National School Choice Week Comes To Topeka

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- National School Choice Week kicked off Monday. Advocates gathered in Topeka for the whistle-stop tour, the nation's largest event on education reform.

The tour will make 14 stops across the country as part of a nationwide event to raise awareness about letting parents decide how and where their children are educated.

"Parents should have a robust number of options of where to send their kids to school," said Andrew Campanella, National School Choice Week president. "Everything from great public schools, to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning and home schooling."

While in Topeka, Campanella and other education reform advocates spoke about how educational options need to be advanced. Some may think that letting parents choose where to send their children to be educated would lead to overcrowded classrooms at the best schools, but Campanella says it forces all schools to raise the bar.

"When you have a line around the block for one school and parents want to send their kids there, a school that the kids are coming from, they're going to be forced to improve more quickly because they want to keep kids in that school," said Campanella.

However, the idea of school choice extends beyond typical public education. For some parents, online learning is the best option.

"Education in general, the demands are higher and higher and teachers are stretched thinner and thinner and the kids suffer when we're like that," said Melinda Bingham, a parent who chose virtual learning for her children. "And so Lawrence Virtual School has given me the best experience."

Another option includes filling up empty seats in private schools by implementing programs to increase access for those that cannot afford it on their own.

"Florida, for instance, has a tax credit program that allows corporations to help students with tuition to go to private schools, and in return for that they get a tax credit from the state," said Campanella.

Other options include stronger charter school laws and more homeschooling support.

The tour will continue journeying across the country until it reaches New York Saturday.