School Choice Week is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the diversity of educational options that are available to families and students. Minnesota has long standing policies that encourages and fosters educational choice. There are policies that facilitate Home-Schooling, Non-Public Schools and Public School Choices.
Home-Schooling has grown from 2,300 students in 1988 to almost 19,000 in 2016 in part because of the state’s approach to oversight of home-schooling. While Non-Public School enrollment continues to decline from a high of 174,000 in 1964 to just over 66,000 in 2016, Minnesota does provide Textbook, Testing, Health Services, Guidance & Counseling and Transportation Aid. And then, there is Shared Time Programs between non-public and public schools.
In the Public School realm there is Open-Enrollment, PSEO, Concurrent Enrollment, Chartered Schools, Alternative Learning Centers, voluntary Pre-K programs, and schools with specialized curriculum.
While there is almost universal belief in the concept of educational choice based on the fact that every student has different needs and interests, the disagreements among folks about school choice come down to three fundamental issues or questions.
- What should be the parameters of the choices?
- Who should have the choices?
- Who should pay for the choices?
These fundamental questions are the core of the debate with every new school choice proposal. Today, there are legislative proposals to expand and/or State Education Tax Credit/ Subtraction, create a tax credit for non-public school scholarships, promote and eliminate some restrictions on PSEO, to just name a few. How these proposals will fair only time will tell.
School Choice Week is a time to remember that school choice is very much a part of our Minnesota history and reality.