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Want School Choice? Public Education Has It, Says New Report

“Although the current dialogue about school choice is generally focused on charter schools, vouchers, and the overall diversion of taxpayer monies to private entities, it misses a fundamental reality: Most public school districts already offer a wide range of choices to their students.” This message is at the core of a new report from the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education titled Busting the Myth of “One Size Fits All” Public Education.

At an event unveiling the report earlier this month, panelists discussed the wide variety of alternative options offered in public education. Thomas Gentzel, executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association, noted that the system has evolved over many years from one that offers limited options into one that molds to students’ diverse needs – providing a greater degree of choice, in fact, than many private schools.

Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education, provided a summary of the new report, which uses data from the federal Schools and Staffing Survey to examine the scope of choices available both across different school buildings and within school programs. Many public districts offer magnet or charter schools, for example, or permit families to select a school outside their neighborhood. Within-school options range from gifted and talented programs to dual credit courses, internships, career and technical education, distance learning, and much more.

The research uncovered findings such as these:

Some two thirds of students in public schools have the option of changing school buildings within their districts or neighboring districts.
Public schools offer a significant variety of choices and strategies to address individual students’ needs/interests.
Public schools are more likely than private schools to offer before- and afterschool care, enrichment programming, and other extracurricular activities.
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