Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Howell Heads Up Strong Support for School Choice in Virginia

Virginia Delegate Algie Howell has been serving in the House of Delegates since 2004, but he’s been a supporter of educational options for Virginia’s families for much, much longer. And it's because Howell has been able to overcome educational inequalities in his own life that he wants to make sure that students from low-income families get a choice in their own educational environment. Says the Democratic member:

It's about "parental choice," empowering parents to make the best decisions for their children. Every parent wants the best for their child, especially when it comes to education. [School choice] helps parents do exactly that.

Representing parts of Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach, Howell is a former public school teacher and school board member, and a cosponsor of House Bill 321, which would create a corporate scholarship tax credit for students from low-income families to attend the school of their parents’ choice.

Why does Howell support the idea of being able to choose your own school?  Because when he was in high school, he couldn’t:

I wanted desperately to go to Holland High School. I was smart enough, I was ready and I knew it would provide the best opportunity for the kind of life I dreamed about.

But back then, like every other black child I knew, I was assigned by the school system to local "colored" schools, and high school was no different. I am a proud graduate of Nansemond County Training School, but sometimes I wonder what might have been had I been allowed to attend the better-equipped "white school."

Now, in his work as an elected official, Howell is committed to making sure that all children have access to a great education. 

His firsthand experience has taught him too much about the sad results of what happens when students are lost in a system that doesn't work for them. Says Howell:

As a former high school teacher and School Board member, I know personally that many students simply do not thrive in a "one size fits all" setting. Too many students do not reach their full potential because the school they are assigned to is simply not a good fit. They may need a different educational setting, smaller classes or a different curriculum. They need a new opportunity, and they cannot get it without the kind of help [this bill] will provide.

Just yesterday, hundreds of committed advocates like Howell joined at the Virginia State Capitol to rally in favor of House Bill 321 and bringing school choice to the Old Dominion State. Read more about their efforts here.

We'll be sure to keep you updated on the progress the legislation makes, thanks in large part to the hard work of  Howell and his colleagues (including Delegate Jimmie Massie!).

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

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