Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reactions to the Lower Court Ruling on Voucher Program Funding Mechanism

A scholarship student stands outside the courthouse in Baton Rouge on the first day of the trial.
We brought you news late last week of a judge's decision to rule against the funding mechanism for the statewide Louisiana voucher program. Since the ruling was handed down Friday afternoon, a number of supporters of educational choice have spoken out against the ruling, reinforced their support for kids, and pledge to fight on.

Take a look below for just a few of the responses.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Tirany Howard, whose three children are receiving scholarships through the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program.  “For once, I felt like as a society we’re moving forward, putting kids first, but it’s still about money.”

“We will do everything possible to make sure the children who are benefitting from this important scholarship program – and the thousands of children who are seeking to enter the program—will continue to have this option. They’ve made far too much progress to go back.”

"Today's ruling is wrongheaded and a travesty for parents across Louisiana who want nothing more than for their children to have an equal opportunity at receiving a great education," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement. "That opportunity is a chance that every child deserves and we will continue the fight to give it to them."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Is Tony Bennett Headed to Florida?

Education reformers are still disappointed with Tony Bennett's loss earlier this month in his re-election bid for superintendent of public instruction in Indiana; now speculation has begun on his next gig.

The rumor?

Tony Bennett is headed to Florida to be the next education commissioner.

According to Education Week, Bennett has said that this reelection campaign would be his last run for elected office, but…

Bennett reportedly wants to work on education issues and hasn’t ruled out government jobs—including as state superintendent of another state.  And he’s had some discussions about such opportunities.

"I've said many times, I have an addiction," Bennett said. "It's called driving ed reform policy. It's my drug of choice."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 2: The Louisiana Trial

As the second day of trial continues, make sure to read the latest update from the Institute for Justice at the Louisiana Federation for Children’s blog, and also be sure to follow LFC on Twitter!

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Strong Push for Accountability in Arizona School Choice Program

When Arizona enacted the nation’s first-ever education savings account program in 2011, parents and advocates celebrated another educational choice option for parents of children with special learning needs.

Now that the program has been greatly expanded this year to include children in failing public schools, children of military personnel, and children who are or have been in foster care—that’s an increase of hundreds of thousands of students students in the state who are eligible to participate in the program—both the state legislatures and other educational choice advocates are working to increase accountability measures in the program.

Under the original law, the program met two of eight accountability checks. The Alliance for School Choice measures the level of accountability in programs, and the program originally qualified in the following areas:

  • Administrative: schools who accept a student using an ESA account must not discriminate
  • Financial: allow the state to conduct annual audits via a random sample
 The Arizona Department of Education and the Goldwater Institute are working to increase accountability measures in the program—a positive step forward for the program.

The Goldwater Institute is pushing for legislation that would allow the Department of Education to conduct random quarterly and yearly reviews of accounts, establishing online and hotline fraud reporting services, and establishing a surety bond or insurance for account holders.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Louisiana Voucher Trial Starts Today

The trial to determine the constitutionality of Louisiana’s statewide Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program started today.  Make sure you check in with our friends at the Louisiana Federation for Children for all the latest updates from inside the courtroom.

They're not only blogging about all the happenings of the trial, but we got a few photos from a rally that took place outside the courthouse this morning. Take a look below to see some of the students, parents, media members, and our senior advisor, Kevin P. Chavous, all of whom were on hand this morning.

Another Legal Victory in Support of Educational Choice

Families on Oklahoma are breathing a huge sigh of relief and celebrating a legal victory that upholds Oklahoma’s voucher program designed for children with special needs. In a landslide victory—the high court ruled 7-2—the court said that two school districts could not sue parents participating in the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program. 

The program—passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and signed into law by former Democratic Governor Brad Henry—now serves more than 150 students with special needs.  One of the students whose lives have changed thanks to this program is Ian Buckley:

Ian Buckley attended public school through the third grade with an Individualized Education Program.

With a learning disability and a sensory integration disability, Ian struggled socially in school. Many afternoons, when he was picked up from school, he was upset. Ian did not fit into any peer group at his school.

In July 2010, Ian’s family applied for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program. With the scholarship, Ian switched to Town and Country School, a private school for children with special needs.

“Socially, he’s a lot more sure of himself now,” said Gerald, Ian’s father. “It’s a great learning environment, and [Ian is] a lot more receptive and is not afraid to ask questions.”

Ian, now in the fifth grade, is thriving at his new school.

