SALT LAKE CITY — The state Capitol swarmed with kids wearing yellow scarves in a scene that looked like it could be straight out of a Harry Potter movie on Thursday.
"I think it's important for parents to realize they have choices," Earleen Huff, principal for Providence Hall charter school, proclaimed at a rally held by the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools.
During the event, students, parents and staff from charter schools around the state promoted school choice, and students showcased their talents with energetic musical performances.
Esperanza Elementary even put on a mariachi performance — costumes and all — with students singing and playing various instruments.
The children seemed enthusiastic — both to visit the Capitol and to attend charter schools.
"It's kinda like you're a family," said Bostyn Daniel, a sixth-grader at Providence Hall. Her friend Reagan Enger, a seventh-grader, added that people at the girls' charter school are "welcoming and comforting."
Rachel Thorell, whose children attend Bluffdale's North Star Academy, said the idea of personalized education is what first drew her family to a charter school.
"For me, it was the ability that they have to create a better educational environment because of size and having that control within the school to make decisions that benefit the students," she said.
She says she has seen the results of her kids' education in their "level of test scores and grades."
"It opens so many more doors to education. … I almost feel like it's what you hear about private education, but it makes it affordable for the rest of us," Thorell said.
With six kids, her family could not afford private school, she added.
Tara Davenport, another North Star parent, believes charter schools help get children "very prepared for high school."
Additionally, "they do a lot of fun outside things that aren't just classroom learning," she said.
Parents of children from other schools echoed each other's statements about the benefits of sending their kids to charter schools.
Deborah Fairbanks, whose child attends Noah Webster Academy in Orem, said the idea of a schoolwide curriculum attracted her to the school.
Though she and her husband once both taught in traditional public schools, she believes Noah Webster teaches a "positive attitude" and "character building."
"We haven't gone back (to traditional public school)," she added.
Though the benefits of charter schools have been a topic of debate, especially among advocates of traditional public education, those at the event simply promoted parents' choices.
"One size doesn't fit all," said Mary Wilde, curriculum director at Providence Hall.6 comments on this story
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who spoke a few words at the rally, said that with all the state's growth, it "would not be able to do its job" without Utah's charter schools.
Public charter schools are tuition-free and open to all students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
About 32,000 events will be held around the country during the week of Jan. 21-27, which is National School Choice Week, according to the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools.
Through the events, participants will promote all the choices available to students, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, online learning, home schooling and more.