Monday, April 30, 2012

Editorial Boards Endorse Education Reform in the Form of School Choice

As journalists report on education reform initiatives across the country—the political battles, implementation of new programs, and results—the other side of newspapers are sounding strong support for school choice programs.  In both left-leaning and right-leaning papers, editorial boards are endorsing these programs.

Today, The Chicago Tribune published an editorial praising Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform package recently signed into law, which expanded the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program statewide. 

In “Momentum for School Choice,” the Tribune Editorial Board writes:

The Bayou State is part of a "Top this!" competition among many states to open public schools to competition. Indiana has set up an expansive voucher program that covers students in families that have incomes below $61,000 a year. Wisconsin has expanded school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine. Ohio will give tuition vouchers to as many as 60,000 students by 2013.

And Illinois? Left in the dust.
A bill that would have offered private school tuition support to as many as 30,000 Chicago kids came close to passing a couple of years ago. The latest version is languishing in the Senate assignments committee.

And that’s not the first time the Tribune Editorial Board advocated vouchers.  In July 2011, the editorial board wrote:

Major school reforms are unspooling in as many as a dozen states, including Illinois. These laws bring the promise of a transformation just as dramatic as — forgive us — anything that Decepticons could manage. (Ask your kids.)
It starts with giving parents more options about where their children can go to school.
The American Federation for Children, a Washington D.C.-based school choice advocacy group, dubs 2011 "The year of school choice."

But Chicago isn't the only place where newspapers are taking notice of the importance of voucher programs.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Help Education in Arizona—Be a Candidate!

The American Federation for Children is gearing up to host another Cmpaign Training School to support school choice champions who are ready for public office.  We’ve held campaign training schools all across the nation—from Atlanta to Baton Rouge to Milwaukee to Indianapolis.  Now, we’re headed to Phoenix!

Here are the details:

Who: You!
What: Arizona Campaign Training School
Where: Phoenix Corporate Center in downtown Phoenix
When: May 17, 2012 from 8:30 AM- 4:30 PM
Why: Be leader in helping students and improving education

Visit to RSVP and to learn more!

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Racine Showing Strong Support for Scholarship Program

In its first year, 228 students are participating in the Racine Parental Choice Program, which was created in 2011 in the Wisconsin state budget that also expanded the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.  As many as 500 students will be able to enroll in the program next year, and beginning in 2013-14, the enrollment cap will be removed.

The Journal Times reports that already 470 students have applied for vouchers for the next school year, leaving only 30 coveted scholarship slots still available, according the state Department of Public Instruction.   

Enrollment for the program is open from May 1-7.  Families can apply for the program by contacting and applying to one of the 12 participating schools.

Students must live in the Racine Unified School District and have a family income below 300 percent of the federal poverty guideline to participate in the program.  Priority is given to students who qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program.

If more than 500 students apply for the program, the lottery system will determine scholarships awards.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Attend the AFC 2012 National Policy Summit

With our annual National Policy Summit beginning next week, we thought we'd give you a rundown of why we're so excited to be heading up to Jersey City next Thursday and Friday. And while David Letterman is the king of the Top 10 list, we've decided to borrow a page from his book by giving you the Top 10 reasons you should join us at the Summit.

Be sure to visit to register or to learn more!

10: Juan Williams

He’s worked for The Washington Post, NPR, and now Fox News and he’s personally interviewed every U.S. president since President Ronald Reagan.  Juan Williams is not only one the nation’s leading journalists and political commentators, but he’s a huge supporter of school choice.  Calling school choice, ‘the civil rights issue of our time,’ we’re excited to hear what Williams has to say at our summit!

9: Jersey City

Only minutes away from New York City, Jersey City could soon be providing educational opportunities to students from low-income families and who attend the state’s worst performing public schools.  What better place to talk school choice than a city fighting to get school choice options.

8: Research

The research on school choice shows that these programs help children achieve a great education.  The AFC Policy Summit brings the nation’s premiere experts on school choice to talk about their recent findings.  Research facts on school choice will help advocates, elected officials, and supporters fight to enact and expand school choice programs across the nation.

7: John T. Walton Champion for School Choice Award

The Alliance for School Choice will present the John T. Walton Award for School Choice, an annual award for a leader in the school choice movement.  Named after the late John T. Walton, a committed philanthropist and advocate for education reform, this year’s winner exemplifies everything the award stands for, but you’ll have to come see who the winner is yourself!