“The scholarship made something really terrific feasible,” Gerald said. “The scholarship introduced Ian to the school that he’ll go to for the rest of his school life.”

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Monday, November 26, 2012

Milwaukee Voucher Program Enrollment Hits New Record

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is reporting that a record-breaking number of students are participating this year in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Nearly 25,000 students are attending the private school of their parents’ choice thanks to the nation’s longest running voucher program.

These enrollment numbers join a host of other school choice programs enrolling more students than ever before:

Make sure to look for the Alliance for School Choice's 2012-13 Yearbook, to be released in January, which will have all the latest data on each of the 32 publicly-funded private school choice programs around the country.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks to Those Who Inspire

Kevin P. Chavous, our senior advisor, spent some time this week talking about a few education reforms in addition to educational choice.  In an editorial in Take Part, Kevin talks about an intangible factor we must consider when looking at teacher effectiveness—inspiration.

Here's an excerpt:

Don't get me wrong, I have long believed in tenure reform, performance pay, and many of the emerging criteria being used to better judge teacher effectiveness. But I also acknowledge and recognize that truly effective and great teachers can't be judged by these things alone. The best teachers inspire. Inspirational teachers are able to instill and nurture that quality in their students that remains the essence of the human spirit—the will to be better and the desire to do better.     

As we head into Thanksgiving, let’s remember some of the teachers that have inspired us and who today inspire our children.  As Kevin reminds us, there is no better time to thank the great teachers out there who inspire children everyday.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Indiana Voucher Program Participation Grows to 9,324

We told you a while back that that more than 9,000 Indiana students are participating in Indiana’s statewide voucher program during the 2012-13 school year, more than twice the number who enrolled in the program during its first year.

And now, the Indiana Department of Education announced last week that the exact number of students participating in the Choice Scholarship Program is 9,324 students—that’s an increase of more than 138 percent. The Indy Star notes that the Choice Scholarship Program is the fastest growing program in history.  And it’s not just enrollment that’s increasing: the number of participating schools increased from 241 last year to 289 schools in the 2012-13 school year.

Check back here throughout the next couple of weeks for more enrollment numbers from programs across the country.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

The Powerful Voting Block: Latino Voters

At the conclusion of this year's election season, while there was much debate about why candidates won and lost, both parties essentially agreed that the Latino vote was critically important to the election—and will be so in future elections, too.

This year, 23.7 million Latinos were eligible to vote—an increase by more than 4 million since 2006.  As Christina Martinez and Julio Fuentes (the head of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options) write, this election resulted in historic numbers of Latino voters and Latino officials:  Latinos represent 11 percent of voters in 2012—up from 8.2 percent in 2004. And let's not forget that Latino officials serve in the state legislators of 36 states.

As candidates from both parties begin to heavily campaign to Latino voters in coming elections, they should keep in mind the sure place to win support: in education policy.

According to a poll commissioned by the American Federation for Children and HCREO in May 2012, Latino voters in five battleground states strongly support educational choice:

  • Ninety-one percent of Latinos—in five key states—Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Nevada—think voucher or scholarship tax credit programs should be available in some form.
  • A strong majority of Latinos also support specific types of educational options: 69 percent support voucher programs, 71 percent support scholarship tax credit programs, and 70 percent support education savings accounts.
  • An astonishing 80 percent of Latinos support special needs scholarship programs, which can be in the form of voucher programs, scholarship tax credit programs, and education savings account programs.
Latino voters have shown that they support educational options; they have also shown that they vote in large numbers.  Let’s hope elected officials notice and put strong support behind much-needed educational choice.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Monday, November 19, 2012

In The Root, Kevin P. Chavous Roots for Educational Choice

American Federation for Children Senior Advisor Kevin P. Chavous wrote today in The Root, the sister site to The Washington Postabout D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s initiative to close 20 poor-performing public schools why that means more educational choice is necessary in the nation's capital. In defending the decision and calling for more accountability, Kevin wrote:

For many young people, neighborhood public schools were the only gateway to economic empowerment. Today, however, the sad reality is that far too many of these historically significant public schools are not serving our kids well — and some need to be shut down. It’s tough, however, when people don’t know what they don’t know.

As a former member of the D.C. Council, Kevin has a lot to say on our K-12 education. Writing that “like it or not, accountability matters in K-12 education,” Kevin argues that we need more educational choice in the District, especially for those students attending poor-performing public schools:

But accountability in our schools is only one side of the large and expansive education-reform coin, one that must be coupled with educational choice to truly pay dividends for our children in the long run.

