The following guest blog is part of our weeklong celebration of National School Choice Week:
Indiana has a lot to be proud of as it relates to education in recent years. We have become the envy of many other states, and a leader in putting the needs of students ahead of the interests of adults. It’s been about two years since Gov. Mitch Daniels led Indiana to enact a comprehensive education reform package, which was designed to enable quality teachers to succeed, empower parents to make choices for their children and allow students an opportunity to thrive in a high-quality school. One of the most notable reforms in this package was the state’s Choice Scholarship Program.
While I realize that there is no silver bullet to reforming our education system and I remain committed to a variety of effective efforts to improve student outcomes, school choice has become my passion. Choice is a tool that empowers parents and provides students opportunities. Most importantly, it’s a tool that can help a student today — a tool that parents both want and deserve. In fact, today, over 9,000 students have taken advantage of this tool and are benefitting from Indiana’s voucher program. Many more take advantage of charter schools and other options available in this new world of choice in our state.
This week is National School Choice Week and a great opportunity for us to celebrate the increased educational opportunities we are offering our children. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity and shine a spotlight on the great things happening in our state. Attend one of the events going on across the state, visit a voucher school and witness firsthand the new opportunities students are receiving, write a letter to the editor or simply email your legislator to thank them for doing what’s in the best interest of students.
However, while we have much to celebrate, this is not a time to sit back and wait. There are over 180,000 students who remain in a “D” or “F” school in Indiana. Until this number is 0, we must not rest. As we head into the 2013 legislative session, legislators begin to consider potential expansions to the Choice Scholarship Program such as the addition of kindergarten to the program. Unfortunately, as it stands today, students must attend public school for TWO years (kindergarten and 1st grade) before becoming eligible to receive a voucher. We must remove these artificial barriers to the program and enable more families to benefit from this opportunity to choose a school that best meets their needs.
This week is a time of celebration, but also a time to remember that there is more work to be done. Please join me in thanking your legislator for all they’ve done, but remind them that we cannot rest until ALL Hoosier students have access to a high-quality option, and an opportunity to become all they can be.
Lindsey Brown is executive director of School Choice Indiana.