OPINION: Indiana Rep. Says School Choice Benefits All Kids

From Rep. Don Lehe writing The Journal & Courier newspaper in Indiana:

My friend and former colleague Joe Micon recently presented a somewhat one-sided view of some legislation in the state General Assembly.

I realize there are various opinions, both favorable and un-favorable, regarding the education reforms in this session. I want to assure my constituents that these reforms are intended to provide Hoosier families with the opportunity to have successful outcomes for their children as they pursue the best education possible.

There is a lot of misinformation not only as to how we accomplish that goal, but also the real intent. These reforms will not destroy public education, nor do they indicate a dislike of education professionals. I hope to counter some of those misconceptions.

Charter schools are public schools with more flexibility to meet the needs of children and families. Currently more than 3,500 Hoosier families are on waiting lists for a charter school because those schools best serve the needs of the students. This is some of the flexibility many administrators, school boards, teachers and parents have been wanting for many years. These are not necessarily new concepts.

It is complete fallacy to say charter schools make up 80 percent of the bottom third of schools. If you compare individual charter schools to individual traditional public schools, they do very well.

Many charter schools are developed specifically for children with specific needs in specific areas. Seventy percent of students in charter schools are minorities, and 65 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch. A majority of schools in our part of the state are very successful and should not feel threatened by these reforms.

There is no effort to privatize education in Indiana.

As I mentioned, we need to give parents options that best suit their family’s needs.

All children learn differently. Education scholarships can help do that for families at or near poverty level incomes. There are limits on the scholarship amounts and the number of scholarships given out to ensure that the right students receive the proper amount.

Joe mentioned the five-week walkout by his Democratic colleagues. He is right; it did not accomplish anything that could not have been negotiated here in the Statehouse.

These education reforms are a victory for all children, and it should matter to everyone. Good public schools should not feel threatened by these changes, and parents should be optimistic of the new options they have available to them.

Read more here: http://www.jconline.com/article/20110427/OPINION03/104270306/Education-reform-victory-all-children