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What is National School Choice Week?

Luke Henke
Special to Gannett Kansas
Luke Henke is a member of the American Association of Educators.

National School Choice Week is Jan. 26 to Feb. 1. As a public schoolteacher, I was a little concerned about the idea of "school choice." Does being for school choice mean being against public schools? “Definitely not!” was what I eventually came to understand.

We have an entire aisle in grocery stores dedicated to cereal. We have dozens of choices in cars and trucks. We even have different doctors for different family members at different times in life. Just as we feel having a choice in many of our decisions is a necessity, a choice in schools satisfies the need for developing young minds in our country in the best way possible.

National School Choice Week is an opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate the options offered for those seeking education. Allow me to share three stories of parents exercising these opportunities through different educational avenues.

One of my college professors has a son who didn’t fit in well with his school. Traditional public education was not meeting his needs. They selected a virtual high school located a little over an hour away. From the beginning at his new school, they saw a complete transformation in their son as he completed project after project and flourished. He was able to infuse his personal passions into his work and successfully graduated.

When I was young, some of my best friends at church were the pastor’s sons. The pastor and his wife opted to home-school each of their three boys. Those boys knew more and could articulate their knowledge more fluently than most of my classmates. Although they were younger than I was, we could have conversations about higher-level concepts in many subjects. I have many fond memories of our time together.

Two of my colleagues enrolled their children in private schools. One child fit in exceptionally well. The rigorous academics, awesome sports programs and teachers matched the first child’s passions and temperament. Unfortunately, the other child was less successful and the environment wasn't a good fit. The parents transferred that child to their public school where he flourished and found friends and avenues to express his passion for performing arts. I was told that having the choice of schools saved his life.

As my wife and I contemplate the future of our 4-year-old child, we are thankful that there are options for education: public schools, private schools, online schools, charter schools and homeschooling. He’ll attend the local public elementary school a few blocks from our house.

I hope you will take a moment during National School Choice Week to reflect on all the ways education works to help all students.

Luke Henke is passionate about growing students into young mathematicians and leaders. He teaches in Columbus, Kansas, and is a member of the American Association of Educators.