National School Choice Week: Celebrating education freedom and opportunity — MN can do more

Happy National School Choice Week (NSCW)! It’s that time of year again to celebrate effective K-12 education options available to children and families across the country — from traditional public schools, public charter schools, and public magnet schools to private schools, religious schools, online schools, and homeschools.

As a nonpartisan, nonpolitical celebration, NSCW is an opportunity to shine a positive spotlight on all forms of school choice and parent empowerment. American Experiment stands in support with NSCW’s National School Choice Foundation in their belief that “every child deserves an effective, challenging, and motivating education.”

New and expanded educational choice options are popping up in states across the country, giving millions of students from all backgrounds eligibility to access the learning environment that works best for them.

Minnesota can do more.

It’s time that same access is available for Minnesota students who are being left behind in their current school. Yes, Minnesota does offer K-12 students and families several types of school choice — from open enrollment to magnet schools to charter schools and homeschooling. And yet too many Minnesota students are still trapped in their local public school that’s not meeting their needs. More can be done.

Our neighboring states already do more and/or are poised to take steps toward further parent empowerment (with Iowa being the latest example). School choice reforms uplift students, improve academic outcomes, and make meaningful progress in closing achievement gaps.

The DFL-controlled House and Senate and DFL Gov. Tim Walz have not been friendly to such reform ideas, despite support coming from many of their constituents.

But the biggest barrier to important education reform has been Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union. Dating back to the 1980s, Education Minnesota has stood in the way of important reform efforts that advance student progress — from PSEO to open enrollment to charter schools.

What do we have to lose?

Minnesota’s public school system has a long history of stagnant and declining test scores all while education funding has increased.

We have data that tell us choice programs don’t “drain” public schools; we have data that tell us choice programs don’t hurt the students who remain in the public schools (they even benefit!); we have data that choice programs improve academic outcomes for their participants; we have data that choice programs aid disadvantaged students, including those with special needs and those from low-income backgrounds. And the list goes on.

What are we so afraid of?