School choice in Indiana is often discussed in terms of policies that provide students with educational options, but we overlook the fact that teachers are also given options in their career choices as part of the school choice platform.
The fact is every educational setting is a choice. In creating a profession for the 21st century, teachers across the country have begun to take advantage of environments such as charter schools and virtual schools like never before. This is what school choice in action is all about.
The growth as a result of new and evolving educational settings has meant positive advancement in the profession. Once limited to rigid traditional school terms and schedules, teachers are employed in traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and online schools. Educators in turn have choices themselves when deciding when, where and how to teach with school choice options in play.
In taking advantage of these options for teachers, the entire profession grows as a result.
A tremendous amount of attention has been paid to recruiting, training and retaining highly effective teachers. Studies show that effective teachers are the single most important variable in educating children. However, a system without flexibility and choice means that an effective educator who cannot adhere to the schedule of traditional public school due to family obligations or other personal obligations will likely leave the profession. Todays options now provide flexibility so that we can keep effective teachers educating students in new and engaging settings.
The modern-day revolution is the reform of our education system. As evidenced by last years legislative session, parents are more engaged in selecting a school for their child and are demanding schools that best fit their familys needs. Likewise, teachers need options and are looking to school settings outside of traditional public schools to advance their careers.
In fact, its a falsely perpetuated myth that teachers are against school choice policies. According to the membership survey by the largest national nonunion organization for teachers, the Association of American Educators, and taken by Indiana members, teachers across the country are indeed warming to policies that advance parental and student choice.
Specifically, 78 percent of survey respondents agree with a law in Oklahoma that provides a tax credit to individuals and corporations that donate to organizations providing Opportunity Scholarships to students in failing schools. And 61 percent of those surveyed agree with an Arizona law providing tax credit scholarships to special education students in traditional public schools, allowing them to attend the public or private school of their choice.
The future of education is choice and technological advancement, and as primary actors in our system, teachers are rising to the occasion.
Take for instance JuDonne Hemingway, a charter school teacher in Indianapolis. Hemingway, an educator, mother and Teach For America alumna, selected her charter school not only to meet her needs as an individual but to advance her professional goals. Her school allows her a small, collaborative environment free from many of the regulations of a traditional school. While she feels at home, she is also thrilled to be able to have a unique effect in her community. As the system evolves, flexibility and options such as public charter schools are attracting and retaining some of our nations best educators.
As we recognize National School Choice Week this week, its important to remember that school choice should not be seen as a threat to teachers or our old system, rather an uprising that promises unlimited potential for the profession. Teachers should not be the ones to stifle advances in education but rather embrace those policies that will ultimately bring opportunity like never before.