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Let RI students attend the school of their choice

Let RI students attend the school of their choice

(Aol.com – March 30, 2024) –

In Rhode Island, we’ve spent decades trying to produce big education gains the old-fashioned way − by spending more money. It hasn’t worked. Our children need us to try something different. And they need us to do it now.

Rhode Island taxpayers spend about $18,000 per pupil to educate our children in public schools, but only a third of students are proficient in English Language Arts, and less than a third are proficient in math, according to state assessment tests. For $18,000 per student, we should be able to do better.

The truth is that we can do better, without spending more money. The key is to stop making students go to the school they happen to live near and start matching them with the education that fits their own personal needs.

More: More Providence teachers are being displaced this year. Here’s why.

Though Rhode Island ranks near the top nationally in per-pupil spending, we rank 49th in educational freedom. The lack of options is hurting our students.

Nationwide, parents have demanded new educational opportunities, and state governments have listened. In 2019, before the pandemic, only about 500,000 U.S. students were eligible for any form of school choice. By the end of last year, about 20 million students − 36% of all students nationwide − were eligible for a choice program.

Last year alone, 18 states established or expanded a school choice program.

The rest of the country is realizing the need to let students find the educational environment that suits them best. Refusing to give more children access to educational alternatives that best fit their individual needs, Rhode Island is slipping behind.

No child should fail because of a legislator’s bad policy decisions. For students who are already behind their peers, the state’s refusal to offer better options is a tragedy.

These children can’t wait for change. The longer lawmakers delay the inevitable switch to a more customized educational system, the further these students will fall behind their tens of millions of peers in states who can choose their own educational future.

Keeping kids trapped in schools that don’t work for them is bad politics as well as bad policy. Latinos want better educational options and were a rapidly growing part of the electorate. The Latino population of Rhode Island has grown by nearly 40% in the last decade. Latinos now make up almost 17% of the state’s population. And many of us see that the public school options we’ve been given aren’t working for our kids. On a national level, Latinos are the most ardent supporters of increasing educational options.  A poll published by the LIBRE Institute reports that 77% of Latinos support school choice.

Rhode Island families deserve to have ownership over their children’s education. For families whose students are struggling, the need is urgent. Every wasted year is a wasted opportunity for children who are desperate to find an educational environment to thrive. We must act quickly and pass S2340. These families need Educational Freedom Accounts that allow them the means to define their success.

It’s time to eliminate the one-size-fits-all approach that is failing our students and give families what they deserve. Rhode Island can be a transformative partner in the greater movement in achieving a vibrant educational ecosystem fueled by enabling policies and programs that give families real choices to define their child’s success. The time to pass S2340 is now.

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