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Why Does Educational Choice Matter?

Educational choice is based on the commonsense idea that as your child’s first teacher, you are the best person to make decisions about your child’s education – and that no child should be required to attend a school that isn’t right for him or her.

Across the country, many children are forced to attend schools that don’t work for them. Maybe their local public school works well for others but just does not work for them, and a private school environment would allow them to better thrive. Some children have special learning needs that can’t be met in their assigned schools or classrooms. Others are forced to attend failing public schools simply because they live in the “wrong” ZIP codes.

A quality education can mean the difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary one. It provides the skills for children to become independent adults that contribute to society in a meaningful way. A quality education allows children not just to succeed, but to thrive.

You Want a Choice in Your Child’s Education… Now What?

If you’re reading this guide, you are probably concerned with making sure your children get the best education they can - just like each of the parents pictured in this guide, who took a stand for educational choice in their states. You, as the parent or guardian of your child, know what the best educational options are for your student, more than anyone else, and you want to do something to improve the options that are available in your state or community. Whatever unique challenges you are facing, this guide will help you get started advocating for your family – or take your advocacy to the next level.

This guide is packed with time-tested, practical grassroots strategies that have helped tens of thousands of everyday people succeed in creating change in their communities. It is also based on real-life experiences that come from years of organizing with parents in Washington, D.C., in support of the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. It’s a program that now has existed for over 15 years but seemed like an impossible dream when parents first started organizing in the early 2000s. Through hard work and effective organizing, parents overcame the toughest odds – and so can you!

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How to Use This Guide

This guide is organized into brief chapters that cover different topics and skills that will help you become an effective organizer. You can start from scratch or click around to different chapters that are relevant to you.

Sometimes, steps that we list here might happen in a different order for you – or even at the same time. Feel free to skip around, take notes, and come back to sections as needed.

Here at IJ, we spend a lot of time on in-person, on-the-ground events and recruiting, and for a good reason. In normal times, there’s no replacement for boots on the ground and going to talk to friends and neighbors to recruit them to your cause. But in 2020, because of the risk of COVID-19 transmission, we learned that this type of organizing isn’t always possible.

What the Pandemic Taught Us

In 2020, no American family could take their child’s education for granted. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, almost every school in the country closed its doors and transitioned to remote learning – or no learning at all. Administrators at schools large and small struggled to come up with plans for a safe reopening. As fall progressed into winter, many families were left behind, with few answers. Many states decided across the board what all public K-12 learning would look like, with most of it being remote, leaving little opportunity for individual communities to figure out what would work best for them – or for parents to decide what would be best for their children.

2020 has demonstrated the need for all families to have a choice in what their child’s education looks like – and that includes access to private education. This guide will help you create or expand private educational opportunities in your state.

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