In today’s education debates, it’s hard to find agreement. But the Kappan Gallup Poll shows that over 70% of Americans support public school choice, launched in Minnesota thirty years ago. That’s worth celebrating!
It wasn’t always that way. Intense opposition faced the governor and lawmakers as Minnesota led the nation with passage of the first Post-Secondary Enrollment (dual credit) law in 1985, the nation’s first open enrollment law in 1987, and the first chartered school law in 1991. Today, over 30% of public school students in Minnesota access public school choice.
Public school options have spread throughout America. In chartering alone, 2.7 million students attend nearly 6,500 public charter schools in 42 states and the District of Columbia.
As a Democratic state senator involved in all these initiatives, I can attest that none of these breakthroughs in public education would have passed without bipartisan support. That bipartisan support continued on the federal level as President Bill Clinton joined forces with Republican US senators. Bipartisan origin is why public school choice has been sustained for nearly three decades and is widely supported by Americans today.
And that’s why, wherever you live, I invite you to celebrate your state’s public school choice options as part of National School Choice Week January 26-30, 2015. Parents? Explore choices available for your child this fall. Teachers? Explore opportunities to expand your professional autonomy in your school. Policymakers? Commit to strengthening public school options for parents and families.
We can’t take public school choice for granted. Public school choice can—and must—be strengthened to bring more innovation to our schools and classrooms, and more opportunity for leadership for our skilled educators.