SBR President’s Perspective: Choice abundant in public schoolsAndrea Hartzell
“School choice” has become a buzzword for discussing private schools, charters and voucher programs that allow public dollars to follow students to private schools.
Support for this “choice” centers around options for alternative/varied programs and resources. Yet, those of us who work, support or utilize public schools realize that choice is abundant in our local public schools.
We only have to look at our own districts to see the choices offered from Pre-K-12. My home district, at the high school level, offers a Health Pathway (CNA), Family & Community Services, A/V Communications, Construction & Design, Engineering, Web Design & Digital Communications. With the opening of our Career & Technical Experiences building, we have added Restaurant & Event Management, and Applied Business & Information Technology.
Districts across the state offer advanced placement, gifted programs, distance learning, honors courses, and extracurricular options in arts, sports and music. Some are more robust than others, determined by the location, resources and student interest. Kansas school districts offer engineering, computer programming and other classes for students as young as third-grade. We partner with local and national businesses to bring opportunities to our students. We encourage collaboration and independent thinking. We accept students as they are, support them where they need support and facilitate experiences to help them grow.
The group most often forgotten when we discuss “school choice or private options” are students with special needs. In a public school setting, with our own son, we experienced quality, collaborative and focused options for our son’s needs. There were many programs for him to choose from. He was successful in athletics and music. His modifications allowed him choice for testing settings, homework adaptation as well as specialized instruction in the least restrictive environment. Public schools are the only option that is mandated to meet the needs of students with differences. Those “choices” were very important for my son’s success.
The Kansans Can vision and school redesign program are examples of Kansas public schools adapting to the needs of our communities and what is best for kids. Independent plans of study, flipped classrooms and evaluating programs based on what our business community needs are just a few examples. We know that Kansas schools are best suited to deliver “choice” for our students.
The issue we face as public education advocates is telling our story. Public school advocates are the perfect spokespersons for great public schools. We need to be bold and tell our stories, “toot our own horns.” Share with your community, social media connections, patrons, friends and legislators. If we don’t share, they don’t know.