Op-Ed: Protecting Family Choice in Education | MCU Times

Op-Ed: Protecting Family Choice in Education

Among the most consistent decisions that Denver voters face Nov. 2 are the four school board seats up for election. No institution affects the future of a city and its inhabitants as much as the public education system. School board members set the direction for a district that serves 90,000 students and manages 15,000 employees and a budget that now (with federal COVID funding) is $ 1.2 billion. Fortunately, Denver has established a success record that has created it as one of only three urban school districts in the nation that has achieved a steady improvement over a decade in the three critical measures: academic achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance.

A critical element of this success – and necessary in the pursuit of continued improvement – has been the fundamental value of enabling families to choose the best educational option for their students.

Education choices mean different things to different people. For us, we are talking about enrollment, the Denver model, which allows students and their families to seamlessly choose the best educational option for them, whether it is a traditional school program, Montessori education, or a school with a focus on the arts.

As seen in community forums as candidate forums hosted by African Leadership Group, several of the candidates now running for office Education Council in Denver wants to limit the choices for families. But to withdraw from this legacy would be to go backwards, to undermine a critical ingredient in the success of our district, while ignoring further efforts we must undertake to combat systemic racism and unleash the extraordinary potential of students who experiencing poverty in our society.

That is why voters are so important in this election.

Denver Public Schools’ mission is “to enable all students to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become contributing citizens of our diverse society.”

It would be contrary to this mission to reduce and eliminate opportunities that our families choose for their students, simply because the choice they make in some cases is not a traditional elementary school program.

DPS also highlights family engagement as a fundamental value: “Research has consistently found that family and community engagement in children’s learning directly and positively affects children’s academic performance and well-being.”

Families participate in DPS. And one of the most important areas of focus is choice. Families are more likely to choose than to participate in the district’s default setting. In 2020, 52 percent of families decided to participate in the process of choosing a school. Of the families who participated in school elections, many chose district-run schools over other options such as charters.

And color colors cultivate and benefit from school choice to a greater degree than their white peers, surpassing white students in choosing schools outside their border or zone.

School choices give families more voice in the process and create new communities centered around art, STEAM curriculum or dual language. These options did not exist as the family’s only option was the school, which the district automatically assigned to them. Indigenous families in Denver can e.g. Now choose an option such as American Indian Academy of Denver, where educators revitalize tribal languages ​​and teach Dineh and Lakota in middle and high school.

Schools need to be able to adapt and change as the city changes. School choices allow parents to be actors in the most important thing they can do for their children: to choose the school that best matches their child’s learning style and interests. Choice forces schools and DPS’s central office to meet family needs and preferences. Transportation is important to ensure that the choice is truly reasonable, so that high-quality choices are within the reach of all, and that it is easy for all families to choose the highest quality and the best fit.

As a community, we should be focused on making choices work better for families and empowering parents and guardians even more, rather than regretting the progress made so far. Children are more likely to succeed if they go to a school that matches their interests and learning style. Fair and easy school choice improves outcomes for children.

Happy Haynes served from 2011-2019 as a major member of the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education. John Johnson is the parent of a current DPS student and another graduate of the system.

Westword occasionally publishes op-eds and essays on issues of interest to society. Do you have one you would like to submit? Send it to [email protected], where you can also comment on this piece.


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