School Choice Offers Opportunity for the Teaching Profession

Gary Beckner

1/12/2011 12:01:00 AM - Gary Beckner

2011 is gearing up to be the year for education reform in America. With the education debate making headlines daily, it’s clear that we will be seeing major changes in the year to come. School choice, the call for an education system that allows parents to choose the learning environment that is best suited for their child, has become the cornerstone of the education reform movement in the modern era.

Often times, policymakers and education reformers are making the decisions that directly affect teachers in the classroom without proper input from those on the front lines who are implementing new policies. At the Association of American Educators, the largest national non-union teachers association, we recognize that teachers are uniquely positioned to add to this debate in a positive way. That’s why AAE, along with its members across the country, are joining hands with the other professional associations and groups of teachers, parents, and students in supporting school choice during National School Choice Week, January 23-29.

We all know that students learn differently, so a one-size-fits-all learning environment is mostly counterproductive. Parents must have the choice of where and how to educate their individual child. To that end, educators must recognize the possibilities for advancement and positive growth in the profession through school choice.

As technology changes and evolves, the world of education and teaching will undoubtedly change. Teachers across the country must stay ahead of the curve.

Although some teachers and the unions see school choice as foreboding for the public school outlook, school choice encompasses empowerment for the parent to choose an environment that employs teachers in all arenas. A new era has been ushered in for education. Once limited to rigid traditional school terms and schedules, teachers are employed in traditional public schools, charters, private schools, religious schools, and online schools just to name a few. Educators will in turn have choices themselves when deciding when, where and how to teach kids.

This should not be seen as a threat to teachers, rather an uprising that promises unlimited potential for the profession. The future of education is choice and technological advancement, and as primary stakeholders in the conversation, we must rise to the occasion.

A committed educator who cannot adhere to the strict schedule of traditional public school should not have to leave the profession. As the system evolves, we continually hear success stories of teachers setting their own schedules through online schools and non-traditional charter schools.

In Florida, for example, the Florida Virtual School served over 97,000 students in the 2009-2010 school year and is growing by leaps and bounds each year. In 2009, the FLVS hired more than 300 new full-time teachers and currently has a 1200 member faculty who reside in Florida and beyond. This could be the new norm of modern-day teaching with school choice in play.

Educators are uniquely positioned to join the conversation and make sure our voices are heard in this debate. By joining this network of organizations and individuals, we can directly affect policy that will have a profound impact on improving and modernizing education. We urge all parents, students, and teachers to express their support for school choice. Working together, we can change what has become an ineffective system.

It is my hope that through AAE’s endorsement of school choice, we can educate and inspire other teachers across the country to make their opinions known. Teachers should not be the ones to stifle advances in education, rather embrace those policies that will ultimately bring opportunity and flexibility to educators.

2011 will be the year for education reform. Let us unite in calling for a system that spells success for students and potential for educators.