Parents need 'choice navigators'
"Choice navigators" can help parents use education scholarships to find the right options for their children, writes Travis Pillow of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at Arizona State, on Fordham's Flypaper blog.
Florida legislators are considering HB 1, which would convert "the state’s existing school choice scholarship programs into education savings accounts that, within five years, would be available to all students," he writes. That opens the door to "a la carte" education. In addition to choosing schools for their kids, parents "can also choose tutoring programs, enrichment activities, summer camps, and more."
There are many choices, and figuring out the best path isn't simple. The bill requires parents to meet annually with a navigator to look at options.
Navigators can help students understand their learning needs and goals, access advanced courses and career learning opportunities or support "parents advocating for special education screening when schools drag their feet," writes Pillow.
Regular meetings with navigators who help parents interpret test results and other measures of student progress could help close the honesty gap, which has widened after the Covid-19 pandemic. Many parents believe their students are doing fine (thanks in part to strong report cards they’re bringing home), but state and national assessment results show many have major gaps in their learning and could benefit from tutoring and other help in which they currently show limited interest.
A variety of nonprofits, such as EdNavigator, are helping parents figure out their choices, even in places without ESAs, Pillow concludes. "Existing organizations support families in cities from D.C. to Denver. However, once lawmakers create programs that allow parents to direct funding to a variety of education providers — some public, some private — navigators become essential," and should be state funded.