Andrew Campanella: Make 2014 a Year of New Opportunity for school choice

Editor’s note: Andrew Campanella is president of National School Choice Week. This concludes our #schoolchoiceWISH series.

Andrew Campanella

As school choice supporters, we hope children who benefit from educational opportunity will “dream big.”

We tell students to aim for their loftiest goals and to never give up.

My #schoolchoiceWISH is that school choice organizations do the same – dream big – and turn 2014 into a Year of New Opportunity for children across America.2013WISHLISTFINAL

This isn’t mere rhetoric. We can do this.

Support for school choice in all of its forms is at an all-time high. This support is evidenced not just by public opinion polls, but also in the scores of school choice and education reform organizations that exist today. These groups are doing remarkable work at the state and national levels, and they’re working together and collaborating more effectively than ever.

But for school choice to become an even more powerful movement, and for 2014 to become a Year of New Opportunity for families across America, these groups can forge even closer partnerships, either by planning joint events or partnering on projects designed to educate and empower parents and families.

To individual parents – “school choice” is not just about charter schools, or private schools, or traditional public or magnet schools, or online learning and homeschooling. It’s about having a choice of all of these options, being able to make a choice, and selecting the learning environments that are right for their individual children.

When school choice organizations work together, the collective messaging of these partnerships and this broad, familiar definition of school choice resonates with families.

It goes without saying that a charter school association and a private school choice group might not agree on every policy issue, or that a homeschooling organization and a magnet school consortium will not always find common ground. And yes, organizations do compete for scarce funding — that’s an undeniable fact.

But National School Choice Week is one proof point that collaboration is possible, and that despite differences on specifics, school choice and education organizations can come together on the basics. Later this month, hundreds of organizations, thousands of schools, and millions of Americans will join together at 5,500 events across the country to celebrate all types of effective education options for children.

There’s still time to get involved in National School Choice Week. You can plan a press conference or a visit to the state capitol. If that’s not feasible, consider releasing a joint opinion piece from the leaders of various state-based organizations, or planning a combined social media campaign with infographics and Facebook and Twitter posts.

If nothing else, take the first step to forming a coalition in your state or in your community. Just send an email to other school choice and education reform groups in your state or region, or make a phone call, and see what happens. Literally, it just takes the initial efforts of one person to form a big coalition.

That’s what Wendy Howard did. She’s a hardworking mom in Florida, and when she noticed there were so many different school choice and education organizations in the Sunshine State essentially working towards the same basic goal of empowering families, she brought them together and formed the Florida Alliance for Choices in Education (FACE). FACE is a dynamic group, and the dozens of groups participating in FACE are, in 2014, planning a series of joint events during National School Choice Week. This type of collaboration can happen anywhere. It just takes one person like Wendy.

The new year is a time for new beginnings. For school choice supporters, there’s a lot to celebrate as we enter 2014. The groundwork for incredible growth has been laid, the right organizations and people are working their hardest to make that growth a reality, and the wind of public support is at our backs. Now, it’s time to dream big, and to work together, so everyone – but most essentially, children and parent – win. It’s easier than we might think, and sometimes, all it takes one phone call or email.