No matter where you live in Michigan, or what your political views are, we can agree on the importance of recognizing the positive impact of school choice for Michigan’s students and families.

That’s why I’m proud to participate in events honoring “Michigan School Choice Week,” which has been proclaimed by Gov. Rick Snyder as Jan. 25-31.

Today, more than 250,000 Michigan students are exercising choice in their education, be it charter public schools or schools of choice within traditional public schools. This is nearly 1 of every 5 students in the state. While we’ve come a long way in giving parents choice, there is still more work to be done. In every other aspect of our lives we have multiple options from which to choose. So when it comes to the most important aspect of a child’s life, education, shouldn’t we support a parent’s freedom to choose the options that best meet their unique and specific needs?

School choice allows students to pursue their passions while getting an education. Michigan has schools that focus on fine arts, music, science, technology, engineering, math, aeronautics, environment, foreign language immersion and other specialty areas. The ability to provide truly innovative education options is a positive result of allowing school choice in all areas of the state.

Choice doesn’t detract from traditional public education. Rather, choice enhances and elevates public education and works to raise the bar for all schools. America is supposed to be a place where it doesn’t matter where you came from, but where you are going. But can one really claim that mantle when we can look at a child’s zip code and determine whether or not he or she is going to get a good education? Expanding and promoting school choice will help to level the playing field for all children to receive what is owed them, and that is a quality education — regardless of zip code, district boundaries, socioeconomic status or race.

It’s important to recognize that choice alone isn’t the full answer. We also support increased quality and accountability when it comes to education. All 1.5 million public school students in the state deserve a quality education that prepares them for college, careers and life. That’s why we support efforts to improve early literacy, putting more students on the path to success. We also must maintain high and rigorous standards in every school, and every school must be accountable to parents and taxpayers. That’s why we support providing parents with meaningful information on school performance, so they can be informed consumers of the myriad educational options available to them.

The focus should never be about adult convenience, but on how to provide each and every child the best chance to excel in life. If we stop focusing on adult institutions and start trusting parents to make the right choices for their children, everyone will win.

State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, serves on the House education committee and represents the 9th District.

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