President of National School Choice Week on need for education options

Parents should be allowed to find the school that best fits their child’s needs. That’s the message Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, wants Americans to hear. NSCW started on Sunday and concludes Saturday. Organizers estimate that 6.7 million people will participate in one of more than 32,000 nationwide events, including 125 events in Southern Nevada.

“Every child is different,” said Campanella while filming Nevada Politics Today. “Children learn differently. When we can pair kids up with schools that best meet their needs, they’re more inspired, challenged, motivated and happy. They’ll go on to more successful and productive lives. That’s really the goal of education.”

Campanella says school choice is more than just shorthand for Education Savings Accounts or vouchers. NSCW celebrates every educational option, including those offered by traditional public schools.

“More and more school districts and traditional public schools across the country are looking at the term and idea of school choice and going, ‘Okay, this is something we can compete in. We are strong and confident in terms of what we’re offering families. We want to use this week to let families know all of the great options within the district system,’ ” said Campanella.

Campanella praised Arizona and Florida for implementing some of the most far-reaching school choice programs in the country. He also mentioned Iowa’s efforts to provide school choice for rural communities.

“When you have all schools working together to try to serve every student — meaning traditional district schools, charters, magnets, private schools, online academies and homeschooling groups — you have a situation where all schools do get better,” said Campanella. “With the existing school choice reality in America today, school-district schools are a valid choice for many families.

“We need to make sure that we don’t put all of our effort into just one type of school, though, as a country. Even if a school gets the best ratings on standardized tests, it still might not be a great option for every student. You always need choice.”

School choice continues to draw strong opposition. Last year, American Federation of Teacher president Randi Weingarten said private school options, such as vouchers, were a “slightly more polite cousin of segregation.” Campanella, who said he visited education leaders in 25 states last year, strongly objected.

“I think that some of these messages that you’re hearing from folks, who for whatever reason — and I never question people’s motives — oppose school choice are simply wrong and are designed to divide people,” said Campanella. “We need less division in this country and more unity. One thing we are seeing this week is people coming together united, regardless of their ideology, for school choice, which serves an incredibly diverse array of students across this country.”

Campanella did decline to perform his rendition of the National School Choice Week dance.