School Choice Week

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 #SCW is Here! How are you celebrating?


Idaho Celebrates School Choice Week 

Boise, Idaho – Schools, parents and students around the country are preparing to celebrate National School Choice Week, Jan. 26 – Feb. 1, 2014. The week celebrates the many different paths available to students that lead to a solid education.

“School choice is no longer limited to private and public schools,” said Terry Ryan, Idaho Charter School Network president. “Idaho has charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools and homeschooling with high numbers of students enrolled and quality education tied to each. Parents need to know the options available to our children.”

According to the U.S. Census:

  • 324,601 students enrolled in some form of K-12 education in Idaho.
  • 287,247 of these students are enrolled in public schools
  • 19,534 of these students attend state public charter schools
  • 37,354 students are part of private or home schools

Thanks to new and varied choices, students and their families can identify models that work best with their learning styles and educational needs.

The Governor and members of The Idaho Legislature will be presented with the signature School Choice Week yellow scarves by Idaho school choice student representatives.

“During the Week, Americans from all backgrounds and ideologies will celebrate school choice where it exists and demand it where it does not,” said Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week. “National School Choice Week will be the nation’s largest-ever series of education-related events, which is testament to the incredible levels of support that exist for educational opportunity in America.”

National School Choice Week is nonpartisan and nonpolitical.  It began in 2011 as an independent, grassroots effort. More than 5,500 school choice events will happen around the country during the week with the mission of raising awareness and support for school choice.

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The Idaho Charter School Network is committed to improving student achievement and expanding choice among high quality public schools by advancing and supporting Idaho’s charter schools. The network supports efforts to improve the overall charter school movement both in Idaho and across the nation.




School Choice Definitions

School choice means empowering parents with the freedom to choose the best educational environments for their children – from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling. The following are definitions of school choice policies and programs that are frequently
discussed during National School Choice Week. Remember: each state and locality has different policies.

Public School Open Enrollment

Open enrollment policies provide increased education options within traditional public schooling. Open enrollment allows parents to select the best public schools for their children, regardless of where those schools are located. Depending on the state or local open enrollment policy, this means that parents can choose any public school within
a district (intra-district school choice) or, in some cases, outside of their home district (inter-district school choice).

Public Charter Schools

Charter schools are independent public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative, while being held strictly accountable for improving student achievement. Charter schools are always public schools and are always tuition-free. These schools are created (chartered) in different ways, depending on state law. Some are opened
by school districts, while other states allow mayors, universities, and nonprofit groups to create charter schools. These schools are open to all children – students are selected at random.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are public schools that are operated by school districts or groups of school districts. Magnet schools are tuition-free and have a focused theme and aligned curriculum such as Science, Technology,
Engineering and Math (STEM), Fine and Performing Arts, or International Baccalaureate.

Private School Choice

Private school choice programs empower parents to use state-funded opportunity scholarships, refundable tax credits, or corporate funded scholarships to send their children to qualifying private schools. These 10 programs are created by individual states. Some private school choice policies are relatively universal (allowing all children to participate), while others are targeted to assist low- and middle-income families, children who would otherwise attend failing public schools, or children with special learning needs. Most of these programs have rigorous
accountability guidelines to ensure that schools meet standards for safety, fiscal soundness, and non-discrimination, while also requiring academic reporting for participating students. Private school choice programs can take several different forms, including: Opportunity scholarship programs, also called school voucher programs, which allow parents to use all or part of the tax funding set aside for their children’s education to send their children to
private schools. Tax credit scholarship programs, which allow individuals or corporations to receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donating to qualifying nonprofit scholarship organizations that offer private
school tuition assistance. Personal tax credits and deductions, which allow parents who send their children to private school to receive a state income tax credit, or a deduction, for private school tuition as well as books, supplies, computers, tutors or transportation.

Virtual Schools and Online Learning

Virtual schools are Internet-based academies that teach students entirely or primarily through a rigorous online curriculum. These schools can be state-operated, district-run public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, or privately operated schools. In some cases, online learning is combined with traditional, in-classroom education, called “blended learning.” Publicly-operated virtual schools hold children to the same academic standards and requirements as traditional public schools.


