State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi will mark her support of National School Choice Week by participating in a panel discussion about Oklahoma school choice opportunities to be held at the University of Central Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Townhall, titled “Restoring American Exceptionalism,” will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 24 in UCO’s Constitution Hall, located in the Nigh University Center off of Second Street in Edmond.
“I am a huge advocate of a parent’s right to choose the education that best suits the needs of their children,” Barresi said. “In a free country, with so many exceptional school offerings, there is no reason a child’s education should be bound by his parent’s income level or his geographical location.”
Barresi joins Gov. Mary Fallin, who issued a proclamation recognizing Jan. 23-29 as Oklahoma School Choice Week, in supporting the right for all of Oklahoma’s children to have access to the highest quality schools possible, whether they be public, charter or non-public schools, including homeschooling.
Stuart A. Jolly, Oklahoma state director for Americans for Prosperity, will moderate the panel discussion. Other panelists are state Sen. Gary Stanislawski, former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, and the Friedman Foundation’s Jeff Reed.
Recent studies show Oklahoma’s students are ranked near the bottom when compared to other countries in math and literacy. Allowing more choice will help reverse this trend, Barresi said. It will reward schools that are doing a good job of educating students to state standards and will hold accountable those schools that are not meeting performance goals.
School choice legislation has been has been championed by both Republicans and Democrats in Oklahoma. Former Gov. Brad Henry signed the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act in 2010, allowing parents of special needs students to apply for scholarship money from the State Department of Education to send their children to schools where their needs could best be met. Gov. Mary Fallin in 2011 signed the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act, allowing businesses and individuals to donate to scholarship funds in exchange for tax credits, and allowing special needs or low-income students to apply for the scholarships.