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Mon, June 17

School choice is great, but money is needed

National School Choice Week, which was Jan. 26-Feb. 1, highlighted something that is already a fundamental part of education.

For many schoolchildren, choice represents a great opportunity - maybe even the best one - for a high-quality education that meets their needs. Yet, it is not a new concept and few phrases in public education create as much simultaneous hope and angst as "school choice."

School choice for many parents is the act of choosing an educational home within the district boundaries they want their child to attend. That's not the only option; it extends to parents having the choice between different traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

One of the problems, however, is under Arizona funding formulas districts and charters receive money after the fact. Meaning, on Day 100 of the school year - the student count date the state uses for financing - the schools have already been providing all students with an education. Further, when a student transfers, the money the school he or she next attends does not receive money for that child until the next year.

We believe every child deserves a high-quality education. We also believe school choice presents a valuable opportunity for many students in search of a better educational fit.

To make that work correctly, the state needs to get back to the sudden-growth funding of years ago. With that program, a school that suddenly realized it had an additional 200 or more students as the school year began receive additional money to provide for those kids.

Otherwise, we're just cramming another student into a room when a "choice" is made.

National School Choice Week shined a positive spotlight on effective education options for children. What it forgets is how to pay for those options and opportunities.

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