As the old saying goes, you shouldn’t force a square peg into a round hole. It doesn't fit. School choice operates on the same principle, allowing parents to access the best education fit for each and every child. During National School Choice Week this week we celebrate how school choice can provide more personalized options to fit Iowa families.
The purpose of National School Choice Week is to shine a spotlight on effective education options for every child. During National School Choice Week, Jan. 20-26, parents, teachers, students and community supporters will gather at more than 40,000 events across the country. These events will celebrate the hope and opportunity that school choice already provides to millions of children.
Iowa families can choose from a wide variety of school options. Iowa offers exceptional public schools, non-public schools, virtual learning, and home instruction. We’ve had school choice in the public-school system for many years in the form of open enrollment, which allows some children to attend a public school outside their home district that fits them better.
Virtual schooling and home instruction are both on the rise and serving the individual needs of students and families. School choice benefits children in Iowa, and around the country, by allowing them to access the educational environment that fits them best and meets their needs, one that unlocks their full potential and unleashes their enthusiasm for learning.
Since 2006, the School Tuition Organization (STO) Tax Credit Program has helped make the choice of an accredited, non-public school possible for lower-income and working-class Iowa parents. Through the STO program, nearly 11,000 children every year receive tuition grants that aid in affording non-public school tuition, allowing them to choose the school that best fits their children.
Choosing something other than traditional public schools is currently not possible for every Iowa parent due to their income level or their address. These obstacles do not have to remain in place. Legislators can help level the playing field and give parents the ability to send their children to the school they believe is the best fit for their child.
School choice in Iowa has come a long way in the last decade, but more can be done. Providing the best opportunities for every Iowa student should be our goal as a state, and expanding school choice is the best option.
As we commemorate National School Choice Week, we celebrate all the high-quality education options available in Iowa. In giving parents a choice, we can ensure that every child has access to the quality education options that meet their individual needs.
Jason Alons of Orange City, Iowa, is board president for the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education.
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