In the few short months that Smyrna Parent has been around, I’ve been able to meet several local moms who are doing some pretty great things for our community. One of the first women that I met was Kimberly Cochran who co-founded the Moms for School Choice non-profit to encourage freedom of choice and more education options for our children. Since we will be featuring several education-related posts on Smyrna Parent in February, I immediately knew that I wanted her to share a little bit about her organization.
Moms for School Choice was founded in 2012 by two Smyrna, Georgia moms. Searching for educational solutions to fit the unique learning styles for each of their four combined children, there was no one central place to turn to for information. After countless conversations and shared hours of research, the two friends and neighbors realized that other parents may benefit from the information they had learned… one size does NOT fit all.
School choice, put simply, is a movement to empower parents with the freedom to choose the education model that best fits their child’s needs: traditional public schools, magnet schools, public charter schools, homeschooling, online learning, blended learning, and private schools:
- Traditional public schools are tuition free, publicly funded schools governed by a local school board and managed by a school district. Traditional public schools may not set enrollment criteria other than attendance zones, with the exception of magnet schools.
- Magnet schools are tuition free, publicly funded schools governed by a local school board and managed by a school district. Magnet programs allow students to pursue their interests, develop their talents, and extend their opportunities beyond the scope of traditional public schools. Due to limited space, students are selected through a highly competitive and rigorous application and enrollment process.
- Public charter schools consist of two types:
- Dependent public charter schools are tuition free, publicly funded traditional schools that have been converted to charters approved by their local school districts. Dependent charter schools are granted greater flexibility to develop curriculum, but do not have the same flexibility to hire staff or spend financial resources as do independent public charter schools. Dependent public charter schools are managed by a school district and may not set enrollment criteria other than attendance zones.
- Independent public charter schools are tuition free. In exchange for greater performance accountability, independent public charter schools are granted greater flexibility to develop curriculum and manage operations. Charter petitions are created by community stakeholders including parents, educators, business and civic leaders and are approved by local and state authorizers. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed. Independent public charter schools may not set enrollment criteria other than attendance zones, but may limit the number of students that can attend. In the event that the number enrollment applications exceed the available classroom spaces, a random lottery will be conducted.
- Homeschooling is a fast growing educational option for families. In Georgia, parents must file a Declaration of Intent (DOI) with the State Department of Education. Parents have the flexibility to create and administer their own curriculum or they may employ a tutor. The school year must include the equivalent of 180 days of at least 4.5 hours of instruction in, but not limited to, reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. Beginning at the end of the third grade, students must be evaluated every three years using an appropriate nationally standardized testing program.
- Online learning allows students to attend school from home with certified teachers and a set curriculum, in a virtual classroom environment:
- Online public schools are tuition-free. The curriculum is provided free of charge and in many cases (but not all) a loaner computer, printer, and Internet access are also provided. Online education may be offered by the state department of education in partnership with local districts and schools or through an online charter school.
- Online private schools are similar to traditional private schools in that they have autonomy to provide a specialized curriculum targeting specific groups of students, including faith-based and/or college prep. Online private schools may charge tuition and can set enrollment criteria.
- Blended learning is an educational program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content while still attending a traditional “brick-and-mortar” school structure.
- Private schools are independently managed educational institutions. Private schools have autonomy to provide a specialized curriculum targeting specific groups of students, including faith-based and/or college prep. Online private schools may charge tuition and can set enrollment criteria.
Georgia passed House Bill 251 “The School Choice Transfer” into law in 2009. This little known law allows parents across Georgia the option to transfer their student to another traditional public school of their choice within their school district, provided there are spaces available. Available space at a school is based upon permanent classroom space which includes available seats in each classroom. School districts are required to announce each year the number of available classroom spaces by school and grade level during a two week application period. The application procedures, forms and dates are posted on each district’s website. The School Choice Transfer law does not apply to: charter schools (including all schools within charter systems), newly opened traditional public schools (for a period of four years from the school’s opening), or to magnet schools. In the event that the number of transfer requests exceeds the available classroom spaces, a random lottery will be conducted.
Economic freedom, or lack thereof, is often a road block for parents to choose the best education for their child. That is why programs such as vouchers, education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships, special needs scholarships, and individual tax credits/deductions are vital to parents in the decision making process. In addition to education savings plans (college), both tax credit and special needs scholarship programs are school choice financial options for parents in Georgia. You can read more about those tax credit and scholarship programs here, as well as learning more about several important education bills that will be in front of Georgia lawmakers in 2014 and how you can advocate for school choice education that is important to you.
Moms for School Choice is driven to provide the latest information on education options so that parents can be empowered to make decisions that best fit the needs of their children. If you are interested in learning more about the choices in our area, or in keeping up with the latest education-related legislation, follow Moms for School Choice on facebook, twitter, pinterest, or read more on their website.
- Our other education-related posts for the month include:
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