6: Voices of Determination

The new book by Kevin P. Chavous, senior advisor to the American Federation for Children, chronicles the stories of ten children who have overcome adversities to get an education that transformed their lives.   Chavous will be signing copies of his new book at the Summit—a perfect fit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strong Democratic Support for School Choice

You may hear that school choice is an issue with only supporters from a single political party or of a single ideology.  But as more school choice programs are created and expanded, more Democrats than ever before are voting in favor of these bills.  In fact, when Governor Bobby Jindal signed an historic statewide expansion of the Student Scholarships for Excellence in Education program yesterday, nearly half of the “yea” votes in the Senate were cast by Democrats and a dozen Democrats voted for the legislation in the House.

Hare are some of the most prominent Democrats who support school choice:

Cory Booker: America’s mayor is not only a hero when it comes to saving neighbors from fires, but he’s also a hero to Newark’s children.  A strong supporter of education reform, this Mayor has teamed up with Republican Governor Chris Christie to fight for the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a corporate scholarship program that, if enacted, would allow the state’s most disadvantaged students who attend the state’s poorest performing schools to have access to education alternatives. He'll also be a keynote speaker at our annual National Policy Summit on May 3-4, 2012!

Michelle Rhee: Former chancellor of D.C. public schools, Michelle Rhee is founder of StudentsFirst, which does just what it sounds like: puts students first.  Rhee is a strong supporter of charter schools and private school choice.  In fact, Rhee spoke in support of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program while heading up D.C. public schools.  Speaking at the 2011 AFC Policy Summit, Rhee said:

“I do not believe that my job is to protect and defend and preserve a district that is doing a disservice to children. I believe that my job is to make sure that every single child in this city gets a great education. I am agnostic as to the delivery mechanism.”

Joel Klein: John Klein, former chancellor of New York City public schools and now, the executive vice president of News Corp., has been pushing strong education reforms in New York and nationally, with a particular strong note on educational options.  A strong supporter of public school choice and charter schools, Klein also supports giving parents the most options available, including through voucher programs.  Writing in the New York Daily News in March, Klein wrote:

“Public school choice, charter schools and vouchers like the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships help to level the playing field for families and encourage educators to think creatively about how to best serve students and families. Coupled with necessary resources, well-prepared educators, and strong curricula, I believe that choice has the power to improve the overall quality of education we are providing to our students.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Louisiana Enacts Statewide Expansion of Scholarship Program

Gov. Bobby Jindal prepares to sign House Bill 976 today in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal today signed into law House Bill 976, representing a major step in his bold education reform agenda—and a lifeline for thousands of families in the Bayou State.  The legislation expands the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) Program to students all across the state from low- and middle-income families who are attending failing public schools.

The legislation, which passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers, will expand eligibility to as many as 380,000 children statewide.  Families with a household income of less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the program is their children attends a school rated “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state.

The SSEE Program was created in 2007 for students from low-income families in Orleans Parish attending failing schools.  In the 2011-12 school year, more than 1,848 students received scholarships.

Click here to read more about the history of AFC's role in bringing school choice to Louisiana families.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Celebrate Your Favorite Teacher as an American Pioneer of Teaching

Teachers play an integral in educating every child across the country.  School Choice Now! is very happy to spread the word about a way we can celebrate the millions of teachers around the country! 

The National Coalition for Public School Options, a group of parents and advocates working to ensure that all parents have the choice to choose the best public school for their children, taking nominations for the American Pioneer of Teaching Award.

The award is given to teachers who have changed a student’s academic life.  This teacher is passionate, dedicated, and works with students’ individual learning needs.

Why did the National Coalition for Public School Options create this award?

Here's what their website has to say:

The American Pioneer of Teaching Award recognizes teachers whose primary field is in public schools of choice like charter schools and online schools. Recipients will receive a physical award and will be recognized by our organization's national board of directions.

Please take a moment and thank the teachers who have shaped our children’s lives—and don’t forget to nominate that one teacher who has helped transform your or your child’s academic life!

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Editorial Boards say "YES" to D.C. Scholarship Program

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and the controversy of President Obama zeroing out funding for the program in his FY2013 budget has sparked strong support for the program.  Supporters on the hill sent a flurry of letters to the White House and U.S. Department of Education, and now a series of editorials are supporting school choice in the District.

Here’s what is being said everywhere from The Washington Post to The Wall Street Journal:

The Washington Post
April 10, 2012

The administration’s action — which includes a bizarre provision prohibiting students who are unsuccessful in the lottery that allocates spaces in the program from reapplying the following year — would effectively place an arbitrary limit on the number of children able to enjoy the program’s benefits. Why cap the number at the 1,615 students currently enrolled when the program has accommodated larger numbers (1,903 in 2007-08, for example)? Does the administration really want to send the message — much like the one delivered in 2009 when Democrats tried to kill the vouchers — that there is not much of a future for the program?

