Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rose Remains in National Spotlight for Reform Work

Image courtesy Terry Shoffner of the Wall Street Journal.
Back in June, we told you about the great work of former NBA star Jalen Rose, who was then preparing to open a charter school in his hometown of Detroit.

Fast forward seven months, and not only has Rose continued his strong work in the education reform movement, but he's getting some deserved national attention for his contributions to the fortunes of low-income kids.

Last week the Wall Street Journal sat down with Rose to discuss his recent education work, which has centered on the principal that parents should be able to choose the best educational options for their children.

Says the Journal:
He also wants to influence parents—empowering them to demand better schools for their kids. The rigid system of school boards telling families where their kids have to go to school perpetuates poverty and a sense of entrapment, he says: "Forty-seven percent of Detroit area parents are functionally illiterate. So that puts their kids at a real handicap. Say my mom is one of those 47%. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't have a fair opportunity for a quality public education. But since my mom is functionally illiterate and we grew up on the west side of Detroit, I'm forced to go to this school that has been a poor-performing school for 30 years." 
"There should be parental choice," he says clearly. "Schools should be open. If it's a public education, and the school in your district is poor-performing, you should be able to put your student or kid wherever you want." 
Choice could be relatively easily implemented, he says. "I'm a taxpaying citizen, right? So if I'm paying $4,000 worth of taxes and I don't want my kid to go to this school, why can't they give me my $4,000 and allow me to pick where I want to put my kids?"
Consistent readers of this blog already know about the contributions Rose has made to reforming Detroit's schools, but what may be less-well known are Rose's motivations behind his passionate pursuit of educational equality.

Despite making millions as a famous athlete, Rose never lost touch with his humble beginnings—a set of circumstances that have driven him for well over two decades to earn the resources to be able to make real change in his own family's life, as well as the lives of so many like them.

According to his WSJ interview, much of that desire to empower families through education stems from what was missing in his own home.

Says Rose:
The youngest of four kids, Mr. Rose was raised by his mother and never knew his biological father, former NBA player Jimmy Walker. ("The only time we were in the same place at the same time was in 2007 at his funeral," he notes with obvious regret.) He was driven to pursue of his dream of playing in the NBA, he says, "to try to help take my family out of the financial situation we were in."
The Journal story also discusses recent on-court related matters, including some incendiary comments Rose made about rival Duke star Grant Hill and his following apology. Not only have the players reconciled, but Hill has even to pledged to pay a visit to Rose's school in the upcoming months.

The reality of Rose's post-playing pursuits is that they can serve a multi-faceted purpose; not only is he well-positioned to help low-income kids and families, but he's becoming a role model for another demographic group in need of some direction: former athletes.

While so many former athletes grapple with financial problems once their playing days end, Rose is instead giving back. He says it has helped him adjust to life after the game—an adjustment period faced by all former athletes.

Perhaps if they have their sights set on helping others long before their careers are over, they'll also be in a better position to help themselves, Rose says:
At the end of our interview, Mr. Rose says that most former athletes have voids in their lives after they leave center stage. They often can't find a new mission in life. But he has the Leadership Academy: "I just really felt I had to help the community I came from. I know how hard it is to make it out of here."
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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