This week, we’re celebrating National School Choice Week, held every year to shine a positive spotlight on effective education options for every child. The goal of the week is to raise public awareness of all types of education options for children available here in Louisiana, including public charter schools, traditional public schools, scholarship schools, online schools, and home schooling.

Why is school choice important to Louisiana families? For one, we believe every child is unique, and all students don’t learn the same way or have the same educational needs. Parents should be able to choose a school that’s the right fit for their child, whether it be a charter school with a special mission, a scholarship school or their traditional district school, because parents know their children best.

In 2016, the families of more than 78,000 students in Louisiana chose charter schools and school choice programs, including the Louisiana Scholarship Program, Tuition Donation Rebate Program and the School Choice Program for Certain Students with Exceptionalities. In addition, more than 19,000 students enrolled in courses through the Louisiana Course Choice Program. These numbers are growing yearly, with more and more families choosing a school outside of their assigned traditional public school.

Recent polls show that the wider community of Louisiana voters also supports school choice. A 2015 Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools survey of registered voters showed 62 percent supporting charter schools. A 2015 survey of black voters by the Black Alliance for Educational Options in the state indicated strong across-the-board support for choice programs — 78 percent supported parental choice, 66 percent approved of charter schools and 63 percent favored vouchers/scholarships.

School choice does more than just offer educational options for students. It requires parents to become more involved and better educated about what type of school would work best for their child. It also requires a change in thinking for traditional public schools, as they can no longer expect to have students automatically enrolled in their assigned district school. School choice drives both parents and schools to think about why a family should choose, or not choose, to attend a particular school. And that kind of thinking, we believe, will in turn drive the quality of education up in Louisiana.

We invite all parents and community members to use National School Choice Week to explore school choice options in their parish and to reach out to legislators if they want more options in their community.

Ann Duplessis

president, Louisiana Federation for Children

New Orleans

Stacy R. Martin

Louisiana state director, Black Alliance for Educational Options

New Orleans