Voice for Choice – Kathryn Hickok

My name is Kathryn, and I’m the director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Oregon. CSF-Oregon empowers K-8 students from lower-income Oregon families to get a quality education and a “hand up” in life by providing partial tuition scholarships to the schools of their parents’ choice.

Through my work with CSF-Oregon, I’ve watched how school choice changes the trajectories of students’ lives, sparking their passion for learning and helping them fulfill their potential.

Every child has one chance to grow up, and each year is precious. Parents know it: The right school can change a child’s life. Empowering parents to give their children the education that’s right for their own talents and needs can unlock the unique potential of every child—today.

The mother of one of our CSF Scholars told me, “I wish that the education system could understand that not every child fits into the same-sized box, and everyone needs to do what is right for their family.”

She’s right.

Parents know a solid education prepares their children for life, and that path begins in grade school. But many families, like this mom’s, are trapped in schools that don’t meet their kids’ educational needs. While families with greater means can move to neighborhoods with public schools they like, or pay twice for education by opting for a private school, lower-income families often don’t have those options.

And those families’ children may be at the greatest risk of not graduating from high school. According to the National Association of Education Progress, only 33% of Oregon fourth-graders tested “proficient” in reading in 2017. Our state continues to have the third-lowest graduation rate in the country. And sadly, nearly half the children born into poverty will stay in poverty as adults. Changing those outcomes requires a solid early education leading to graduation and employment.

School choice gives all parents the power to find the right educational fit for their child, right when he or she needs it—not some other year, not when “things change,” not when another school reform plan “fixes the system.”

One of CSF-Oregon’s first scholarship recipients described her experience this way:

“My parents…wanted my brother and me to be placed in an environment where we would be academically challenged and be able to succeed…. What [the Children’s Scholarship Fund has] given me is so much more than money; you have given me opportunity, confidence, faith, and trust that life has meaning, and that I am meant to succeed no matter what obstacles come my way.”

All students should feel that way, and with school choice they can.

Children have different talents, interests, and needs; and they learn in different ways. Connecting students with the teachers and experiences that will help them succeed and ignite their passion for learning is what education is all about.

Whether children find that in a local public school or in a charter, magnet, private, online, or home school (or some combination of them), the important thing is that all children have the chance to reach their potential in an educational environment in which they can truly thrive.

School choice puts parents in the “driver’s seat” of their children’s education, and that’s why I’m a voice for choice.

I’m Kathryn and I’m a ‘Voice for Choice’

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