The educational choices in the District have been growing in recent years with charter schools and the reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allows District children to access a high-quality education today.

An Update from the Courts

A number of opponents of educational choice have taken to the courts to litigate the future of the programs benefiting low-income families across the country. Here's an update on where things stand nationwide:

Indiana: On Wednesday, the Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the Choice Scholarship Program that was enacted into law in 2012.  Twelve plaintiffs, including the newly-elected state superintendent of public education, have sued the state claiming the program in unconstitutional.  Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele rejected this claim earlier this year and ruled that the program is constitutional.  In the 2012-13 school year, more than 9,000 students are using a Choice Scholarship to attend the school of their parents’ choice. 

Louisiana: After the Louisiana state legislature—with strong bipartisan support—passed the statewide expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program statewide, the Louisiana Association of Educator sued to prevent the program from going forward. After a delay, the court date on the program is scheduled for November 28.

Oklahoma: In June, a Tulsa judge ruled the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program unconstitutional and there is no word on when the appeal will be heard, though Representative Jason Nelson predicts the program will be heard early next year.  In the 2012-13 school year, 188 students are participating in the program and three new schools are accepting voucher students.

Douglas County, Colorado: The Colorado State Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments today on the constitutionality of the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program.  The lower court put an injunction on the program from moving forward after the program was created for students living in the Douglas County School District.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Friday, November 16, 2012

Educational Choice Prospects in Tennessee

Education reformers around the country have eyes on—and investments in—Tennessee being the next state to greatly expand educational choice.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Editorial Support: The editorial board of Memphis’ Commercial Appeal published an editorial in support of vouchers on Thursday, calling on both sides of the voucher debate to “stop and consider: What is best for kids?”  The editorial supports expanding educational choice in Tennessee through enacting a voucher program for children from low-income families:
When you think about the kids first, allowing public money to fund vouchers to any school, public or private, begins to make more sense.

Many issues must be resolved, but the basic notion of letting Memphis kids of all income brackets have a shot at the best education they can find, by using the money the state already has set aside to educate them, is an idea worth serious consideration

  • Political Spending: In the 2012 election cycle, education reform groups outspent the teachers unions in Tennessee legislative races, demonstrating a strong swing toward reform over the status quo.  The Tennessee Federation for Children PAC, a state-based affiliate of the American Federation for Children Action Fund spent nearly $250,000 supported Democrats and Republicans who stand for educational choice. They invested in independent expenditures in 18 general election races, emerging victorious in 15 of those races.
  • Bipartisan Support: The Tennessee Legislature has broad bipartisan support for enacting a voucher program, with strong leaders including Senator Brian Kelsey (R) and Representatives John DeBerry (D) and Tony Shipley (R).
  • Education Task Force: The Education Task Force set up by Governor Bill Haslam to study how a voucher program would work in Tennessee concluded this week with recommendations on options to establish a voucher program.  The report will be delivered to the Governor in two weeks.  While the Task Force has been mum on many details, the group did recommend that a voucher program should be designed for students from low-income families and that participating private schools must be held to high accountability standards.
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

An Accountability Update

In addition to the progress in 2012—with five new programs enacted and six existing programs strengthened—the educational choice movement has seen a significant increase in accountability standards in private school choice programs across the country.

Among the programs that have seen new accountability standards:

  • Louisiana’s Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program
    • Among other requirements, a participating school that receives a low Scholarship Cohort Index score cannot enroll additional scholarship recipients for the next school year. Scholarship students attending a participating school labeled failing will have first priority admission to attend another participating school the following year. 
  • Pennsylvania’s Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit
    • The new scholarship tax credit program for students attending Pennsylvania’s worst performing public schools requires additional reporting and transparency measures for Scholarship Organizations, including reporting the number of scholarships awarded to students from low-income families.
  • Virginia’s Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits
    • The scholarship tax credit program created in 2012 requires participating private schools to measure annually scholarship students’ progress in reading and math with a national, norm-referenced achievement test and report those results to the state.  Beginning in the program’s third year, those results will be published on the Department of Education’s website.
 Check out the Alliance for School Choice’s 2012 Private School Choice Accountability Update for more information on accountability standards in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What do you do when the blood, sweat and tears of your history clashes with the realities of today?

