National School Choice Week holds new meaning for many families

This year’s celebration of effective K-12 education options available to students across the country holds new meaning for many families who are for the first time able to access the learning environment that works best for their child. And who benefits the most from that? The student.

National School Choice Week (NSCW) spotlights the diversity of learning environments available in states across the country and partners with schools and organizations to raise awareness of these education options — from traditional public schools, public charter schools and public magnet schools to private schools, religious schools, online schools and homeschooling options. It is an annual opportunity to celebrate all forms of school choice and parent empowerment and put kids first. This year NSCW is being celebrated from Jan. 23 — Jan. 29.

Thanks to new and expanded educational choice options across 18 states in 2021, millions of students from all backgrounds who were previously limited on what learning environment they could access became eligible for pursuing the education option that works best for them.

Minnesota can do more.

It’s time to make that a reality for Minnesota students who are being left behind in their current school. The DFL-controlled House and Gov. Tim Walz failed to support Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) this past legislative session, which would have given students in low-performing public school districts access to a different school and a variety of other educational services. But the Minnesota legislature has an opportunity to revisit ESA legislation and support parental choice in this upcoming session.

Studies show that educational choice programs not only benefit the students who participate in them, but also students who remain at their traditional public school. Additionally, a recent white paper by the American Federation for Children and Black Minds Matter details the impact school choice has on narrowing achievement gaps.

Minnesota may have opened the first charter school, but that was 29 years ago. Since then, numerous states have passed innovative school choice reforms that uplift students, improve academic outcomes, and make meaningful progress in closing achievement gaps. We can and must learn from these efforts so that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have an equal opportunity at accessing a great education.