Lawmakers should trust parents
Earlier this month, the new members of Michigan's 98th legislature took their oaths of office and began work crafting the laws and policies that will guide the state in 2015 and beyond.
In the coming two years they'll tackle everything from road funding to public safety and health policy. But few issues will have as lasting an impact on our future as their decisions about Michigan's schools.
This week, as we observe National School Choice Week, families have one simple request of their new lawmakers—trust parents.
Every family is different, with unique circumstances, challenges, and opportunities. They learn differently, engage differently, and experience different health and family circumstances.
Nobody understands that better than the parents of the more than 140,000 Michigan students who last year attended one of the state's nearly 300 charter public schools, including hundreds like mine who attend cyber charter public schools.
These parents and families have made the decision that pursuing a charter public school option was best for their kids. And who knows better what children need than their moms and dads?
That's why equipping parents with public school options, whether it's traditional public schools, charter public schools, dual enrollment, or online learning opportunities, makes so much sense.
Every child's story is different.
Whether it's the family in DeWitt who found cyber charter public schools while traveling the country seeking treatment as their son battled cancer, the mom in Sterling Heights whose seventh grade daughter was bullied at their neighborhood public school to the point that she developed severe depression, or the parents in Roseville whose daughter was simply left behind in her traditional classroom and needed one-on-one, personal attention to catch up, parents know their children's needs in ways that education bureaucrats at the state capitol never could.
Lansing's 2014 was tough on parents like these, who only want the best for their children.
While Gov. Rick Snyder and a majority of lawmakers fought hard to protect the rights of families and the educational opportunities of kids, others showed far less trust in parents.
There were bills to eliminate public school options, attacks by the state's Department of Education, and campaign rhetoric aimed at eliminating parental choice entirely—all despite study after study showing public charter schools delivering better results than their traditional public school counterparts, especially in cities like Detroit.
Thankfully, the vast majority of these attacks were beaten back by parents, policymakers, and voters themselves, who understand how critically important parental choice is to our children's lives.
Now we've turned the page on a new year, a new legislative term, and new opportunities. Empowering parents with public school choice remains among the most meaningful things any state policymaker can do to improve the lives of our kids.
Trusting parents means families dealing with serious, unexpected health issues have online options to keep their children in school and on track to graduate.
Public school options mean equipping parents with the tools to rescue their children from chronic, dangerous, and sometimes even life threatening bullying. Options also give parents recourse when local school administrations turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to their children's health or safety challenges.
Choices mean tailored learning environments for students with special needs. Most of all, choices mean a brighter future for more than 140,000 Michigan kids and counting.
David Hayataka is chairperson of the Michigan chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org