Last month voters approved two funding referendums to raise $6 million for the Indian River School District. The state will fund another $6 million. This is the way school districts usually raise funds.
Every school and district must continuously build ways to higher achievement. That is not the question. The question is: Were voters in Indian River School District given real choices? The answer is no. They were asked to approve or not approve funds for the traditional public school model.
Today there is a diversity of ways education is delivered from the types of schools to technological innovations. It is time to look at diversity as the solution; diversity gives families solutions that can be tailored to their individual needs; and funds allocated for each child’s education should follow the choice.
Today other states provide a variety of solutions from charter schools to education empowerment savings accounts and combinations that can include faith-based, private and cyber-schools. Alternatives with demonstrated achievement, that secure their own capital funds, and operate within tax dollars allocated for each child’s education.
We are fortunate to live in a time when there are a variety of solutions; so why shouldn’t parents in Delaware at all income levels be able to choose?
Districts need to reorganize into a system that includes all types of education opportunities for families, such as with charter schools, for example. Districts as different as North Carolina and the city of Chicago are doing just that. North Carolina’s 107 existing charter schools will increase by 25 this year and more than 150 have applied to open in 2014. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that 60 more charter schools will open in Chicago over the next five years.
Charters like traditional schools are part of the public schools system. DDOE and school districts have for nearly twenty years had the authority to authorize charter schools.
Charters are a source of innovation that benefits all public schools. The autonomy and flexibility built-in the environment promotes excellence, experimentation and innovation.
And, as public/private partnerships charter schools are responsible for raising their own capital and operating within a per pupil cost which is about 90% of the operating cost of traditional school which would save Indian River School District at least an average of $1087 per pupil.
IRSD had a variety of options: more funds for traditional school solutions, establishing charter schools, or reconfiguring existing buildings including adding back vacant schools.
Regardless whether their decision was for traditional or non-traditional education, affording options brings families and taxpayers into the education system as partners and expands opportunity for all income levels to tailor their child’s education rather than having a one-size-fits-all education chosen for them.
Sussex County is fortunate to have solid growth in an economy that is marginally expanding. Some of the County’s growth is due to potential for good schools and low taxes. Having options will help both increase more rapidly.
Today, families with the income to pay taxes and additional school tuition have an option, and due to lack of quality and diversity, are selecting options outside the county and state. Those families with less income are not afforded the same opportunities unless they obtain an outside scholarship.
All parents have the fundamental right to guide the upbringing of their children and government is obligated to respect that right. The best individual choice may be public and nonpublic schools or a combination integrating technology or home-schooling.
Tell your elected officials you want the opportunity to choose the best education tailored to your children; and to direct the funds allocated for your child to that choice.
James E. Hosley
Director, Center for Education Excellence
Caesar Rodney Institute