By Steve Gunn
PHOENIX – In statehouses and communities throughout the nation, the term “school choice” provokes loud and angry debates.
In Washington State they’re still fighting about the pending introduction of charter schools. In Louisiana, Indiana and Wisconsin they’re quarreling over the expansion of private school voucher programs. In many states union officials are suggesting that school choice is nothing more than a code phrase for corporate takeovers of public schools.
But ugly debates are definitely not part of the third annual National School Choice Week, which begins today and runs through Feb. 2.
The folks at NSCW say it’s all about the kids. They know students benefit when they have the maximum amount of freedom to choose the school that best fits their needs, and they want to share that happy knowledge with the nation.
NSCW does not endorse political candidates or lobby for any type of legislation. It does not recommend one type of school over another. It does not engage in heated policy debates over the best use of state education money.
It simply brings many school choice advocacy organizations together once a year to talk about the advantages of student freedom. It encourages students and their parents to share the positive experiences they’ve had by finding a school that fits.
It’s not about fighting. It’s about freedom. What could be more American than that?
The third annual National School Choice Week begins today with a major kickoff rally in Phoenix and the beginning of a 14-city train “whistle-stop tour” across the nation.
There will also be more than 3,500 separate events throughout the nation all week, where local people will tell their friends and neighbors about the benefits of allowing children to escape geographical district boundaries and find the school of their dreams.
“School choice is a lifesaver for my child and ensures that he will be in a safe environment first and foremost,” said Valerie Evans, the mother of a choice student.
“It means he can now be educated in an environment that is not only safe, but he will get the education that he needs and deserves. Without a quality education from grade school, he won’t have the foundation he needs to get into college, graduate and be a success.”
Kickoff events in Phoenix, Los Angeles
More than 7,000 people are expected to fill the Phoenix Convention Center tonight for a NSCW kickoff rally. The event will feature testimonials from students and parents who have benefitted from school choice, as well as remarks from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and a performance by the world famous Jonas Brothers.
NSCW President Andrew Campenella will address the gathering via live video feed from Los Angeles.
Friday will also mark the beginning of NSCW’s whistle-stop train tour, which will begin in Los Angeles and make stops in Albuquerque, Topeka, Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, South Bend, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and New York City through Feb. 2.
The tour will help bring attention to the six types of quality education options highlighted by NSCW: high-performing traditional public schools, home schooling, public charter schools, private schools, magnet schools and virtual schools.
“Just as the whistle-stop tours were used to promote civil rights – from women’s suffrage to ending racial segregation – the National School Choice Week ‘Special’ will draw attention to the great civil rights fight of the 21st century: school choice for all Americans regardless of their race, income, zip code or learning ability,” Campenella said.
More than 3,500 locally planned events are also scheduled throughout the nation, including rallies on the steps of state capitols in Georgia, Montana, Minnesota and Wyoming, a school fair in New Hampshire, an open house and balloon launch in Texas and a bowling night in Ohio.
One big event on the agenda is the New Jersey School Choice Summit, scheduled for Sunday at the Central New Jersey Conference Center in East Windsor. Hosting the summit will be filmmaker Bob Bowden, the creator of the 2009 award-winning documentary “The Cartel,” which focused on runaway spending and low-quality instruction in some of the Garden State’s public schools.
A wide range of experts will be present to discuss and answer questions about various types of school choice, according to Bowden. Admission is only $2.
For more information about NSCW and various events, log on to schoolchoiceweek.com.