Beth Milne is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

National School Choice Week comes to a close today. As a former legislator, I worked hard to bring North Carolina policies that paved the way for celebrating a week like this one. But as the executive director of CarolinaCAN, I have the pleasure of truly celebrating what school choice does for our children and our communities.

The reality is that for many young people in North Carolina their neighborhoods are not an easy place to grow up. They are forced to spend their lives surviving instead of learning and thriving. Often, the main source of their struggle are factors within their own communities. It’s a community problem that is going to take a community fix.   

I have visited many schools during School Choice Week that were set on that premise. It was refreshing to see all ESL classes, schools teaching GED classes, computer literacy and a host of other services that served to empower and educate families. It’s this work that truly begins to change communities.   

In North Carolina today, too many students come to school not ready to learn. Too many go from one school to the next, not growing, learning or challenging themselves. Elementary school statistics showed students barely performing at grade level, and middle schools put students on a path towards mediocrity. Students need schools that point them towards success. School choice allows every parent a real chance to find a school that fits the needs of their child. It gives parents and children access to schools that meet district, state and national standards and best practices. It allows children to receive the high-quality education we have promised them.    

In every school I visited this week, I looked into the eyes of children who could be our next state legislator, governor or small business owner. I sat with children who are filled with dreams and the right stuff to accomplish those dreams. School choice helps us guarantee that these children have the chance to build a future that includes college and the stability and accomplishment that can follow. They deserve real choices with real opportunities. School choice helps us create a North Carolina where no student, no matter who they are or where they come from, goes through their education without schools, teachers and administrators who are deeply committed to finding and nurturing the best in them.   

As we celebrate and reflect on National School Choice Week, I can’t help but be proud of the work we’ve done to bring opportunity to students, parents and families, neighborhood by neighborhood across our state. Now it’s time to focus on community leaders, advocates and parents to create a high-quality education environment that flourishes in the community, for the community. Thank you to all the schools of choice that do the hard work of lifting up communities by helping students and families see themselves, their talents and their futures filled with promise and potential. 

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