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Utah takes part in School Choice Week

Published: Monday, Jan. 27 2014 2:47 p.m. MST

Parents and students are encouraged to learn about the various educational options in Utah this week as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of school choice.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Parents and students are encouraged to learn about the various educational options in Utah this week as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of school choice.

Gov. Gary Herbert issued a declaration last week naming Jan. 26 through Feb. 1 "School Choice Week in Utah." The declaration also states that all children in Utah deserve an excellent education that prepares them to be productive members of society.

"Utah boasts a high-quality primary and secondary education system, consisting of traditional public schools, specialized magnet schools, charter schools, and private schools, which provide students with opportunities to achieve their individual learning goals," the declaration states.

Utah receives high marks on the National School Choice Week website, which notes the state's open-enrollment laws — which allow any student to attend any public school where capacity permits — private school scholarships, online education, charter and magnet schools and the freedom of Utah parents to home-school their children.

In a prepared statement, National School Choice Week President Andrew Campanella said January is the time for parents to begin searching schools for the 2014-15 school year. He hopes parents will take advantage of the week to learn about the options available to them.

“Utah families know that when parents have the freedom to choose the best schools for their children, great things happen,” Campanella said in a prepared statement. “Student achievement increases, graduation rates rise, and children are better prepared for real life.”

Judi Clark, executive director of Parents For Choice in Education, said parents with questions about school choice can find information on Utah's laws and educational options on her organization's website, choiceineducation.com.

She agreed with Campanella that January and February are good times for parents to consider their educational choices, with most schools beginning registration in the early spring and the start of the Utah legislative session.

"Now is the perfect time to look at the education options that are available to parents," Clark said. "We’re framing our legislative session and really talking about the needs of students."

Clark said that Utah has made significant progress on school choice, but she added that many of the existing options are limited. Many charter and magnet schools, she said, rely on lotteries and wait lists to meet high demand, leaving room for improvement statewide.

"We do have the foundational pieces to really have some great school choice and I think in the coming years we’ll see a lot of those things expand," she said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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