The (Hidden) Cost of Vouchers for Parents
School Choice...or Vouchers Revisited
Last month we talked a bit about vouchers.
This month, I'd like to continue the discussion from a different angle - that of choice. For those of you not familiar with my background, I was a County Superintendent of Schools for 12 years (3 terms, yes, it's elected... sigh).
As a County Superintendent, I ran all the programs my 9 school districts didn't want to run, were too small to run, or programs that were more efficient and effective to run centrally. We ran everything from Head Start to Senior Nutrition (and everything in between)!
One program, Home Independent Study, started with 2 part-time teachers and about 20 students. When I left after 12 years, this program was a charter school of almost 140 students and 11 full or part-time teachers.
When we talk about charter schools, I clearly understand what goes into building and maintaining them effectively.
How Much Choice Does Your District Need?
Let's examine choice using my county as an example.
Parents in our county had several choices: Their children could attend the local public school. I certainly had my children there because it was easier for me, I knew the kids' teachers, the system they were in, and what was expected of them.
Parents could also request an inner district transfer to another school in the district. Unless there was a strange circumstance or the receiving school was too full, the transfer was granted. The districts often didn't mind trading kids back and forth, because sometimes there's just a conflict that works out better elsewhere.
The third option for parents was the County's Home Independent Charter School. That was us.
We generally accepted those who applied, however, it would become quickly evident who really wanted to be in this type of charter school and who didn't. Teachers visited homes every two weeks and in between those sessions the parents were the teachers. The county provided books, materials, support, curriculum, testing, and even field trips and events, however, the parents did the teaching at home.
The (Hidden) Work Associated with Choice...
For some parents the charter school option was perfect. It was what they wanted to do. We had several families with 5 or 6 children, and this was their calling.
For other parents, the charter school didn't work. In very short order, they would either drop out and go elsewhere or we would have to encourage them to do so. This just wasn't for them.
One example was a family whose children never attended school regularly. Their second grader had never attended school, and their fourth grader only attended part of a year. The kids' lessons weren't completed, they didn't read, and the parents didn't follow-through. This choice wasn't for them.
Public schools, charter schools, private schools, and home study programs all exist now. Some states also have vouchers! There is plenty of "choice" to go around.
Choice often means a better fit. (And it may also mean a lot of work!)
As my home study parents found, there is work involved when choosing. Driving to a different location, or spending hours at a tech or art center are "choice" realities.
Public schools were easiest for me and my children, but we did consider transferring my daughter elsewhere to support her learning needs. Would that have been more work? You bet! But her needs came first for me. She decided against it, but choice gave us an option.
What will you choose for your kids? What will the parents in your school or district choose?
One way to help parents choose is to give them a listening ear for what they want and need. Have you built the relationships needed to do that? With a strong relationship with parents and commitment to their child's success, you'll know if you can help them or if they really do need to go elsewhere.
The school administration, teachers, and parents must all be working together for the student's best interest. This is when choice truly adds value, and it requires strong relationships.
Our job at Family Friendly Schools is to help you build the relationships necessary for strong school programs that meet the needs of your students' best interests. Often, when this happens, parents and children want to stay with you and don't see a need to move elsewhere.
Are you ready to expand your district's community and family engagement program? We're happy to help.
Committed to your success,
Dr. Joni Samples