Offer more options for students

Posted: January 31, 2013

By Michael Moroney

It is no secret that our education system needs reform, but what direction to take and how to get there present a formidable challenge. Countless studies have shown that our children's math and science skills are dangerously below average. Test scores for eighth-grade Pennsylvania students have remained stagnant since 2005, and in 2011, about 61 percent of students scored basic or below basic on standardized tests. Schools continuously report failing test scores while our federal government pours unprecedented amounts of taxpayer money into an ineffective system.

National School Choice Week (Jan. 27 to Feb. 2) provides an excellent opportunity to explore solutions and revitalize our education system. School-choice programs like charter schools and online learning have proven successful in several states. Research shows that students participating in school-choice programs graduate at significantly higher rates than those attending public schools, and students and parents are more satisfied with their experience.

By using public funds already allocated for education and allowing parents the freedom to choose what they think is best for their child, we can ensure that every student can receive an education that is tailored to his or her needs.

With 156 charter schools in Pennsylvania and more than 50,000 students enrolled, the number of applicants to these schools has risen steadily over the past few years. Charter schools offer students smaller class sizes, which present the opportunity for individualized instruction, student involvement, and a safer learning environment. Students attending charter schools are more likely to graduate from high school and continue on to receive a bachelor's degree.

There are also a host of online learning opportunities, which meet a wide range of educational needs and are unrestricted by geographic boundaries. Pennsylvania has 12 cyber-charter schools and several district programs. The statewide programs enrolled more than 28,000 students during the 2011 school year, a 16 percent increase from the previous year. In addition, online programs allow children with disabilities to learn at their own pace, and offer Advanced Placement courses and unique foreign languages that otherwise might not be available to students in some districts.

Offering parents the freedom to choose an educational program that best fits the learning needs of their children is essential to creating a prosperous learning environment. It's time for us to take a hard look at our failing education policies and start offering options for students. School choice is a proven solution that is starting to make a difference in Pennsylvania and has the potential to improve education across the nation. Let's give our parents a choice and our children a chance.


Michael Moroney is the director of communications at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity in Alexandria, Va. E-mail him at Michael.moroney@franklincenter.org.

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