Context Florida
“William Mattox: Legislature should empower parents to enroll child in school that best fits”
March 26, 2015
By William MattoxWhile attending a college information program with my high school son recently, I heard an admissions officer say something that every Florida legislator ought to hear. “The three most important letters in the college selection process aren’t S-A-T or A-C-T,” the admissions officer observed. “The three most important letters are F-I-T.”The admission officer’s point – that students do best when they are in a learning environment that fits them – doesn’t just apply to college students. It also applies to K-12 students. And it helps to explain why the Florida Legislature needs to continue to expand education choice programs in our state.Students aren’t all the same. They have different needs, interests, abilities, and learning styles. Some do well in a highly disciplined environment. Others thrive in settings that prize creativity. And while kids need to learn to be adaptable, one-size-fits-all schooling doesn’t serve the interests of most students – or the interests of most teachers, for that matter.Indeed, it’s both unrealistic and unfair to expect any teacher or school to be a good fit for every single child that might be zoned for that particular school. This is one of the reasons why we need to expand education choice programs in our state – and why Floridians should be particularly interested in a new “public school choice” bill introduced by state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and state Rep. Chris Sprowls. This bill would give parents the opportunity to enroll their child in any public school that has space available – even if that school is outside their current district.“We want every student to have the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential,” bill supporter Sara Clements of the Foundation for Florida’s Future told a Senate panel recently. Clements listed a number of students who would stand to benefit from public school choice, including students seeking a specialty program (performing arts, technology, etc.) at a particular school, students looking to escape a bullying situation, students seeking more career and workforce options, and students who want a more demanding course load than is available at their local district school.In addition to helping students by providing “open enrollment,” the Benacquisto-Sprowls Bill also seeks to help parents and taxpayers by offering them greater information about how their local school district spends education dollars. Transparency is a feature of good governing. And information about K-12 per-pupil spending is apt to become increasingly important in years to come as more and more parents gain access to personal learning accounts similar to those currently available to special needs students.(Personal learning accounts allow parents to control education spending for their child. Rather than having a distant bureaucrat decide how per-pupil funds are spent, personal learning accounts allow parents to “customize” their own child’s education by selecting educational resources from a variety of different providers. As such, personal learning accounts are the logical extension of the kind of reasoning behind the new public school choice bill.)In conclusion, no one knows a child like a parent does. And if the three most important letters in a student’s schooling decision are indeed F-I-T, then we need to make certain that parents have the opportunity to choose the best learning fit to meet their child’s unique needs, interests, abilities, and learning style.William Mattox is the director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at the James Madison Institute. His four children have all attended public schools. Column courtesy of Context Florida.Article: