School Choice Week begins
<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 8
ST. GEORGE – Supporters of more choice in education launched a nationwide campaign over the weekend advocating that parents be more aware of educational options like private schools, home schooling, online learning and charter schools.
Touted by supporters as a movement to improve education – but criticized by some as a veiled campaign for privatization – the second annual National School Choice Week has picked up plenty of steam, involving more than 350 rallies and other events across the country, in all 50 states.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert joined a dozen other governors across the country in signing an official proclamation in support of the movement, proclaiming that “all children in Utah should have the right to the highest-quality schools possible; and citizens across Utah agree that improving the quality of education in Utah and expanding access to highly effective schools should be an issue of importance to our state’s leaders.”
“Utah is fortunate to boast a range of options, both public and private, to educate our children,” he said in a written statement. “That diversity of resources, coupled with the diversity of the needs of children, is critical if we are to prepare our children to compete in a global marketplace and become all they are destined to be.”
Utah, like the rest of the nation, has spent the past decade-plus sending more of its students to alternative schools. From 1993 to 2007, the percentage of children attending assigned public schools dropped from 80 percent to 73 percent nationally, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
In Utah, much of the growth in recent years has gone toward charter schools, which now have about 45,000 students at 82 schools after starting with eight schools in 1999.
That explosive growth shows that parents saw a need for more options, said Mike Webb, principal at Vista at Entrada School of Performing Arts and Technology in Ivins, which has filled to capacity after being open for only three years.
“It was a desire of parents to have a liberal arts-type education available to their children,” Webb said.