That’s what Kevin P. Chavous, our senior advisor, asked in piece published yesterday on  The Huffington Post.  Looking at how Brown v. Board of Education shaped our education system in the last 60 years, Kevin questions how the educational gap for students of different racial and economic backgrounds continue to plague our country.  In looking for a solution, Kevin writes:

We must ensure that integrated schools and integrated classrooms are available to all students no matter their race or their class, and we must also start embracing and learning from our differences. Folks, we can raise academic achievement across the board while celebrating, not demonizing, the rich diversity of cultures in this country. Integrated schools are a win-win for all students. But we are going to have to teach our kids, and adults for that matter, the importance of appreciating and learning from their peers from different backgrounds. For if we don't, it will be impossible for future generations to succeed in today's diverse society where collaboration is a necessity and separate but equal is no longer a viable alternative.

The Huffington Post isn’t the only place that Kevin has been writing this week.  In Sunday’s Washington Post, Kevin wrote an editorial on what President Obama’s second term will look like and the fate of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Kevin knows firsthand how the OSP has changed family’s lives. He was a supporter of the program as a member of the D.C. Council when the program was created in 2004. And he continues to support the program.

Student Enrollment in Charter Schools Continue to Rise

Little more than a week after voters in Georgia voted to greatly expand charter options in the state and voters in Washington voted to bring charter schools to the Evergreen State, our friends at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a new study showing even more great news for educational choice!

In the 2011-12 school year, the charter school enrollment grew 13 percent over the previous year, according to the report.  And a record number of school districts have at least 30 percent of students enrolled in public charter schools.  In New Orleans, 76 percent of students are in charter schools.  Paired with the statewide expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program and a new scholarship tax rebate program, the Pelican State continues to expand educational choice.

This trend toward educational choice can be seen across the nation.  Just consider this:

  • Voters overwhelmingly supported elected officials (both Republicans and Democrats) who support educational choice in state elections.  In fact, 83 percent of the candidates endorsed or supported by the American Federation for Children and the American Federation for Children Action Fund were elected.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Educational Choice Champion for Indiana’s Families: Tony Bennett

The education reform movement was saddened to learn Tuesday that Indiana State Superintendent of Public Education Tony Bennett lost his seat to challenger Glenda Ritz.

Bennett has gained widespread praise for his education reforms since being elected, which include revamping teacher evaluations, leading state take-overs of struggling public schools, and expanding educational options.  In that last category, Bennett has been hailed for expanding charter schools and leading efforts to create a statewide voucher program. That voucher program, the Choice Scholarship Program, enrolled nearly 4,000 students in the program’s first year and more than 9,000 students in the program’s second year.

Dr. Bennett has dedicated his life to improving the lives of children. Before becoming superintendent, he spent his career working as a teacher, coach, and assistant superintendent. He holds a bachelor's and a master's degree from Indiana University Southeast and received his Ed.D. and Superintendent's License from Spalding University.

Earlier this year, the Alliance for School Choice awarded Bennett its John T. Walton Champions for School Choice Award, which is given to a prominent leader in the school choice movement for groundbreaking and dedicated work for America’s children. 

The election loss is a sad moment for Indiana’s children, but thanks to a strong coalition of advocates and elected officials, we’re certain that educational options will continue to thrive in the Hoosier State. And no matter what Bennett does next, we know he'll be working to improve the lives of children.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Victories for Educational Choice

Across the country, Democrats and Republicans who support expanding educational choices win elections

Voters in the 2012 elections sent a clear message: they were going to support candidates who stand for educational options and strong reforms.

The American Federation for Children and its affiliated organizations endorsed more than 180 candidates who won their elections.  But beyond the Federation’s election work, education reform played a strong role in this year’s elections.

Here are the highlights from the 2012 elections:

  • Georgia voters pass Amendment 1 to the state constitution, which will allow a key charter school authorizing committee to allow more charter schools to operate in the state.  Thanks to voters in Washington, the state became the 42nd state to allow charter schools, beginning the trend toward creating strong educational choice in the Evergreen State.
  • Indiana elected Mike Pence—a strong supporter of private school choice—to the Governorship.  While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence supported the only federally-funded voucher program for students in Washington, D.C.
  • In Florida, a strong bipartisan coalition was elected or reelected with a mandate to expand educational options, including Representatives Bruce Antone (D), Cary Pigman (R), and Katie Edwards (D) and Senators Darren Soto (D) and Kelli Stargel (R).

 - American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let’s Elect the Democrats and Republicans that Stand for Educational Choice

Don’t forget to vote today and elect the candidates that stand for children and educational choice. 

