Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

ARIZONA: Range of school options allows children to thrive

arizona-department-of-educationI was 1993 and my first year in the Arizona Senate. I was one of a handful of legislators who were enthusiastically committed to reforming education in Arizona.

We firmly believed that parents should have the right to choose the education environment that best suited the needs of their children. We shared a vision of a competitive school choice environment that would replace a one-size-fits-all, monolithic system that left many children behind.

We believed that students who might fail in one type of education environment could thrive in another. We believed that our country was built on a free-market system and competition that drove our economic success, improved our quality of life and held the promise of creating a high quality and competitive education environment.

We believed that students who failed to prosper in one school deserved a second chance, and a third chance, and maybe a fourth or fifth chance until they found the right fit before they do something out of frustration that causes them to enter the criminal justice system or end up on welfare.

Fast forward 20 years. Arizona leads the nation in school choice. We have seen the fruits of our early labors. In Arizona currently 25 percent of our schools are charter schools and 14 percent of our students attend charter schools.

Our district schools have responded to the challenge, developing new and innovative programs designed to meet the individual needs of students, and setting up systems that respond to a competitive marketplace. As a result, open enrollment, allowing students to cross district and school boundary lines, is thriving in many districts and schools, where as many as 50 percent of their students are enrolling from outside their boundaries.

Arizona now has school choice at the classroom level, allowing parents to customize their student’s education. A student can be enrolled in a district or charter school, take a career and technical education course at a Joint Technological Education District, concurrently enroll in community-college classes and take an online course from an online provider.

With the latest school-choice option, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, foster children, students from schools that earn a D or F grade and children of military families can apply for funds that enable them to enroll in a school of their choice.

Among our more than 500 charter schools, we are experiencing incubators that are growing rich and unique education cultures serving a broad spectrum of student needs. We have schools with great arts programs, science and technology, language immersion and classical education that can trace its roots back to Aristotle, Plato and Socrates.

We have both charter and district schools that are ranked in the top 1 percent of all schools in the nation.

As I travel across the country and meet with other education leaders, they are enthralled with the amount of school choice we have in Arizona. Many are currently struggling with ways they can replicate our vibrant and dynamic education culture of empowered parents.

I am proud of the journey we have taken over the last two decades. I am excited about the opportunities before us, to continue to expand the best school-choice environment in the nation.

School Choice Week was a dream for me. It is now a reality that honors Arizona’s commitment to provide choice for every parent and high quality education opportunities for every child.

Source: AZCentral.com – by John Huppenthal (Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction)

View more articles on Arizona charter schools

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This entry was posted on January 27, 2013 by in Arizona, Charter Schools, School choice and tagged .

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