School choice is shaking up Minnesota’s public school system. Either by using the open enrollment system or attending a charter school, 132,000 students opted out of their assigned school or district just last year.
Unsurprisingly, parents are welcoming more control over their children’s education. Marguerite Mingus, a mother of four in Minneapolis, wrote a powerful article on school choice; all of it is worth reading, but this paragraph is particularly striking:
I made the intentional choice—and continue to make the choice every day—to put my children first. I put my children ahead of what is convenient for me, ahead of what would be best for the district’s budget and ahead of what other parents whose kids do just fine in their neighborhood schools think I should do.
State money flows to the school of the student’s choice, and away from the school the student leaves—putting pressure on some districts that are losing students to other districts or charter schools. But as the editorial board of the StarTribune, the largest newspaper in Minnesota, noted, this situation presents a great opportunity for traditional public schools:
By popular demand, school options are likely here to stay. Given that reality, traditional public schools should do more to understand what their communities want and need. That starts with improving academic performance to retain and attract more students. In some cases, it means getting a better handle on school discipline and safety. And traditional schools should find ways to work cooperatively—both in programs and financially—with charters and other districts to offer the best, most effective programs for kids.
More school choice does not mean the end of traditional public schools; rather, public schools can and should be an important part of a diverse schooling system that better meets the needs of students. Here in Missouri, some healthy competition would improve our public schools and, more importantly, help ensure that every student in the state has the opportunity to attend a school that works best for them.
It would be hard to come up with a better endorsement of school choice than these two quotations. Parents in Minnesota have been given more control over their children’s education, and they intend to keep it. Is there any reason to think that parents in Missouri wouldn’t feel the same way?