Every week, EPIC Superintendent Bart Banfield explores topics related to education, learning, leadership and more. Be sure to check back each week for the latest.

National School Choice Week

National School Choice Week is this week. Whether their choice comes in the form of a traditional brick-and-mortar school, a public charter school like EPIC or homeschooling, the fact that we live in a time when families have the ability to choose the right school for their child’s needs is something to shout from the rafters.

As the Oklahoma Legislature gears up for the 2020 legislative session next week, it’s worth noting there are those, through legislation, who want to see that choice removed. A handful of lawmakers and other anti-choice advocates want to see a return to the old ways and to force families into accepting schooling options that simply may not work for them.

At EPIC, we believe parents have the right to choose the best education to meet the individual needs of their kids. We know that students can thrive when they are in the right learning environment, and in recent years a staggering number of families have used the power of public school choice to make this case. 

Anti-choice advocates have consistently made the argument that public school choice undermines an already struggling traditional public school system. They will tell you that schools like EPIC are reducing their student population and, as such, reducing much-needed funding. 

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of public charter school students in Oklahoma during the fall of 2016 accounted for less than five percent of the total student population. Also, between the fall of 2000 and the fall of 2016, traditional public school enrollment showed an overall gain (albeit a modest one) of 1.4 percent.

There are countless stories of students who thrive at their traditional neighborhood brick-and-mortar school. This option works for many families and being able to make the decision that is right for that child is yet another reason to celebrate school choice. But, as we all know, we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all world – and we never have. Since the start of public education in our country, there has always been a segment of the traditional school population not well served in a traditional school model. The difference in 2020 is that we now have public school options.

Whether it’s because of bullying, personal safety concerns, medical issues,  developmental needs or any number of other reasons, some kids need school to be different. Giving families the opportunity to make the appropriate choices for their children is the right thing to do.

In observation of School Choice Week, consider contacting your local lawmaker and indicating by phone or in writing why protecting public school choice is important. Find your local lawmaker at http://www.oklegislature.gov/FindMyLegislature.aspx.

Dare Greatly,