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House Committee Holds Congressional Hearing on Choice Options
posted by: Alix | May 17, 2012, 07:57 PM   

In light of the rise of public charter schools and the growing popularity of parent-trigger laws and tuition tax credits across the country, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a congressional hearing yesterday to examine state and local efforts to increase parental engagement and school choice options.

Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) touted state and local initiatives as key elements of fostering a culture of educational options for all stakeholders. "We know increased parental engagement leads to higher grade point averages, better attendance, improved behavior and social skills, and a stronger interest in more challenging academic programs," he stressed. "Recognizing these positive results, many states are taking steps to ensure parents have additional opportunities to make informed decisions."

Connecticut Parents Union President Gwendolyn Eaddy-Samuel testified about the importance of helping parents play a more active role in the local school system. "We will only improve outcomes if we build effective partnerships among parents and schools; spend our resources effectively; and provide meaningful high-quality choices for families," she said. "This is a much more realistic and just choice than burdening our society with failed schools, overcrowded prison and juvenile systems, and an overreliance on safety nets and social services."

According to the panel, one of the greatest ways to increase engagement is to offer parents choices about their children's education. While certain choice initiatives are considered controversial, specific policies such as the parent-trigger law and public charter schools have received strong bipartisan support. Earlier this year, Congressman George Miller (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, issued a statement supporting the ground-breaking law that allows parents to vote to overhaul a school system under the guidance of the state.

With regard to public charter schools, after a busy 2012 legislative session more than 40 states are now embracing charter schools as another way to provide education options to students, parents, and teachers. As National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' Vice President for State Advocacy and Support Todd Ziebarth explained, "Charters partner with parents in other unique ways, most notably by involving them in the decision-making and governance of the school."

Still, despite the groundswell of support for certain choice options, the panel debated the merits of certain voucher and tuition tax credit policies. Kevin Chavous, a senior advisor at the American Federation for Children, highlighted the success of programs like the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Conversely, Congressman Dale Kildee (D-MI) questioned whether the policies were scalable. The programs are "not guaranteed to result in stronger parent engagement or increased student outcomes," he stated.

The hearing showcasing state and local initiatives reflects a growing trend among House leaders who see state-based efforts as viable solutions to reforming education. "The fight to improve our nation's education system cannot happen in Washington, D.C. alone," concluded Congressman Hunter. "It is critical states continue to lead the charge by engaging parents and providing options in the local education system."

What do you think about the national trend in expanding educational options?
Comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
MSW, Special Education Teacher, HQ Science, Social Studies and Language Arts
written by Suzanne Accashian, May 17, 2012

The education system is definitely evolving and has to continue in this evolutionary process to bring education to where it belongs. The one neglected area is Special Education private schools as Federal Law requires least restrictive Environment. It would be nice to offer a program to special education students where the students that really want to learn in a disciplined learning environment rather than being put in a classroom with up t 17 students with disabilities from behaviors to ID MILD and trying to meet the needs o all the students while primarily responding to behaviors of students who are apathetic and do not want to be taught.

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