On school choice, Georgia is a model

 

As Americans prepare to observe National School Choice Week next week, Georgia’s families have a lot to celebrate.

In just under a decade, Georgia has firmly established itself as one of the nation’s leading states for educational opportunity.

In fact, the state has gone from the bottom of the pack in offering school choice options to, in my opinion, one of the top five states for educational opportunity.

Within the public sector, parents have choice within the traditional public school system. Thanks to the state’s inter-district school choice policies, parents can send their kids to schools in different districts, without any additional cost.

Public charter schools flourish in Georgia, and the landscape for these free public schools looks bright – especially since voters affirmed the right of the state to authorize these independent and innovative academies.

Online learning is thriving in Georgia, too. The state is one of 29 states that have multi-district, fully online schools – completely free for students to attend.

In the private sector, Georgia has a robust scholarship tax credit program, empowering parents with scholarships – funded by individuals and corporations – to send children to private schools. This ground-breaking program is accompanied by the state’s voucher program for children with special learning needs. These programs are giving kids new hope, while saving tax dollars.

 

BUT ANOTHER TYPE of school choice – one not frequently talked about – also will shine brightly in Georgia and across the country: public magnet schools.

Georgia – specifically Augusta – embraces public magnet schools. These theme-based schools challenge and motivate students by encouraging them to learn all subjects, but by focusing attention on specific subjects that interest students. For example, some magnet schools focus on science and technology, attracting the next generation of engineers and inventors. Other schools focus on math, or literature, while others attract students who are interested in the performing arts.

Magnet schools deserve more attention in the broader discussion about school choice because at their core they address what is often missing from education – the encouragement and motivation to graduate.

During our National School Choice Week whistle-stop train and motor coach tour, we were honored to stop in Augusta on Thursday, which is home to several high-performing magnet schools. Our tour visited John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, widely recognized as one of Georgia’s, and America’s, top public schools. Mayor Deke Copenhaver joined more than 40 other mayors across America in issuing a proclamation declaring Jan. 26-Feb. 1 National School Choice Week in their
cities.

 

DAVIDSON IS THE perfect example of the impressive transformation that has taken place in Georgia and across the country – providing that “school choice” isn’t just defined by divisive rhetoric that pits public schools against their private counterparts – but can exist, and thrive, within the public sector.

Davidson’s success – and that of so many high-performing public, charter, magnet, private and online schools across the state – is proof that when school districts and states commits themselves to providing every child with access to excellent educational options, great things happen. Students are inspired to graduate, and they’re prepared to compete for the challenging jobs of the 21st century.

If every state was like Georgia, America would have more to celebrate about its educational progress.

 

(The writer is president of National School Choice Week a nonpartisan, independent grassroots effort to highlight the importance of all forms of school choice for all children.)

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