Surely, it shouldn’t be among the president’s priorities to single out for attack a tiny federal program that not only works — in the judgment of federal evaluators — but also enjoys bipartisan support. If it is, we trust that Mr. Boehner would step in, as he did last year, to save a program that D.C.’s poorest families value for their children.

Why is Mayor Gray jeopardizing aid for school choice in the District?

The Washington Post

April 13, 2012

Here, in the District, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of providing quality educational options, through innovative charter schools and our highly successful, federally funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, through which more than 1,600 low-income children attend quality private schools. But all of that is being threatened by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

The release of Mr. Gray’s 2013 budget proposal makes clear that parental choice is no longer a priority of his administration. In the proposal, he breaches a promise made to charter school supporters by not closing the funding disparity between charter schools and traditional D.C. public schools.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Parents Take the Reins on Education Reform

Something amazing is happening in education reform; and it doesn’t have to do with enacting new programs or expanding existing ones.  

It’s about who is leading the fight for these reforms.  For years, special interests have hijacked education policy for their own needs as our education system has fallen more and more behind.

But looking at the news stories about education, one group is continuing to exert its influence: parents.  Once parents could only work through PTAs; but today, parents are voicing their ideas and advocating for real policy changes.  Here are some of the standout ways parents are taking control of education reform:

Parents Know Best: A campaign recently launched by the American Federation for Children that works to stop the attacks on parents because we believe that parents—not bureaucrats—know what’s best for their children.  The Parents Know Best campaign seeks to empower parents to take control of educational choice for their children.  With a video that’s spreading across the internet, this campaign says it all, because parents DO know best.

Kelly Williams-Bolar: The face of parents fighting for education reform starts with Kelly Williams-Bolar—a mother who was jailed and convicted for trying to send her children to a safer school.  Catching the attention of the national media, this mother not only demonstrated the great lengths parents go to provide a quality education, but also showed that too many parents do not have real educational choices for their children.  The idea that a mother would be jailed for trying to provide a safe place for her children shocked the nation.

Parents Unions: In an effort to combat the powerful teachers unions, several “Parents Unions” have popped up across the nation.    Active in Connecticut, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and New York, these organizations advocate for a variety of reforms and serve as a unified force of parents.  Parents—including Williams-Bolar—are coming together to join in the fight for educational choice.  In an Education Week article, Sean Cavanagh writes “If there is a common thread linking the parents’ organizations, though, it’s the belief that parents’ voices have been shut out of policy debates for too long.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

School Choice Parent, Activist Calls for Saving D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program

The following post is from Virginia Walden Ford, the former executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice. Last summer, Virginia returned to her hometown of Arkansas following the successful reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

For two years, I fought alongside parents, friends, and advocates to save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.  Supporters from all across the country stood with us to support the children of the District of Columbia.  When I left Washington, D.C. last year, I felt that the program—thanks to heroes like Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman—would serve the District’s children for years to come. 

I was heartbroken to learn that President Obama had—once again—targeted to end this wonderful program.  This is so very wrong. 

The children benefiting from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program live in neighborhoods just a few miles from the White House.   And once again, they are at risk of losing the opportunity to continue their journey of receiving a quality education in the schools their parents have chosen.

We have witnessed, through their participation in the scholarship program, children thriving academically in the school of their parents’ choice; and we have seen their parents becoming engaged and involved in their education. We have seen children, who had never thought about going to college, enrolling and excelling in some of the finest schools in the nation.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Governor Chris Christie, Mayor Cory Booker Put New Jersey Children Ahead of Partisan Politics

Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2010.

It's usually tough to find common ground in today's often bitterly partisan political landscape.  But two of New Jersey's most prominent chief executives are doing their best to change that. 

Instead of focusing on issues on which they don't agree, Republican Governor Chris Christie and Democratic Mayor Cory Booker -- both of whom will be giving keynote addresses at next month's AFC National Policy Summit -- may not agree on much, they do agree on providing children from low-income families the opportunity to access a quality education.  And that is something to celebrate!

While they have among the brightest futures in their respective parties, they're concerned less with running for the next office and more with working to reform New Jersey's education system for the betterment of the state's kids.

Christie has championed the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA), which would create a corporate scholarship tax credit program for children in the state's lowest-performing school districts, since he took office in January 2010.  He's made the OSA a top priority entering the legislative session, and it's expected to be considered by the legislature later this spring.  Booker, who became Newark's mayor in 2007, last year testified passionately in favor of the OSA and has been an outspoken supporter of Christie's education reform agenda.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Detroit Parents Choosing Educational Alternatives in Strong Numbers

One of the major tenets behind the school choice movement is that parents know their children better than bureaucrats and are in the best position to make educational choices for their children.