Homeschooling is the process of parents educating children in the home. This method of education is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, with many homeschooling families participating in local or regional homeschooling groups to augment in-home learning. All states permit homeschooling, and many states require standardized test scores, curriculum approval, and professional evaluation of students.



How to Get Involved

1. Attend an event.

School Choice Week events are happening all around Idaho this week. Check out the calendar list on the right for a full list of events.

2. Share a photo of what School Choice means to you.

Make sure to include the #SCW tag! See our School Choice Week photos on our Facebook page.

3. Write a letter to the editor.

See our templates below for samples and guides.

4. Contact your legislator.

Find out who your legislators are here.




How to Submit a Letter to the Editor

Attached below are template letters to the editor that addresses School Choice Week.

Please select the letter that is best suited to you, read through the draft and revise it in any way you would like.  There are clearly marked areas that will require more input from you—personal anecdotes, title, etc. Letters should be no more than 200 words.

When you are comfortable with the letter, please email it to the editors of your local newspapers.

 Parent Letter to the Editor

A Week to Celebrate Choice in Education

As a parent, the educational choices I make for my kids are important ones.  There are many different paths to a good education, but it is essential to choose one that is right for your child—one where they can grow and learn in an environment that enhances their skills and talents.

I’m thankful to be raising my children in a time when there are more choices than ever before.  Idaho has several different education options—private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, homeschooling and traditional schools are available around the state.

My child attends name of school and enjoys it very much. Each day I hear wonderful things about the teacher, activities, classmates and lessons.

I encourage all of my fellow Idahoans to learn about the excellent educational options available in our community.


 Education Leader Letter to the Editor

All around the country including right here in Idaho, people are celebrating National School Choice Week. Students, parents and educators from private, traditional, charter, magnet, virtual and homeschools are trying to inform communities about the great things that happen in their schools all year long.

At name of school we are thrilled to promote a positive learning environment for students. There are many paths to a good education and we are thrilled to have those students who feel our school is a good match for them.

The last week of January is School Choice Week.  It’s an opportunity for all taxpayers, parents and community members to learn a little more about the choices we have available and why choice is so valuable.  I congratulate my fellow Idaho choice schools and look forward to celebrating with you.

Name, Title

 Teacher Letter to the Editor

Many Paths for the Educational Journey

Idaho should be excited about the opportunities children have today. While we have a lot of work to do in the area of education in our state, there are many different avenues to get us there.

It is so important to make sure children are in the right environment for them.  As a teacher, I know not every child learns in the same way. Some need more one-on-one attention, while others work fast and need perpetual stimulation. It is up to parents to discover what will best suit their child.

In name of community we have charter schools—like name of school—as well as private, magnet, homeschool and traditional schools.

National School Choice Week is a time for all of us to celebrate the high quality educational choices we have in our community.  I hope you will learn more about the different options Idaho children have to learn.

Name, Teacher



School Choice Is Growing in Relevance

By Terry Ryan

January 27, 2014

School Choice has become a given for an increasing number of Idaho families and children. This is a good thing. It means families in the Gem State have the freedom to choose the best educational environments and options for their children. Idahoans value individual freedoms, including the freedom to choose a school for their children. Parents who make a proactive decision around their kids’ schooling have more skin in the game than those who don’t understand they have options and simply take what they get.

In a little more than two decades school choice has evolved from being primarily between two options – traditional public school or private school – to many options. Family choices today encompass not only decisions by parents to live in a certain neighborhood because of the quality of the public schools, but private schools, public charter schools, home schooling, magnet schools, alternative schools and on-line learning through both virtual schools and hybrid models blending classroom and online instruction.

According to the US Census there are 437,478 children in Idaho between the ages of 5 and 18. Of these, 287,247 students are enrolled in a district school, while 19,534 students attend one of the state’s public charter schools. Another 35,768 are enrolled in private schools or are being homeschooled.

Further, school districts are expanding significantly the choices and opportunities they make available to their students and families. Meridian Joint School District #2, for example, offers schools designed around unique instructional approaches, areas of emphasis, student population, and/or school calendar. Meridian school choices include arts-based schools, literacy focused schools, STEM academies and a high school that provides the rigorous International Baccalaureate Program among other options. A number of public school districts offer open-enrollment opportunities for their students.

