Gov. Mike Dunleavy is highlighting the many choices Alaskans have when it comes to educating children, whether that be private or public schools, charter programs, religious options or state or privately funded homeschooling.

In observance of National School Choice Week (Jan. 22-28), the governor issued a proclamation in support of these educational options across the state.

“We must exercise creativity in providing a multitude of excellent educational options for parents to choose from due to our state’s unique geographical challenges,” Dunleavy said, “because offering educational variety creates ways to diversify and enhance the vibrancy of our communities.”

In addition to traditional standard public schools, thousands of Alaska children are now educated in more than 30 public charter schools and 30 publicly funded home-school programs like IDEA or Raven Correspondence. Alaska also has about 60 private or religious schools according to Private School Review, which compiles lists of private schools across the nation. Thousands of other Alaskan children are educated through independent home-schooling, which is not publicly funded.

Over the past two years, many families were forced to homeschool due to school closures in the wake of COVID. In many cases, however, parents have chosen to continue home or private schooling as a permanent option.

The rise in alternative education comes at a time when Alaska’s public schools are continuing to perform poorly in national surveys and tests.

Dunleavy noted that educational alternatives are needed to “ensure that students are provided with the education they deserve and the support they need to stay on track in their educational careers.”

He added that there needs to be continued public awareness about the options open to students.

Nationally, School Choice Week is celebrated each year to raise awareness and encourage support for family access to educational choices. The National School Choice Week (NSCW) website notes that the annual celebration includes “tens of thousands of independent events” aimed at raising public awareness of options available to parents as they seek the best educational route for their children. Started in 2011, NSCW is now “the world’s largest annual celebration of opportunity in education,” the website notes.

“When we launched National School Choice Week in 2011, we endeavored to build an effort that spotlighted all types of schools equally, without criticizing or favoring any one option, said NSCW President Andrew Campanella. “We count thousands of traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online schools, and homeschool groups among our participants. We also pledged to be non-political, non-partisan, and relentlessly positive in our work to promote effective education options for children.”

Campanella said school choice is more personal than political.

“School choice is not about a government entity, or an organization, or an expert declaring that one type of school works best for all kids,” he said. “Instead, school choice means letting millions of moms and dads make millions of individual decisions, for their individual children, about the schools and learning environments that best meet their children’s needs.”

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Governor highlights school choice options for Alaska students

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.