Opinion2018 School Choice Week  

National School Choice Week: Celebrating Educational Options — and the Pursuit of Happiness — for Every Parent and Student

By Andrew Campanella | January 21, 2018

Students from the Mountain View Core Knowledge School in Canon City, Colorado, and many other schools get fired up at the National School Choice Week rally on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol on Jan. 26, 2017. (Photo credit: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

When you think about school choice, what comes to mind?

Is it achievement gains, graduation rates, or efforts to make systems more responsive to the needs of parents? Is it policy, programs, or accountability?

If you attend an education conference or panel discussion, you hear a lot about these things — and they are important.

What you don’t hear about enough is happiness.

Throughout 2017, I heard a lot about happiness during my travels to 25 states meeting with parents, educators, and students. These are the very people who help to make National School Choice Week so impactful every year.

What I learned is that parents care about school choice, at its core, because they want their children to be happy.

Parents know that when a school is safe from violence and bullying, their children have a better chance at being happy.

Parents know that when a school motivates and inspires their children to learn, the potential for happiness is so much greater.

And parents know that when their children feel respected at school, they respect themselves and that respect leads to a higher probability of happiness.

When students are happier, they are empowered to take on scholastic challenges. They are more likely to acquire knowledge.

Happiness is relatable, not as a point of policy, but a matter of basic humanity.

The founders of our country understood this.

Today, 242 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” remains an enduring American ideal.

During National School Choice Week, we embrace this ideal.

National School Choice Week lets parents know that they have options for their children’s education by shining a positive spotlight on the different environments that are available — environments that will encourage their children to pursue and enjoy their own happiness.

We include and celebrate all educational choices for all students, from traditional district schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

To help raise this awareness, we encourage schools, homeschool groups, community organizations, and individuals to hold open houses, school fairs, information sessions, and even large rallies to bring attention to the great work they do in communities.

What began with 150 events in 2011 has grown to 32,240 events and activities across America in 2018.

If you attend one of them, you will hear parents sharing their stories about school choice and how they are pursuing happiness for their children.

There are millions of these stories, but one in particular comes to mind, about a student who had attended two schools and was bullied at both. The situation became untenable; he was unhappy, and the way he was treated was profoundly unfair.

But his parents discovered a homeschool program, and within months after being removed from this bullying environment, this young man discovered a variety of new educational and extracurricular interests. He’s learning about journalism and video creation. He’s discovered an interest in playing football, and he’s working with a coach. Most important: He’s happy.

There are many stories like this, stories that speak to the opportunity and the magic that is school choice in America today.

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