The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), today held a hearing to examine state and local efforts to increase parental engagement and options.
In his opening statement, Rep. Hunter said, "We know increased parental engagement leads to higher grade point averages, better attendance, improved behavior and social skills, and a stronger interest in more challenging academic programs. Recognizing these positive results, many states are taking steps to ensure parents have additional opportunities to make decisions not only about where their children attend school, but also about what happens during the school day."
Connecticut Parents Union President Gwendolyn Eaddy-Samuel testified about the importance of helping parents play a more active role in the local school system. "We will only improve outcomes if we build effective partnerships among parents and schools; spend our resources effectively; and provide meaningful high-quality choices for families," she said. "This is a much more realistic and just choice than burdening our society with failed schools, overcrowded prison and juvenile systems, and an overreliance on safety nets and social services."
One of the greatest ways to improve engagement is to offer parents choices about their children's education. Across the country, a growing number of states are enacting private school scholarship programs to help students escape low performing schools. According to Kevin Chavous, Senior Advisor for the American Federation for Children, these programs "show that parental engagement via school choice improves educational outcomes for participating students, puts students in safer schools, and gives parents more satisfaction with their child's learning environments."
More than 40 states now support charter schools as another way to provide education options and enhance parental engagement in the classroom. As National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' Vice President for State Advocacy and Support Todd Ziebarth explained, "Charters partner with parents in other unique ways, most notably by involving them in the decision-making and governance of the school We are encouraged that many states are significantly strengthening their charter laws to support high-quality public charter school growth. These schools will not only provide more options to parents and students, but they will also serve as laboratories of innovation to positively influence the larger traditional public school system."
"The fight to improve our nation's education system cannot happen in Washington, D.C. alone," concluded Rep. Hunter. "It is critical states continue to lead the charge by engaging parents and providing options in the local education system."
To read witness testimony, opening statements, or watch an archived webcast of today's hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.