Opinion: Why school choice matters to Wyoming (Billings Gazette)

jeff-verosky1/24/2017

Jeff Verosky, Head of School for the Wyoming Virtual Academy, Billings Gazette 

As America marks National School Choice Week, Wyoming can look to the Williams family of Centennial as a shining example of why education options for state families are critical. Doug and Liz Williams have six children at Wyoming Virtual Academy, a public school program hosted by Niobrara County School District 1 in the town of Lusk for students who wish to be educated in a home-based environment by a state certified teacher.

Liz Williams began homeschooling her eldest son Jacob after realizing he was an advanced learner and needed more of a challenge than traditional school could provide. However, she quickly found a couple of issues with traditional homeschooling — namely its high cost and the fact that there were no other teachers to support Jacob. After considering her options, Liz found WYVA to be the best choice for her son, and later, for the rest of her children, as it combines the hands-on participation she desired as a parent with teacher support, a personalized curriculum and a strong focus on academics.

 Jacob turned out to be not the only advanced learner in the Williams household. All six children are high performers. What’s more, two of the youngest Williams children, Trinity and Selah, suffer from Type 1 diabetes. The fact that Liz can help her daughters manage their diabetes at home is meaningful, as brick-and-mortar school staff are not always properly trained on how to assist students with medical conditions.
 Support for school choice exists across the political spectrum and is rooted in the firm belief that parents know their children best. As the head of school for WYVA, I know that K12 Inc., the company that powers our school and others like it across the country, works hard to put our 540 currently enrolled students first every day. I respect parent choice in education because I firmly believe children can succeed when placed in a supportive environment that suits their individual needs. I see it occur firsthand for families like the Williams every day in my school.

Not to be overlooked is how school choice positively impacts thousands of teachers across our state and the country. Online and blended charter schools provide teachers with new opportunities and exciting ways to teach kids. Some of the strongest advocates for education options are professional educators who freely choose to work in schools of choice and passionately defend the rights of parents to exercise educational choice for their children.

I am firmly committed to increasing education options for families, from online and blended charter schools, to innovative digital learning programs offered through school districts nationwide. Children are the leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, we must do everything we can to give them the best education possible. A critical element toward achieving this goal is expanding school choice for all families and increasing the number of educational success stories for families like Williams across the nation.

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