Arizona is known for implementing unique and innovative solutions to the challenges it’s citizens face. When it comes to education, this is no different. 25 years ago, lawmakers and community leaders made charter schools a reality for Arizona families. Since that time, charter schools– accompanied by an array of additional school choice opportunities–have enabled Arizona families to find and access the educational setting that best meets their children’s needs.
Educational freedom permeates Arizona’s K-12 education. Within public schools, families can use open enrollment, select a charter school or enroll in an online school. Families can homeschool their children or access private education through tax credit scholarships or completely tailor their education through the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. Although there is more to be done, the current state of school choice in Arizona is worth celebrating.
An important, though often forgotten, school choice measure in Arizona is open enrollment. That means children have the opportunity to attend the district school of their choice, if for some reason the school they are assigned to is not a good fit. A recent report showed that over 47% of public school students utilize school choice, either by attending a charter school or using open enrollment. Remarkably, open enrollment does not exist in every state across the country. Families shouldn’t be confined to attend a school just because of their zip code – our kids deserve options, and they should be able to get in, where they fit in. Thankfully, in Arizona, we have open enrollment, and families utilize this school choice option in record numbers across the state – because where your child should attend school is a decision that should not be made for you – it should be made BY you!
Let’s talk more about the incredible history and success of Arizona Charter Schools. Arizona boasts over 550 public charter schools, with over 200,000 students – that’s 18% of public school enrollment for those of you keeping count. For four consecutive years – public charter school students of every race and ethnicity have also outperformed the state average on overall AzMerit pass rates in both English Language Arts, and Mathematics. According to U.S. News & World Reports, some of the best public high schools in the nation are Arizona charter schools.
Nationwide, there are now approximately 7,000 public charter schools educating over 3 million students. Why the substantial growth of charter schools not only in Arizona, but across the US? Because families want choice – they want options for their kids. This kind of growth among charters is evidence that many charters are giving families the options that they want. For some families, that means a rigorous college-preparatory academy. Or a specialty school with an emphasis on STEM, the performing arts or other unique focus areas. We ALL know that kids have diverse skills, abilities, and interests – giving families more opportunities to choose from is a common sense approach to caring for our kids well.
That’s pretty incredible – but more incredible than the statistics, are the stories. Take Vanessa’s story. When Vanessa from Glendale realized that she may not graduate as planned after her son was born, Ombudsman Charter Metro became her lifeline. She enrolled in 2016 and earned her diploma the following year. Vanessa says she was able to finish her coursework and graduate because of the welcoming environment, the school’s flexible schedule and its personalized approach to her education.
Or check out Crystal, she chose to enroll in Sequoia Choice Arizona Distance Learning at Crossroads Academy in Tonopah. Taking advantage of their concurrent enrollment and college classes, she graduated from Estrella Mountain Community College with two Associate Degrees! …….Then she graduated from high school the next day.
These incredible opportunities for Arizona students are made possible because of our healthy school choice environment. Without the public school options of district open – enrollment and charter schools, many Arizona families wouldn’t have the opportunities to meet the unique needs of their children. Thankfully, Arizona continues to be a leader in school choice – and we think that’s something to celebrate!