Georgia congressman: I will work with Betsy DeVos to expand school choice

By Maureen Downey

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ATLANTA (AJC), March 10, 2017 | comments

In this column, U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans, explains his support for school choice and his intention to work with new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to expand the option.

By Rep. Rick Allen

At the heart of our American values is the belief that each of us, no matter our circumstances, can pursue our own success and happiness through hard work. That’s how a small-town farm boy, the son of two educators, wound up a businessman in Augusta and later a congressman. The value of education cannot be underestimated on the path to achieve the American Dream. That is why I proudly support school choice.

U.S. Rep Rick Allen

It starts with moving away from the top-down, one-size-fits all mandates that have come to define our national education system. Federal initiatives like Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, while well-intentioned, frankly do not work. Parents and communities know how best to educate our children – not Washington, D.C., bureaucrats.

A group of local educators, parents, and community leaders in Dublin, Ga.,  recognized this flaw, too.

Dublin, in Laurens County in the western part of my district, is at the forefront of school choice by creating unique learning tracks based on a student’s individual needs and interests. The Dublin City School District is made up of two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and one alternative school.

School choice in Dublin begins in elementary school, where parents have complete control over which school their student attends. The two elementary schools comprise two different themes: STEAM, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics; and LEAP, leadership, environment, and public service.

I remember visiting one class where kids were learning math through movement and music – talk about innovation. After elementary school, these themes are carried on throughout middle school and high school through electives and clubs.

Encouraging students to find their passions early on and providing them with tools needed to continue their pursuit is truly powerful. Like many Americans, Dublin families have economic challenges; even so, education remains a top priority for the city and families. I am overwhelmingly proud to say that Dublin High School has a 96.3 percent graduation rate.

God created every child to be unique, each with special gifts. They deserve education options as diverse and unique as they are. Families should have the opportunity to select a K-12 education and environment that is best suited for their children, whether through traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, or homeschooling.

By empowering families with education options, school choice is playing a vital role in helping children access a quality education. States and local communities remain the pioneers of this great effort.

It makes me proud to know we have exceptional educators and students in Dublin who prove to be a living example of the success of school choice. As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, I look forward to working with the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in crafting opportunities to expand school choice for parents and children in Georgia and across the country.

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