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Staff File Photo By Robin Rudd/ Chattanooga Preparatory School seventh-graders file past encouraging mentors, family members and school staff on the first day of its second year of existence in 2019.

The drumbeat for educational choice is getting louder, and it can't happen fast enough. Especially for minority communities.

Two news stories in this newspaper Sunday displayed, first, what people are tired of and, second, what they want.

In one story, multiple fights broke out during The Howard School's graduation at Finley Stadium Friday night. Officials said a woman was injured and a man was arrested (and released the next day). The first fight was said to be between rival gang members in the stands. Following the report of additional fistfights, around 10 juveniles were initially detained but later let go.

All this at a ceremony at the historically minority school honoring those who finished their high school careers with a diploma.

In the other story, 4-year-old, heavily minority Chattanooga Prep, an all-boys public charter school, has been so sought after that plans are being made to open a sister school in Knoxville.

This comment from Brad Scott, the school's chief executive officer, wowed us: "We were getting messages through our social media, calls from parents. A question that regularly came up was: 'Do you all have a bus that goes from Knoxville to Chattanooga every day?'"

To be sure, we believe students can get a good education at The Howard School and, for that matter, any public school in Hamilton County. And no definitive information said Howard students were responsible for the violence at the graduation Friday.

But keeping children safe is surely the top desire for parents who send their children off to school each morning.

The milieu at Chattanooga Prep, though, is not the same as it is at Howard or most traditional public schools. The students are all boys, who statistics have been shown to consistently underperform girls in academic and community social areas, according to Scott.

The school's culture is designed for boys, and its emphases are on sports, creative arts and extracurricular activities. The student-teacher ratio is 16-to-1, and students take advanced placement courses. The goal is preparation for college and career.

"[W]e can tailor our model to what boys love and what boys need to help them succeed," Scott said.

Statements like that are why the drumbeat for school choice is so loud. Success is occurring with nontraditional methods, with out-of-the-box thinking, with rigorous academics, with the expectation of performance, with required parental involvement and not simply passing students on to the next grade.

In Tuesday's newspaper was word of another public charter school expected to open in Chattanooga in 2023, having been approved by the Hamilton County Board of Education in April. The middle-high school will be the first in East Tennessee with a Spanish/English dual immersion curriculum.

The idea, said founder Nolan McDaniel, came from community members who wanted more bilingual options for their children. Not, you notice, from a federal Department of Education or a public school think tank.

The number of Hispanic/Latino students in Hamilton County Schools has grown from 2% in 2010 to 17% in 2021, so the need was palpable and shouldn't be surprising to anyone.

It's not as if Hamilton County Schools hasn't noticed the desire for choice by parents and students, but when some school board members, teachers and public-school-protective politicians continue to rail falsely that public school choice hurts traditional public schools, the message of desperate desire — especially by minority parents — can be drowned out.

Starting this fall, the district will offer open enrollment in all of its schools that have available seats, which, as of Tuesday morning, was nearly two-thirds of them.

In addition, the system offers 10 magnet schools, five charter schools (with two of them adding grades this fall), 29 Future Ready Institutes and seven early college/career schools.

We would be remiss if we didn't also mention the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling last week that favored the state's school voucher law. The 2019 law established an educational savings account program, which allows eligible families in only Memphis and Nashville to use taxpayer dollars toward private school tuition or other private educational services.

The law is still being challenged in other courts, but the Supreme Court decision overturned rulings in favor of the governments of Shelby County (Memphis) and Metropolitan Nashville, which argued that the law violated the state constitution's "home rule" provision.

What resulted from Gov. Bill Lee's educational savings account program in 2019 was a mere echo of what he wanted and what we believe should occur, but at least the Supreme Court ruling offers hope that a statewide educational choice program one day may be able to be passed by the legislature and put in place.

In the meantime, we understand Hamilton County Schools — tasked with educating 44,000-plus students — cannot immediately be all things to all people, but — hearing the drumbeat — it must continue to be open and welcoming to more school choice.

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