Leigh Sloan: School choice is here to stay

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By LEIGH SLOAN

In the year 2024 we are facing huge shifts in the landscape of education for our future generations. When schooling became widespread back in the 1800’s, public schools were founded as a way to educate the masses for a new wave of technological advances.

It was all about efficiency and preparing lower classes of Americans to be equipped to work in the factories that were booming and transforming the economy. Today we are well beyond the era of the Industrial Revolution, but this one size fits all  “standardized” approach to education is still engrained in our culture.

Today we have a multiplicity of cultural, political, and religious worldviews, a multiplicity of philosophies on how to train children, and a multiplicity of “best practice” educational theories. In this Information Age, we have found technology connecting us around the globe. Families can choose to educate in person, in a virtual classroom, at their own pace, or along with a group.

Just as the entertainment industry has been transformed into its various niches, so parents have a desire to educate their children according to their needs and their desires for their children. Within public schooling there are charter schools, magnet schools, correspondence schools, and specialty schools. Within the homeschool umbrella we find co-ops, micro-schools, virtual learning, small group classes and more. Private schools and independent educators abound. Here in Alaska it is common to find public homeschoolers who participate in a publicly funded charter school to exercise their freedom to make more flexible educational choices for their families.

While we sometimes refer to these groups as discrete segments of the population, the reality of these families is more nuanced. Some families have kids who are homeschooled and others who are in public school settings. Some families transition from private to public or vice versa within the span of the child’s educational experience. Parents are expanding their vision to see that different solutions might be helpful to them in different stages of their students’ and family’s development.

Rather than hunkering down in our public school, private school, or homeschool-only camps, we are realizing that all families need to be empowered to choose the best options for their children. We are realizing that a zip code or income level should not be the ultimate determiners in the scope of the choices families have.

Parents and other community advocates are realizing that our communities are better when we support the choices of others, even if they would choose differently. No one way of educating deserves a monopoly on the education market. No one particular cultural value or worldview needs to be dictated by powerful people. Educational choice is at the heart of liberty and innovation. It supports families where they determine there is a need. It helps great educators serve a greater segment of the population in the way that they determine is best. We support the right of families to educate independently as well as the right of families to receive assistance along the way.

Education impacts us all. In this Alaska School Choice Celebration 2024, we partner with National School Choice Week as we invite educators and community members of all sectors to celebrate the great educators and students Alaska has to offer. 

This year our guest speakers include Alaska State School Board Member Pamela Dupras, Clark Middle School Teacher Sharon Gibbons, Mat-Su School Board President Jubilee Underwood, Principal of Anchor Lutheran School Dr. Matthew Baxter, and avid “choice schooling” parent Evelyn Dutton, emceed by educational advocate, Leigh Sloan. 

There will be numerous educational vendors to visit so that parents can discover more options for their students. Free SWAG and food along with entertaining performances and fun interactive booths will also be available. Students may participate in an essay contest “Why I love the way I learn” and the winner will have an opportunity to share their essay at the event. Schools can participate in an art show that will be displayed at our state flagship event at the Alaska Native Heritage Center on January 22 (4-7 pm).

You may learn more and RSVP to this free event at alaskaschoolchoice.com

2 COMMENTS

  1. The fastest way to lose school choice is to have this attitude. Nothing is “here to stay”.

  2. Working night shifts opened up the time slots to volunteer as lunchtime supervisor, or with the PTA, attend School Board meetings, conferring with teachers, supplementing the lesson plans at home, etc. Not everyone has or is given that opportunity. But, then, my folks were schoolteachers, the old-fashioned kind i.e. teach a little of everything. Mom taught in Snow Village NH, all lower grades. Pa taught lower, upper elementary and junior high, mostly science, and PE. With lots of siblings that could check out the max no. of books at the ZJ Loussac, the house was always full of books, debate, music, sports, arguments, movie nights, and sing-alongs (in the car). Parental involvement as MA states, is a key. Even then, kids can fall through the cracks, and not every has or is given that opportunity for involvement in their child’s education, but at least there are minimum standards set for achievement as measured and met in public schools, and Anchorage School District Schools have a variety of education venues. Public transportation to participate in these has always been a problem. At least for the last fifty years, and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, but that’s another kettle of fish. School choice doesn’t solve that issue. These days (as usual) when everyone’s counting pennies, it would seem that there’s going to be a lot of redundant expense and investment in school buildings, equipment, without much measurable gain for the general population. It is the duty of a society, as mandated by the US government that children receive a certain standard level of education, no matter what.

    I hate to say it, but it seems enthusiasm for ‘school choice’ is just another enthusiastic ‘build a bridge across the Knik Arm’ or ‘Move the capitol from Juneau’ boondoggle, gone when the kids of these ‘pioneers’ graduate high school and move back to the lower ’48.

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