News: CJ Exclusives

National School Choice Week takes on added significance in N.C.

Tar Heel State has become a leader in providing parents more options over past seven years

Students wearing commemorative scarves celebrate National School Choice Week. (Image courtesy of National School Choice Week website)
Students wearing commemorative scarves celebrate National School Choice Week. (Image courtesy of National School Choice Week website)

Since National School Choice Week began in 2011, North Carolina has become a leader in expanding educational opportunities. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said he’s honored to have worked alongside the General Assembly to help provide those opportunities to students.

“I believe that every child is uniquely created. Because of their unique gifts and abilities, children learn in many different ways and in many different environments,” Forest said. “I also believe there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to education. That’s why I am a strong supporter of school choice.”

National School Choice Week started seven years ago and has featured more than 58,000 events. These raise public awareness of education opportunities for families and recognize the impact of charter schools, homeschools, virtual public schools, traditional public schools, and private schools.

“North Carolina is in the top tier of school choice states,” said Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation. “For years, we were trying to catch up to school choice leaders like Florida, Arizona, and Indiana. Now, other states are trying to catch up to us.”

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support school choice, says a recent poll from the American Federation of Children, a school choice advocacy group. The poll shows broad support for more educational opportunities across race, age, and the political spectrum.

The poll comes as Americans prepare to celebrate National School Choice Week, which is Jan. 21-27.

“National School Choice Week gives us the opportunity to celebrate helping students and families find the learning environments that work best for them,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said. “I am proud that North Carolina offers families the chance to select from a range of options when it comes to providing their child with the opportunity to work hard and succeed.”

On its website, NSCW lists 1,058 school choice events across North Carolina. Public tours of charter schools, job fairs, and rallies supporting education opportunities are just a few examples of what people can expect for the eighth NSCW.

On Jan. 17, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th District, commemorated this year’s National School Choice Week on the House floor (video below).

“With all the research about the myriad ways students learn, it only makes sense that we develop a broad array of educational options,” said Rhonda Dillingham, executive director of the N.C. Association for Public Charter Schools. “The N.C. Association for Public Charter Schools is excited to celebrate National School Choice Week because it means education is moving in the right direction for our children.”

Kristen Blair, an education writer from Chapel Hill, said parents are in the best position to hold school choice programs accountable, and, through their choices, are showing they want a range of K-12 options.

“There are always conversations about the role of oversight and accountability when public dollars are involved,” Blair said. “It’s really most notable to me to look at the families on the frontline who have the most direct access in terms of accountability. They are the ones who are seeing whether their children are learning.”

The General Assembly removed the cap on the number of charter schools in 2011, and now some 173 charter schools serve more than 80,000 students. Legislators introduced several educational choice programs: the Personal Education Saving Accounts, Opportunity Scholarships, and Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities.

Here are a few events to check out for NSCW:

  • National School Choice Week Rally: The NC Association for Public Charter Schools is hosting a rally noon to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 23 in front of the legislative building. The rally will feature several speakers and performance, including remarks from the State Superintendent Mark Johnson and a speech from the 2017 N.C. Charter School Teacher of the Year, Deborah Brown. Attendees will receive a yellow NSCW scarf and are encouraged to wear red and yellow to support school choice.
  • Charter School Job Fair: The NC Association for Public Charter Schools is hosting a Job Fair 6 to 9 p.m Jan. 25 at Bradford Preparatory School in Charlotte. Representatives from charter schools will be available to meet and interview with individuals interested in working at a charter school. Attendees are encouraged to bring a resume and business cards.
  • Oakhurst STEAM Academy: The Charlotte based public magnet school will host a NSCW celebration in its media center 5:30 p.m. Jan. 25. In celebration of school choice, OSA will hold a STEAM Fair, an awards ceremony, and an open house for families to see what OSA is all about.
  • Kids R Kids Clayton: Kids R Kids Clayton will be holding a pep rally 10 a.m. Jan. 26 at the school playground. The pep rally will feature students and recognize teachers in celebration of NSCW.