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National School Choice Week: A Celebration of Choice & Quality

“…Quality must be at the top of our list. I cannot envision a viable movement for education reform that does not include parent choice. But it is also clear that there must be some accountability measures built into the process along with parent choice to ensure quality.”  —Howard Fuller

Howard Fuller—former superintendent, civil rights activist, and champion of parent choice—is one of my heroes.  In a lucky twist, I get to see and learn from him twice this month.  

His words eloquently capture my views on choice here in South Carolina and across our nation.  I break this down into two parts:

1—Parent choice is essential.  I believe that families—not schools, districts or others—should have the power to choose the right fit for their child. I’m appalled that in our society, choice abounds for most families—in restaurants, in toothpaste aisles, in music, online shopping, and TV channels—but yet far too many parents don’t have good choices for the education of their children.  Charter schools can be a huge piece of this puzzle by opening in areas of need and creating attractive themes and learning approaches for students. 

2—Quality is an essential ingredient to school choice.  Through clear expectations, quality authorizing, a focus on equity and access, and an accountability system that grows what works and improves or replaces what doesn’t, we can ensure that once families make their choice, it’s a good one that will put their children on the path to success in college and career. Like the health inspector for restaurants, we have a critical oversight and context-setting role to play here.  The great news is that we can create an ever-turning cycle that grows what works.  

This School Choice week, I salute the schools—charter and traditional—that are providing high-quality choices in our state. Schools that believe in and get results for all kids, take full ownership of their challenges, and open their doors to all.  My own son is 100th on a charter school wait list right now!  We don’t have enough of these choices in our state—especially in African-American and high-poverty communities—but I’m convinced that by working courageously and smartly together, we can change this in the years to come.  Let’s start now!