Join the millions of Americans who cast a strong “YES” vote for the officials that will support and enact strong, meaningful education reform.  From the local school board election to the presidential election, vote yes on educational choice.

And be sure to check out the list of candidates across the country who we're endorsing in today's elections!

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Monday, November 5, 2012

On Election Day, Georgia to Move into National Spotlight

Voters in the swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado—among others—may be reacting to the overwhelming coverage of the election much like little Abigael did.  Yet, voters in other states have hardly seen a political ad yet—and won’t likely before tomorrow’s election.  But the Peach State—which is considered solidly Republican in the presidential race—has had a lot of talk when it comes to the election.

On tomorrow’s ballot, Georgia voters will consider Amendment 1, which would set up a special charter school authorizing commission to approve charter schools at the state level.  The proposed constitutional amendment comes after the state Supreme Court ruled the Commission unconstitutional last year.

The Amendment has brought out a lot of voices both in support and against the Amendment:  The Georgia-state chapter of the Parent-Teachers Association is strongly opposed to the amendment, despite the national PTA being a strong supporter of charter schools, while Kyle Wingfield of the Atlantic Journal Constitution and school choice advocates support the proposed measure.

When Georgia residents go to the polls tomorrow, they should ask what will help students get a great education and expand educational choices.  And as the nation watches whether President Obama or Governor Romney reaches the magic 270, we’ll also be watching to see if Amendment 1 passes—as it should.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Friday, October 26, 2012

VIDEO: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools CEO Talks Educational Options with WSJ

Check out this video with our friend Nina Rees, CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, speaking with The Wall Street Journal about charter schools and the fight to bring more educational options to students in Washington State and Georgia.

Voters in Georgia, already home to two private school choice programs, will vote next month to amend the state constitution to bring back a key charter authorizing board. 

Watch the video below:

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Thursday, October 25, 2012

UPDATE: Judge Rejects Lawsuit Brought by Camden Mothers

Just a few days after three Camden mothers filed a lawsuit claiming the state is not adequately educating their children, a New Jersey judge rejected the claim that their children be removed from Camden’s public schools and transferred to higher-performing public schools or private schools.

Despite the dismal reality that 23 of 26 Camden public schools are failing, Administrative Law Judge Edward J. Delanoy Jr. said the mothers had not proven their case and had not provided specific evidence that their children suffered irreparable harm.

Attorneys representing these Camden moms will take the case to the Education commissioner who has 45 days to adopt, modify, or reject the case.

We are disappointed with the order because it requires (the children) to remain in schools that everyone knows are not fulfilling their mission of educating school children.
This disappointing result is just further proof that true educational choice is needed in New Jersey. It's why the legislature needs to pass the Opportunity Scholarship Act to give families like the three Camden mothers a true choice in their child's education.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kevin P. Chavous Gets it Right on Education Reform in Louisiana

While special interests have been more concerned with, well, special interests, than providing the best education for our children, advocates have been fighting for more educational choice for low-income families in Louisiana.

The state's governor, Bobby Jindal, earlier this year joined with a bipartisan coalition of state legislators to create a strong education reform package that included a statewide expansion of the Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence voucher program. And just a few months later, State School Superintendent John White put forth an accountability proposal that would further strengthen the program.

Alternatively, special interests sued the state over the expanded voucher program, attacked the officials that stood for children, and argued that “public money should go to public schools.”

Luckily, AFC Senior Advisor Kevin P. Chavous set the record straight in a letter to the editor in The Times-Picayune: public money should go to educate children in the best way possible, regardless of the system. Here’s what Kevin had to say:

Re: "Public money should go to public schools," Your Opinions, Oct. 16. State School Superintendent John White's support for the state voucher program is perfectly in line with his commitment to public schools, but more importantly, it's consistent with his commitment to making sure all children -- regardless of the system -- have access to a high-quality education.

For many families, that means a public school, but what about the families for which the public schools simply aren't working? In a state where 36 percent of all public schools are ranked D's or F's and 230,000 public school students are currently performing below grade level, the truth is that we need to give many families another option -- immediately. We've talked for decades about improving our public school system, but the pace of reform is too slow, and Louisiana has always ranked in the bottom five in K-12 public education outcomes.

Read Kevin's full letter by clicking here.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern: A Strong Supporter of Educational Choice

George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee for president and a former South Dakota senator, died yesterday at the age of 90.  A staunch liberal and outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam, McGovern was the Democratic standard-bearer in the early 1970s. Though he lost the 1972 presidential election in a landslide to Richard Nixon, McGovern had a long career as a member of the House and later Senator from South Dakota.  In 2000, McGovern won the Medal of Freedom --the highest civilian award-- and in 2001 was appointed United Nations global ambassador on hunger.  

