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Editorial | Island Voices

School choice means the best school for your child

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For centuries, Hawaii has served as a melting pot for an array of diverse ethnicities and cultures from across the Pacific and the world. That statement remains true today, thanks in part to school choice. This National School Choice Week, we can celebrate how school choice preserves our cultural heritage, while providing the best quality education for our keiki.

School choice takes many different forms, all of which work to provide additional quality education options for parents. School choice includes public charter schools, taxpayer-funded academies designed for more flexibility and accountability than traditional public schools. School choice encompasses open enrollment programs, which allow parents to sign their children up at schools outside their neighborhood districts. And school choice also includes independent school and home schooling options.

On all these fronts, Hawaii has a thriving school choice movement, which better enables parents to find learning environments that best suit their children’s unique needs. Statistics from the federal Department of Education indicate that Hawaii has strong enrollment in independent education, with nearly 1 in 6 children attending a private school — a higher percentage than the nation as a whole. The islands also have a valuable homeschooling movement, which allows parents to imbue their culture and values to their keiki.

In addition, Hawaii has built a robust movement of charter schools, which allow parents and community members to take a greater role in the development and management of the school. As a part of that involvement, teachers can customize the school’s curriculum to pass along important cultural lessons to the next generation.

For instance, Kualapu‘u Public Conversion Charter School created a bilingual curriculum for elementary school students in English and Hawaiian. This distinct learning pathway, among the first of its kind, came about because school choice empowers parents as active partners in their children’s education, and empowers teachers and administrators with greater flexibility to create and modify a curriculum to meet student needs.

While traditional Hawaii public schools provide some incredible learning opportunities for kids, we recognize the importance of having flexibility and diversity across our educational landscape. Just as with snowflakes or sunsets, no two children are alike, or learn at the same pace. School choice recognizes that fact, and works to provide the best education possible for each distinct child. By giving parents the ability to select the school that meets their child’s needs, school choice also increases accountability.

In Hawaii, this diversity of school options includes learning programs that focus on practices such as project-based learning, arts integration, online/in-person blended learning, voyaging principles and language immersion, to name just a few.

Just as important, school choice allows for a greater flexibility and understanding of our host culture and the varied ethnicities that make Hawaii unique. Many locally run schools provide an opportunity to integrate this cultural heritage into the curriculum that educates our next generation.

This week, parents, teachers and students from across the islands and across the country are gathering at more than 30,000 events to celebrate National School Choice Week; some 80 will be in Hawaii. These events will witness the boundless enthusiasm that only children excited by learning, who love their schools and teachers, can display.

Here in Hawaii, we can celebrate the unique array of options — traditional public schools, charter schools, independent schools and home schooling — that encompass school choice. All these options empower parents, and improve the quality of education that our keiki can receive. Thanks to school choice, the next generation of keiki faces a bright future indeed.

David Miyashiro is executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN and Jeannine Souki is executive director of Hawaii Public Charter Schools Network.​

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