of Home Education Resources and Information (HERI), which is a volunteer organization supporting 800 home schoolers in Jacksonville and North Florida, said HERI would be organizing several events, including a home school orientation, educational sessions and breakout sessions discussing test-taking and partner organizations, a concert and bounce houses for the kids.
Foskey said home schooling gives parents the chance to customize a curriculum to better fit student needs.
“In more of a traditional school setting, your child might excel in English and maybe be a bit behind in math or another subject, where home education allows you to customize your education for what your child needs the most,” Foskey said.
Campanella encouraged parents to make decisions about changing schools now, instead of waiting until later on, so that deadlines are met and spaces are not full.