Ellen Weaver

‘Choice week’ celebrates school options

February 2, 2016

Ellen Weaver

This op-ed was written by Mary Carmichael, Oran Smith, Ellen Weaver and Sara Wheeler and was published in The Greenville News on 1/27/16.

Every child deserves an education that meets their needs and allows them to reach their full potential, regardless of income or ZIP code.

This is why every year, millions of Americans come together during the last week of January to celebrate a powerful, growing movement to equip every student to succeed. This year, National School Choice Week began on Jan. 24 and will feature over 16,000 events around the country!

Right here in South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley has proclaimed it “South Carolina School Choice Week” and with more than 200 events taking place in our own backyard, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate high-quality educational options that are empowering students to achieve their dreams.

Just yesterday, several thousand of our fellow South Carolinians joined together in Columbia with Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and other elected leaders to celebrate the difference that personalized education options are making in the lives of Palmetto State students.

National School Choice Week is also the perfect time for parents and students to learn more about the wave of choices that are growing in South Carolina and around the country.  Whether a parent wants to explore traditional public, public charter, magnet, private, online or home education options, it’s the perfect time to get a jump start on the coming school year before summer comes and many schools and programs reach capacity for the 2016-2017 school year.

But what if your student has already found the perfect educational fit – why would you celebrate National School Choice Week? It’s simple: January 24-30 is also a chance to spread the word to your neighbors and the community at large about what your great school has to offer.

The Williams family loves their Lexington District 5 magnet school, sharing that “Spring Hill has all the pieces Tyler needs.”

“We completely fell in love with our school,” say the Washingtons, who send their two children to Meeting Street Academy, an innovative Charleston school providing world-class private education at an affordable price.

CityYear Corps Member Jeorgie Hicks found incredible fulfillment drawing on his personal experience to encourage students at Hyatt Park Elementary, a traditional public school in Columbia, saying, “You can’t put a price on mentoring. Everyone needs that advice, everyone needs that friend.”

The hands-on flexibility of virtual schooling is just right for the Jacobs family, who believe, “It’s best for you to know where your child really is.”

“It’s exciting to see them meet their potential,” exclaim the Woods, a Midlands family who homeschooled their two biological daughters and now are doing the same for their five adopted children.

For the Hollingsworth family, South Carolina’s new Exceptional Needs Scholarships means they have found “peace of mind: the right place for Cody,” their grandson with special needs who is now thriving at Hidden Treasure Christian School in Greenville. And the Lisinskis found the personalized focus their twin boys needed at Carolina Voyager Charter School, a STEM-focused school in Charleston, where “The boys now get the attention that they deserve.”

These stories of real students from a wide variety of backgrounds are what inspire the work we do to make sure that every student in South Carolina has a shot at the same kind of education success. Please join us to celebrate National School Choice Week: thank a teacher, visit a school or attend an event, and learn more about the growing effort to expand high-quality, personalized education options for every Palmetto State child at www.MySCEducation.org.

Mary Carmichael is executive director of the Public Charter School Association of South Carolina, Oran Smith is senior fellow with the Palmetto Family Council; Ellen Weaver is president and CEO of the Palmetto Promise Institute; and Sara Wheeler is president elect of Magnet Schools of America.