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Great School Choices

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Ours is a country that prides itself on freedom of choice and a belief that anyone, born in any class, can through education and hard work, succeed in America.

That is why we must, FINALLY, fix our education system. I did not say public education system purposely, because there are now so many paths to victory in America.

We are now giving parents and kids more choices in education -- and isn't that what it's all about, great schools?

Today, parents in largely minority neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles and other big urban centers have the hope of getting their children into a KIPP or Success Academy Charter School or Urban Assembly School. Into Catholic schools or Yeshivas that offer longer days and private school facilities for modest tuitions.

Great educators like David Levin and Richard Kahan and Eva Moskowitz have taken their considerable talents to create great schools that prove that longer school days, longer school years and early science education are just some of the ingredients we need to inject into our schools to make our kids succeed.

We are in a global arms race for jobs over the next few decades -- over three billion people will be chasing just 1.2 billion jobs. We must make sure our kids are properly educated for the jobs of the 21st century and that they can compete with the soaring education systems of China and India.

We must do better. More charter schools, revived Catholic and Jesuit schools and yeshivas (helped by tax credits), public schools that are bolstered by true teacher and principal training and mentoring -- these are the ways that parents and kids will benefit from true choice.

In New York, former elected leader Eva Moskowitz has put together an interesting and effective chain of charter schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn called Success Academies. Using simple techniques like longer school years and school days, cheerier surroundings, daily science and chess instruction, uniforms and rigorous teacher training, she has reversed a pattern of failure in Harlem, one of the city's toughest neighborhoods for poverty and poor elementary schools.

Catholic schools like St. Stephen of Hungary on the Upper East Side, pummeled for years by suburban migration, Church scandals and the loss of nuns as free instructors, are now attempting a comeback through smart marketing and offering parents a viable choice to ever-increasing tuitions at New York private schools.

Government should help these Catholic schools and the city's myriad yeshivas with tax credits for parents who choose religious and secular educations for their kids. I am the product of a Yeshiva in the 1970s (before I went on to public high school) and I can vouch for the quality of education I received -- but my parents struggled to pay even the low tuition there, a choice they made because the local public school was substandard.

More charter schools, revived religious schools and a new effort to create public or charter schools to accommodate the growing population of "alternative learning styles" (i.e. learning disabled kids) are the cornerstones of my campaign for mayor of New York City in 2013.

Choice is a hallmark of our country. It is synonymous with freedom. We live in a country where we have choice in our leaders, our religion, our food, our housing, our lifestyles.

Choice in education is not only necessary -- it is crucial for our country's future.

There is no best school -- only the best school for your child. As a parent of three children with different learning needs who went to three different schools in New York, I know this firsthand.

Let's give parents and children a real choice in education.

Our country's future -- and theirs --depends on it.

Tom Allon is a Liberal-backed candidate for mayor of New York City in 2013 and a former public school teacher at Stuyvesant High School. He also helped create two public high schools: Eleanor Roosevelt H.S. and Frank McCourt H.S.