by Audrey Jackson and Chris Braunlich It is for this reason that families need a variety of options when deciding how to educate their children. What motivates one child to learn may not challenge another. If education is going to be effective in the 21st century, we are going to have to educate all children. While school systems theoretically can offer a variety of opportunities, too few schools can address the specific needs of all children. Rural schools don’t have the numbers to offer a large variety of programs. Urban schools face social challenges hampering their ability to innovate and meet individual student needs. Large suburban systems may offer multiple programs, but most times participation in them is the decision of the system, not the parent. Spend time with children and you’ll discover one thing for certain: Every child is different. They have different needs, different strengths, different weaknesses, different learning styles.
In short, education tends to be a one-sizefits-all affair, lacking the flexibility needed to help every child learn and grow and graduate from high school ready for life.
That’s why creating new opportunities for children is so important. Education choice isn’t about raising one educational model above all others, nor is it about doing away with public schools. It’s about making education better. The fact is, parental choice already exists in Virginia – unless you are poor. Affluent families have choices because they can move to different neighborhoods or communities, send their children to private schools or supplement education with tutors and enrichment programs. Lower-income and working class families are typically trapped with one option by virtue of their zip code – and most often that is a poorlyperforming school. Fortunately, the General Assembly has the opportunity to fix this problem this session. A number of education choice initiatives have been introduced that will enable the commonwealth to deliver educational options to all children. Here are three key proposals: Education Improvement Scholarships: Delegate Jimmie Massie will reintroduce his “Education Improvement Scholarship Act” this year. Last year’s proposal offered a 70 percent tax credit for donations to charitable funds that provide scholarships for K-12 students to attend the school that best fits their needs. Not only would the bill
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