This past week, The Tribune received a press release asking us to consider running a story about National School Choice Week, Jan. 26 through Feb. 1. However, most of the resources they pointed to were directed towards large metropolitan areas. In addition, we could not locate in these materials what organization(s) were sponsors of this national campaign.
The options for school choice in a rural setting are generally the public schools, the occasional parochial school, home schooling, or enrollment in an online school. They are the same choices we’ve had for many years.
School choice is one of those ambiguous terms that means many things to many people. It can mean exactly what it does on the surface, but it can also be bandied about in an effort to weaken public schools by people with political axes to grind or with for-profit businesses to grow, who would love to get their hands on taxpayer dollars.
All schools, both public and private, are pretty important to rural areas because they not only provide our children the best education we can muster collectively, they are one of the most important sources of jobs in a community. And when they close because the number of students in a district drop too low, it’s a lot like turning off life support to a patient in the hospital, and waiting for them to die. Compare the city of Pawnee Rock to other Barton County communities if you need an example.
That’s not to say parents don’t want choice. Obviously, some do send their kids to parochial schools, home school, or enroll their students in virtual schools. Communication with teachers and administration at your children’s schools, as well as with your elected school board members should be a priority as long as you have students attending school. When it’s time for children to start school, parents should take time to consider the choices available and determine the best fit for their children, because no one knows those kids better.
But The Tribune is not going to jump on the bandwagon of National School Choice Week, which describes itself as, “Independently planned by a diverse coalition of individuals, schools and organizations,” none of which are named, despite the fact it claims to be a “nonpartisan, nonpolitical public awareness effort.”
Slapping a bright yellow banner and photos of smiling, happy children on a press release isn’t transparency. And rightly, school choice is too important a topic to treat with any less scrutiny.