If you’re “of a certain age,” and that age is getting older and older, you remember the good old days of getting up early on a snowy day to listen to the radio. The local morning host would read off a long list of schools and school districts that would be closed for the day. “Did they mention our school yet? Did they?”
(By the way, radio hosts tend to think of those days with far less nostalgia because it was repetitive and boring.)
For a while growing up, I had an advantage over my friends. The rule of thumb for school closure was whether the buses would roll. My dad was a dispatcher for a school bus company so we would get the advance word.
Now we’re in the age of the internet and school closings are just a text message away. On Friday morning when there was a chance that schools would be closed in my area, I just rolled over, glanced at my phone, and then went back to sleep until it was time to take the kids to school.
When schools closed the other day because of the snow, I had text messages from two different school systems. Now it will be three school systems, really four, for two kids.
Just a couple of years ago, my son didn’t have snow days when he was in an online school full time. As long as the internet worked, there was school. The lessons and the lectures were all online.
When he started high school, we decided on a more traditional approach to school. However, the math department at the local school didn’t meet our standards and my son was soon back in online school for that one subject. He thrives in math now and still gets the experience of high school.
Currently in his senior year of high school, my son is taking two classes at the local technical school. The classes count both as high school credits towards graduation and as college credits, with the tuition being paid by the local school district. So he now has one online charter school class, some classes at a traditional high school and now classes in college. That’s the power of school choice
We think of school choice as the voucher program in Milwaukee enabling the children of low-income families to escape the failing schools of Milwaukee Public Schools. And that is a huge part of school choice. But it’s only part.
School choice is also the power to send my daughter to another school district through open enrollment for a program that will fit her needs. After years of attending Catholic schools, and thriving there, she will be attending a high school that offers her opportunities that “our” school district cannot. It’s not because the school district that is our geographic home is a bad school district. There is a lot to commend it. But the schools in the district are not right for her.
The choices we made as parents for our son would never have worked for our daughter. They were two completely different children growing up with two completely different sets of needs. And that, too, is the power of school choice. Just as all children are different, so are their educational needs.
We tend to take those choices for granted. It wasn’t that long ago when open enrollment was a completely new concept in Wisconsin. In Illinois, there are no online charter schools because students aren’t allowed to enroll in a school for another district, so an online school literally has to be chartered district by district. Needless to say, teachers unions in control of school districts weren’t going to allow that to happen, even though the teachers would be public school teachers (at a charter school), too.
Now charter schools are being threatened despite their success by the blind prejudices of ignorant school district officials who see successful schools as competitive threats to their own failures. Vouchers for private schools are seen by our current governor as unhealthy competition to traditional public schools, even as he talks out of the other side of his mouth about closing the racial achievement gap. Even the idea of students getting a religious education is under attack by the left determined to stamp out any dissension from their culture war.
As we celebrated school choice week, there were many reasons to celebrate. But there are also even more reasons to be vigilant.