Those are the interesting facts and nuggets about McGovern’s life that have populated obituaries and tributes to the former presidential nominee in the past day, but little known among McGovern's causes was his support for educational choice.

In the 1970s, McGovern pushed for tuition tax credits for parents who chose to send their children to private schools, and he also supported New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s legislation to create such a program.  In fact, the 1972 Democratic Platform called for “financial aid by a Constitutional formula to children in non-public schools.”  As has been noted in recent stories on Democratic support for educational choice, this in part reflected the influence of the Catholic Church.

In September 1972, The Washington Post ran the headline: McGovern Pledges Support For Aid to Private Schools, which wrote:

CHICAGO, Sept. 19 — Sen. George McGovern, calling Roman Catholic schools a keystone of American education, pledged his support today of federal tax credits to help offset tuition costs at parochial and other “bona fide” private schools.

“We cannot abandon these schools and we will not,” the Democratic presidential candidate said here this morning before a bubbling crowd of Catholic high school students.

Without government help, he told them, their parents would lose the right to give their children an education in which spiritual and moral values play an important role.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: More than 9,000 Indiana Students Participating in Voucher Program

We at School Choice Now! are pleased to bring you some breaking news from Indiana: more than 9,000 students are enrolled in the statewide voucher program this year! That's more than double the number who participated in the program last year, the first year of the flagship program.

Here's what our senior advisor (and Indiana native) Kevin P. Chavous had to say about the great news:
These numbers indicate what we've known all along—that parents want the option to send their child to the school that best fits their needs. Indiana is a great example of how educational choice empowers parents and provides hope for disadvantaged children.  We look forward to the program expanding for years to come.
Created in 2011, the Choice Scholarship Program is one of the most accountable private school choice programs in the country.  Indiana broke records last year for the highest first year enrollment of nearly 4,000 students.  Now, only in the program’s second year, the number of students more than doubled.

Click here to read our press release and find out more.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Families in Camden, New Jersey Lead the Fight for Educational Options

Three mothers of Camden students in New Jersey are suing the state for not providing children with a quality education as required by the state constitution.  And if precedence means anything in the New Jersey Courts, these mothers have a good shot.  Thirty-two years ago, Raymond Abbott, a Camden student and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging inadequate funding for schools in impoverished cities, led the charge in what resulted in an overhaul of how the state funds public schools.

So these moms have some good history behind them—and, unfortunately, some sobering statistics about Camden Public Schools:

  • 23 of 26 public schools in Camden are failing
  • Camden schools make up one-third of the poorest-performing public schools 5 percent of schools in New Jersey
  • Less than 1 percent of students who take the SATs score high enough to meet college standards
 While New Jersey has charter schools and public school choice, these mothers are asking the state education commissioner to find better-performing schools for their children—and the 15,000 students in Camden—immediately.

Several groups supporting the suit—Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), the Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey, and the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey—have the answer:  a scholarship tax credit program.  These organizations are also strong supporters of the Opportunity Scholarship Act.

The OSA has strong bipartisan support and the backing of Governor Chris Christie.  Despite this strong support, the bill is not yet law because of politics as usual: Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will not let the bill come to a vote.

It’s time the New Jersey Education Commissioner, Speaker Oliver, and other opponents of immediate educational options know this: Parents Know Best.  So let’s listen to these Camden mothers.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where do the Candidates Stand on THIS Form of School Choice?

With the election just around the corner—and school choice playing a big role in the debates—President Obama and Governor Romney have similar views when it comes to school choice (except, that is, on vouchers).

We’d like to know where the candidates stand on another form of school choice that often does not get the coverage charter schools, voucher programs, and scholarship tax credit programs do: Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).

ESAs—the newest form of school choice—currently exist only in Arizona, which created the program in 2011 and significantly expanded it in 2012.  Under the program, students with disabilities, children attending failing public schools, children who are in or have been in foster care, and children of military personnel are eligible to receive their education funding dollars in accounts.  These dollars can be used on a variety of educational tools including, tuition to public or private schools, textbooks, educational therapies, and college courses.

On, James Marshall Crotty argues the free market view in support of these programs.  But ESAs are not the new frontier of school choice because of free market ideals, but rather because these programs give parents real choice in personalizing their children’s education.

