Author Archive | Wendy Howard

Time for parents to join forces for school choice

joining forcesWhile working on our upcoming National School Choice Week event that will showcase the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision I noticed some similar behaviors between those who opposed desegregation in that landmark case and the behaviors of those who oppose school choice today.

Anger, hatred, name calling. Shall I go on? People can be very cruel when they feel threatened or disagree.

Growing up in Iowa, I was never subjected to racism or real hatred. There were nice people and there were mean people. Color was never a factor in determining who my friends were. At times, best friends would wind up duking it out at the bus stop and then be best friends again the next day. (Yes, I was one of those who did that.)

Our parents taught us that if you didn’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. If you do something, do your very best or don’t bother doing it all. Most importantly, always – always – do the right thing.

Many things have changed since I grew up in Iowa, but some things haven’t. Parents still value education. Parents still know what’s best for their children.

Over the years, my daughter Jessica has accessed several schooling options. She is currently in a charter school. But back in 2009, when she was seven years old, she began a petition to remove the requirement that students be enrolled in public school for at least one year before they can enroll in a district virtual education program. Many who opposed what Jessica was doing attacked me. They even attacked her! That was my first taste of what the real world was like when dealing with what I later realized was very controversial.

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I’m conservative, I’m for school choice and I back Common Core

Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Editor’s note: Wendy Howard is executive director of Florida Alliance for Choices in Education, a group that includes a wide range of school choice organizations, including Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog. A shorter version of this post ran this week as a letter to the editor in the Tampa Bay Times. Given Wendy’s conservative political bent, her staunch support for school choice and the concerns about Common Core, we thought it worthwhile to share a fuller version.

With attacks on the Common Core State Standards for education coming from both sides of the aisle, what are parents to think?

I’ve heard Common Core is Obama’s agenda to indoctrinate our children. I’ve heard it’s an unconstitutional federal takeover. I’ve even heard it’s a scheme to perform experiments nationwide on our next generation. After doing some research, I learned none of those concerns hold water. The bickering continues, however, while our children suffer the consequences.

The fact is, our kids need higher standards for education. Let’s look at a couple of disconcerting facts from the perspective of a parent with two children attending a public charter school.

Forty percent of Florida’s class of 2013 who took the ACT college entrance exam were graded “not college ready” in any subject, which is higher than the national average of 31 percent. As a parent, this has huge financial implications. If my children are part of these statistics, I will have to pay for remedial classes in college, something I simply cannot afford. As a taxpayer, I expect my child’s diploma to mean she actually succeeded in high school and can move right into college courses. As a nation, millions of kids and their parents are impacted each year when that turns out not to be the case.

Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Here’s another troubling statistic: Thirty percent of high school graduates can’t pass the U.S. military entrance exam, which is only focused on basic reading and math skills. At what point does the lack of high standards become a national security issue? If the learning gap between the U.S. and other countries continues to rise, which country becomes the next super power? What does our country look like in 20, 40, 60 years? I guess that depends on whether we look at the achievement gap between the U.S. and other countries as a crisis – or another issue we kick down the road. Continue Reading →

Let’s talk about broader school choice

Editor’s note: Wendy Howard is executive director of the Florida Alliance for Choices in Education, which includes a broad range of school choice organizations. The views expressed here are her own and not that of FACE.

applesFour years after my daughter Jessica Howard began a petition drive to make it easier for students to access virtual education in Florida, she is still not eligible for the virtual provider of her choice. No wonder so many parents settle for learning options that may not necessarily be the best option. There is so much bureaucracy and public attack if a parent merely wants more choice.

As a parent advocate, I have met many parents who are desperate for just that.

One told me her child wrote a suicide note after severe bullying at her school, but fortunately everything turned out okay after they found another option. Another couldn’t transfer her child to a virtual school – despite severe allergies – because of the “seat time” restrictions that were in place at the time. Instead, she had to access a district’s “hospital homebound” program, which cost taxpayers an exorbitant amount of money.

In other cases, parents have children who are failing in the system, or are far ahead of the system, or are pursuing athletic or professional careers that require some reasonable flexibility with academic schedules. There are endless reasons why some families want to choose schools outside of their traditional zoned school, or prefer Option X to Option Y, or want to mix and match those options so their kids can thrive.

All of those parents and their stories have made me wonder: Why can’t we just let all parents decide? Why are we limiting their choices?

Why not all parents, all choices? Continue Reading →