Even more, some school districts and charter schools are developing bundled education opportunities for their students. This means offering students an assortment of services and courses through on-line providers, or higher education institutions or career tech providers. Increasingly, not only are families and students able to choose the schools that work best for them, but are accessing individual courses and programs within and beyond the schools that work best for them. Customization of learning is a growing component of School Choice and offers significant opportunities to help all students maximize their educational potential. It also provides new pathways for increased numbers of students to leave high school ready for college or well-paying jobs.

But, for school choice to maximize student achievement it needs to be matched by smart accountability for performance. As Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev per nuclear arms reduction efforts, “Trust, but verify.” This maxim is as appropriate for education—and educators—as for arms control. Everyone does better work (and behaves better) when someone is looking over their shoulder. Another way of saying it is that every firm needs an independent auditor and everyone needs to know that praise and reward come with results and that embarrassment and intervention come with failure. Quality school choices benefit children and families, but underperformers hurt children and slow the development of better choices.

National School Choice Week celebrates the creation and advancement of school choice in Idaho and across America. It spotlights the excitement, and the importance of, quality education options and choices for children and families. This is a significant and evolving development in public education and done well will improve education for Idaho’s children.



Reader’s View, Education: Catholic Academics. Service Schools: Faith.

By Rich Raimondi and Bob Sobotta

February 1, 2013

As our state continues to discuss reforming the public education system, it is worth looking at a system that
is working today in educating and developing students prepared for college and a lifetime quest to achieve
excellence in learning, service and life. That system is our Catholic schools.

Our Catholic schools began in Boise in 1877 with St. Joseph’s School, followed in 1889 with St. Teresa’s
Academy. Over the years, St. Joseph’s has been joined by four additional Catholic elementary schools,
serving students in pre-K through 8th grade: Sacred Heart, St. Mary’s, St. Mark’s and St. Paul’s in Nampa.
In 1964, St. Teresa’s became Bishop Kelly High School.

Treasure Valley Catholic schools today enroll nearly 2,000 students in pre-K through 12th grade. Our
schools serve a diverse population with more than 25 percent of Catholic school families receiving some
form of need-based tuition assistance and more than 20 percent from other faiths.

As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week nationwide, the theme of “Faith. Academics. Service” highlights
the fact that Catholic schools are significant contributors to our American society with high academic
standards, high graduation and high college “go on” and completion rates.

Our mission in our Catholic schools is to “educate and develop the whole student in the Catholic tradition
— spirit, mind and body.” In the spirit, we focus on developing a relationship with Jesus Christ which
manifests itself through service; a knowledge of the teachings of the Catholic Church; an ability to evaluate
moral choices and issues based on a well-formed conscience; and, an appropriate respect for the beliefs
of others.
In the mind part of our mission, through small class sizes, personalized attention, and exceptional
teachers, we focus on developing a capacity for creativity, critical thinking, questioning, and reflective
problem solving; an ability to effectively communicate in both written and oral forms; a firm grasp of
technology; and, an appreciation for the power of positive self-expression through the arts and literature.

Finally, in the body portion of our mission, we help develop a recognition that one’s body is a gift from God;
the responsibility to treat one’s own body with modesty and respect; an ability to establish physical, social,
and emotional boundaries; a lifetime commitment to healthful nutrition and physical activity; and, a
dedication to physical balance, harmony, and self-control.

The results of this preparation and focus are that more than 98 percent of our high school graduates go on
to college. In addition, more than 80 percent of our 150 graduates of 2012 received merit-based
scholarships that totaled $14 million. Our average test scores put us in the top 10 percent of the country
and make up the top scores in Idaho. More than 70 percent of our students are involved in extracurricular
activities. And they have won numerous state and national championships. Finally, our students are
learning to be compassionate and involved citizens through service hours to deserving projects and
programs in our community.

Catholic schools are preparing students to be the future leaders in our communities, businesses and
professions. Catholic schools really are the choice you can believe in.