Arizona State Senator, Rick Murphy, who sponsored the 2012 legislation that expanded Arizona’s program said, “ESAs…give parents the flexibility to fill in their children’s learning gaps with specialized services, like tutoring or online courses.  There’s not any other tool that allows parents to do that.”

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Detroit Parents Want Educational Options; When Will the City Catch Up?

Nearly 80 percent of parents in Detroit would choose an educational option other than their child’s assigned public school, according to a survey by The Detroit News and the Thompson Foundation. 

The survey also found an even split among support for different types of educational options:  20.8 percent favored Detroit Public Schools; 23.8 percent for charter schools; 23.5 percent for private schools, and 17.6 percent preferred schools outside Detroit.

Only one in five Detroit residents believes that their child's assigned public school is the best educational setting for that child. Despite not having the full slate of educational options available to families—Michigan has no publicly-funded private school choice options—parents are already choosing alternatives to Detroit’s schools.

It’s time for real educational choice in Michigan, and especially Detroit, where the following statistics are the sad reality for the struggling city (all statistics courtesy the New Detroit coalition):
  • Only 3 percent of Detroit’s 4th graders and 4 percent of its 8th graders meet national math standards(source:
  • 2010 Michigan on-time high school graduation for African American students was 58%, compared to Latinos (64%), Native Americans (66%), whites (82%), Asians (88%) and 76% overall.
  • Only 2 percent of Detroit’s high school students are prepared for college-level math and 11 percent for college-level reading (source:
  • African-American males in Michigan have the lowest high school graduation rate in the country at 33%. White males in the state gradate at a rate of 74% (source:
  • The achievement gap continues to persist as evidenced by the 2009 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test – see chart (source:
  • Nationally in 2008, the status dropout rate for white persons was 4.8% compared to 9.9% for black and 18.3% for Hispanic persons. “Status dropout rate” is defined as the percentage of 16- through 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential (source:
The survey polled 800 Detroit residents by landlines and cellphones from September 22-25 by Glengariff Group Inc.  The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Want to learn more about public polling on educational choice in cities and states across the country? Download our comprehensive polling report, released last month.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Florida Set Goals to Provide More Educational Options for Families

The Florida State Board has adopted a new strategic plan for education in the Sunshine State. And it's predicated upon more educational options.

The strategic plan includes the goal of 17 percent of students attending charter schools or using private school choice to attend private schools. This would include more than 300 new charter schools opening in six years to serve nearly 360,000 students. The Florida Tax Credit Program would aim to serve more than 100,000 students; the John M. McKay Scholarship to serve more than 31,000.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, 9 percent of students in Florida today attend charter schools or receive a scholarship through the Florida Tax Credit Program or McKay Scholarship.

Today, the tax credit program serves 49,000 students and has a waiting list of 9,000 students.  More than 61,000 students are on waiting lists for charter schools.
"This board favors more school choice for individual kids," said board member John Padget.
This is certainly an ambitious goal, and we’d love to see more states set high goals of providing educational options to disadvantaged children.  Florida continues to be the educational choice model for the country.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Monday, October 8, 2012

D.C. Mayor Supports Scholarship Program for College Students; When Will He Support D.C. Vouchers?

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, along with the D.C. Council, created a $1.59 million scholarship program to help low-income District residents attend colleges in Washington, D.C.  The program, called the Mayor’s Scholars Fund, provides $10,000 for students attending private universities, $7,000 for students attending the University of the District of Columbia, and $3,000 for students attending community colleges.

The 185 students who received news of their scholarships over the summer were surely elated to get significant financial assistance for attending the city’s universities—both public and private.  But others, including the Mark Lerner writing in The Washington Times, are remarking on the contradiction of the Mayor’s support for the Mayor’s Scholars Fund, but strong opposition to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Earlier this year, President Obama zeroed out funding forthe D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program in his 2013 budget and Gray also made clear that parental choice is no longer a priority of his administration.  In his proposal, he breached a promise made to the charter school community by failing to close the funding disparity between charter schools and traditional D.C. public schools, as required by law.

The Administration—and Mayor Gray both opposes the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and follows the Administration’s lead on the program—argue that funding should only go to public schools, despite the fact that as many as 17,000 students are on waiting lists to attend charter schools and the voucher program continues to be oversubscribed.  The question is, why is it ok for college students to receive government money to attend private universities, but children in poor-performing K-12 schools can’t receive a scholarship to attend private schools?

