Saluting our non-traditional schools

This week, the focus will be on education as it’s Catholic Schools Week and National School Choice Week, which seeks to call attention to not only private schools, charter schools, magnet schools and religious-based schools but also home-schooling.

That includes online academies and other nontraditional options available to parents. It’s a growing trend, with millions participating in 2013’s School Choice Week, more than 3,600 events held nationwide and more than 3,000 schools involved.

Public schools are a part of the communities they serve, but over the years, many families have found the solution to educating their children lies elsewhere, in systems less hamstrung by federal and state regulatory controls, school levies and politics. It’s not about focusing on what schools are lacking but that families want, and can provide, more.

It is worth a week to salute those schools that are nontraditional, which require parents to be involved not by mandate but by choice, which allow students to excel at their own pace.

School choice week calls to attention the freedom of Americans to provide the best possible education to children that a family wants and can afford. It is not about putting down public schools but lifting up the choices made by families, and noting the innovation possible and the well-rounded individuals that can be formed with commitment to the best.

Catholic Schools Week was started in 1974. The theme this year is “Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” Each day will take a different aspect of life and explore that theme, focusing on parish life, community life, students, the nation (on National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools on Wednesday), in religious vocations and in the teachers, staff and faculty of the schools.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the right to preserve and protect school choice “the civil rights battle of this generation.” Cruz is among those who kicked off the week with an event Saturday in Houston.

He summed up the reason school choice is important: “All across the nation, we’re seeing the benefits of choice. The data demonstrates that competition improves public schools, and parents should be able to choose the schools that best meet the educational needs of their children whether public, charter, private, faith-based, or home school. National School Choice Week reaffirms our shared commitment to giving all children, regardless of ZIP code, the opportunity to pursue the best education possible.”

Many area families chose to focus on the importance of education by taking positive steps, with their wallets, time and talents, to educate their children beyond what is available by being a taxpayer. Locally, that is most visible in the form of Catholic schools, but there also is a growing community of home and online schooling, as well as private schools that are not Catholic, and we note their efforts here.

We salute those families and the efforts of those who provide alternatives because the focus is drawn sharply on the basic function of schooling: To ensure that the young person is formed into a well-informed, well-rounded, capable member of the community, hopefully well rounded into someone with faith, an ability to appreciate the arts, and to reason and relate to all on every level.