Expanding the idea of public education

Editor’s note: This commentary from Step Up For Students director of strategic communications Scott Kent appeared Sunday on Citrus County’s chronicleonline.com.

In her column Sunday, April 24, Rosemary Nilles makes a compelling argument for education choice, even as she rejects it.

It’s encouraging to see the League of Women Voters of Florida supports the right of parents to choose the best learning environment for their children. This should represent common ground from which to advocate for a multitude of solutions. Unfortunately, Nilles limits the debate to just one delivery system.

That is increasingly unrealistic in a pluralistic nation of 330 million people, who have become accustomed to exercising choice in a multitude of ways to have more autonomy in their lives. Educating children should be no different.

A public school system designed in the early 19th century, when America was much smaller and more homogenous, is ill-equipped to meet the diverse, individual needs of every student in the 21st century.

Contrary to Nilles’ claim, not every public school is capable of accepting every student whose special need qualifies under one of the 13 categories in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and ZIP codes most certainly restrict where students can attend. Students can attend out-of-zone district schools, but only if there is room and they have their own transportation.

The fact is, few poor students are able to attend schools in wealthier zones. High-quality magnet programs and charter schools hold lotteries to determine who gets in.

To continue reading, click here.