As Mark Lerner writes, you’ll have to ask Mayor Gray.  To us, it doesn’t make any sense.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

Friday, October 5, 2012

The New News on Dyslexia: Steven Spielberg, New fonts, and HBO

Last month, Steven Spielberg opened up about being diagnosed as dyslexic five years ago.  While he was diagnosed as an adult, Spielberg speaks about the struggles of learning to read and being bullied in school.  What helped him overcome his struggles?  Making movies and his parents’ dedication to ensuring that he received the education that best fit his needs.  Every night, Spielberg says in his first interview about his dyslexia, his parents worked with him and reviewed his homework. 

And while James Redford, not Steven Spielberg, is the director of a new HBO documentary on dyslexia called The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, which premieres on Monday, October 29, both have a lot to say on the subject matter.  The film profiles students and famous faces including Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, all of whom have thrived despite—and sometimes in part because of—their dyslexia.

Today, we still don’t know a lot about dyslexia.  But we do know that people with dyslexia have normal and healthy brains that work differently. There are more tools nowadays to help students struggling to learn to read, including a new font called OpenDyslexic, which weighs letters down to make them easier to read.  And of course, there is a private school voucher program in Mississippi that began this school yearfor students with Dyslexia.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Presidential Debate and Choice: A Brief Appearance

Just a few days after we urged the Commission on Presidential Debates to pose questions to the candidates about education, the topic made a surprising but much-needed appearance during last night’s presidential debate.  In a segment on the role of government, moderator Jim Lehrer asked President Obama and Governor Romney about the federal government’s responsibility to improve public education.

Both candidates pointed to the success of the President’s Race to the Top initiative, as well as their support for teachers.  While there were some jabs—it was a presidential debate, after all—the two candidates also differed on the substance of their education stances.

Romney called for more educational options:

My own view, by the way, is I've added to that. I happen to believe, I want the kids that are getting federal dollars from IDEA or Title I— these are disabled kids or poor kids or lower-income kids, rather, I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice.

So all federal funds, instead of going to the — to the state or to the school district, I'd have go, if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their student.

The former Massachusetts governor went on to say:

The right answer for government is say, How do we make the private sector become more efficient and more effective? How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let's grade them. I propose we grade our schools so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, so they can take their child to a — to a school that he's being more successful.

I don't want to cut our commitment to education. I wanted to make it more effective and efficient. And by the way, I've had that experience. I don't just talk about it. I've been there. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn't have commitment to education. It's because I care about education for all of our kids.

Monday, October 1, 2012

If You Could Pose One Question... either of this year's presidential candidates, what would it be?

We here at School Choice Now! have thought of that ourselves recently, which is why we reached out to folks from President Obama and Governor Romney's campaigns to find out what they think about educational choice. The respective campaign responses (or lack thereof) may or may not surprise you, but either way, it gives you insight into what both candidates think about educational choice, as well as what we'd ask if we had a say in this year's presidential debates.

We even sent our proposed questions, along with an explanation of why this issue is so important to our country's future, to the Commission on Presidential Debates as well as the debate moderators.

Take a look at our letters to them, to each of the campaigns, as well as the responses, by clicking here.

And be sure to watch the first debate this Wednesday, October 3 at 9 p.m. EST! It takes place in Denver, CO, and will be moderated by PBS NewsHour host Jim Lehrer. The topic is domestic policy, so who knows...maybe an education question or two will make it in!

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kevin P. Chavous sits down with Bruce DePuyt at Channel 8 News DC

Our very own Kevin P. Chavous sat down this morning with Bruce DePuyt of NewsTalk on Washington, D.C.'s Channel 8 to talk about the important of education reform, educational choice, and his new book, "Voices of Determination." Take a look at the full interview here: 

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Opening Tomorrow: Won’t Back Down

Hollywood is taking education reform to the big screen with the release of Won’t Back Down—a movie about parents taking charge and demanding educational options.  Inspired by actual events, the film tells the story of a mother and teacher fighting to take over a failing public school under the parent trigger law. 

The film is moving and the message behind it is clear: parents know best.

Viola Davis, one of the stars of film, says it best during her appearance on Jay Leno:

I am a parent. And as a parent, I have a child and I know that the only way she’s going to get a part of the American Dream is through education. And so if that great education is a public school, I’m going to send my kid to the public school. If that great education is a charter school, I’m going to send my kid to a charter school. If it’s a private school, I’ll send her to a private school.

I think that it’s about wanting do what’s best for your kid.

Make sure you check out the movie for a truly moving story on why educational options are so important:

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG