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Educational Choice in Arkansas
posted by: Winworld | January 28, 2020, 07:58 PM   

Think of all the choices we must make in life; where to eat, where to live, where to work, what car do we want, what clothes to wear, and what college we want to attend, just to name a few.  All of these choices are individual wants of the person picking these choices and they make those choices based on many things. It could be the need to drive a truck for work, so they have to buy a truck. It could be they need to eat gluten-free meals so they have to pick a restaurant that serves gluten-free food. It could be that they enjoy working with their hands and the job type that they want is a 20-minute drive from their community where they can afford to live. It all comes down to personal choices to fulfill the needs and wants to make them a better person. 


One other area that over the years has become increasingly available is educational choice, also known as school choice. With our school options becoming more and more digitally supported, digitally accessible, and even some becoming global, the opportunity for educational choice has grown. This has led to an increase in families making educational choices based on their children’s personalized educational needs.


When you think about Arkansas and the many different dynamics of our state, you can see why educational choice has become more widespread. What if you are a family that owns a family farm but one of your students wants to be involved in a program that offers television journalism and your rural district just doesn’t offer that?  Shouldn’t that student have that choice? What if a student lives in one of the Big 4 districts in Northwest Arkansas, but they prefer a smaller class size or they prefer a school with less student population, should that family be able to choose what is best for that student? Should students be forced to give up 12 years of their life in a place that doesn’t fit their needs or wants?


Some districts are even offering educational choices within their own districts. Take the Springdale School District as an example. With the recent development of the Springdale School of Innovation, they now offer in-district school choice. This is a way for public schools to offer great benefits of educational choice. Recently Fayetteville School District started its Virtual Academy, which offers an educational choice for students around Northwest Arkansas in the form of online education. Another regional example is the Career Academy of Siloam Springs program, a charter school that offers vocational learning opportunities to students in Benton County. These are three great examples of educational choice, and all three are ideas that were developed by local public schools.


At the end of the day, educational choice works if our goal is to meet the individual needs of all students. Whether it is public, charter, private, or homeschooling, each family has the choice and deserves the choice to provide the educational needs of their children and to meet the needs of their family.  As our schools become more global we will see more educational choice options exist in many districts across Arkansas and the nation.  We have to remember the goal is to provide the most appropriate personal educational experience for all students, and educational choice makes this possible.


John Unger is the West Fork Middle School principal for grades 5-8.  He has served in several leadership roles as an administrator in his career, including Dean of Students, Athletic Director, and Head Boys basketball coach. He holds an Education Specialist degree from Arkansas State University, a Master’s of Education degree from LSU-Shreveport, and a Bachelor's degree in History from the University of Arkansas. He is also a professional member of the Association of American Educators and an AAE Fellow. John Unger resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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