Supporters of a quality education for every child would argue that if a child is not getting a quality education in his or her assigned school, that child should have the choice at attend a different school. Furthermore, they believe that parents should be able to shop for the best education, and additional choices will raise all boats via much-needed competition.  Both arguments bring us to one place: school choice.

According to The Detroit News, parents in the Motor City are not only shopping for better schools, but they're doing so in high numbers.  Nearly three-fourths of parents report shopping for a school besides their assigned public school, according to a recent survey conducted by Michigan Future, Inc., a nonpartisan think-tank.

With 71 percent of parents taking advantage of educational options in Detroit, here's where students are going:

  • 55 percent attend their assigned public school
  • 22.5 percent attend charter schools in Detroit
  • 15.2 percent attend public schools outside of Detroit
  • 5.1 percent attend magnet schools in Detroit
  • 2.5 percent attend private school or are homeschooled
Detroit has lost more than 100,000 students over the past decade, and today serves 90,499 students in the its public school district.  Of those students, 47.2 percent live in poverty and 78.2 percent are enrolled in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program.  In addition, approximately 45,000 children attend public charter schools.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Arizona Leaders Tout Technology in Education

John Huppenthal, state superintendent of public instruction in Arizona and Craig Barrett, chairman of the Arizona Ready Council and former chairman and CEO of Intel, are touting for more technology in Arizona’s education.

In an editorial published in The Arizona Republic, this duo points out that Arizona leads the nation in school choice programs—there are four publicly funded private school choice programs in the state—but also demonstrates the state’s  need to up technology to better implement its education programs.

So take a look at the editorial here, but don’t forget to see Craig Barrett talk about technology and education at our 2012 National Policy Summit on May 3-4.  Registration is open to the public at

Register today and see Barrett, legislators, school choice researchers, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speak!

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Louisiana Federal Senators Support Work of State Senators

The Louisiana Legislature yesterday moved the Bayou State one step closer to expanding the New Orleans voucher program statewide.  In a major step toward providing more educational options, school choice advocates around the state praised the measure.

And we got a surprising statement of praise out of the nation’s capital as well!

You'll recall how Senator Mary Landrieu (D) last month referred to the proposed voucher expansion as "illusionary."

Yesterday, after the bill's passage, her tune had changed -- for the better. Read below to see what she said.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Check Out a Preview of the Lineup to be Featured at our 2012 National Policy Summit!

The American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit is just under one month away! And we have some exciting speakers lined up:

  • Wisconsin Representative Jason Fields (D)
Representative Jason Fields, a Democrat representing Milwaukee, has been a strong supporter of school choice in the Badger State.  In 2011, he not only voted in favor of the expansion of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, but he also ensured that a “once in, always in” provision, which allowed participating families to remain eligible for the program despite future income growth, was included in the expansion package.

  • New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D)
Assemblyman Troy Singleton is strong supporter of the Opportunity Scholarship Act and wrote an editorial in the Times of Trenton, where he wrote why he supported this much-needed legislation:

“I am committed to ensuring that all children have that same opportunity to succeed. As we continue to strive to enhance our education system for all the state’s children, we have to consider tools such as the OSA to save as many students as we can as we pursue that goal.”

  • Dr. Tony Bennett
Dr. Tony Bennett, superintendent of Indiana Public Schools helped shepherded in a new era of choice in the Hoosier State.  Under his tenure, Governor Daniels signed the Choice Scholarship Program into law.  This voucher program is the nation’s broadest voucher program in the nation and in its first year provided scholarships to nearly 4,000 students.  In addition, Bennett has seen an increase in graduation rates in the state for the fifth consecutive year.

  • Georgia Representative Rahn Mayo (D)
This Democrat not only supports school choice, he put his words behind his actions this year when Mayo voted in support of Senate Bill 181, which expands the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program—a voucher program for students with special needs.  In the 2011-12 school year, the program served nearly 3,000 students. 

  • Dr. Arlene Ackerman
Dr. Arlene Ackerman has over 40 years of experience in the public school system as a teacher, principal, and, most recently, a superintendent of the 10th largest school district in the United States. An ardent supporter of public education, she has worked tirelessly to improve public schools on opposite ends of the country, in and out of the classroom. But Arlene Ackerman realizes that many public schools aren’t serving the children in their buildings, and for them, another option is necessary. That’s why the former superintendent surprised many in the education establishment when she forcefully endorsed school choice, even going as far as calling access to a quality education “the civil rights battle of our generation.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grand Canyon State Celebrates Anniversary of Grand Victory

Many minds have been on the U.S. Supreme Court in recent days, and that includes ours here at School Choice Now! -- but not for the reasons you might be thinking.

One year ago today, families across the nation cheered for some good news when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that scholarship tax credit programs are indeed constitutional.  More than 128,000 students attend the school of their parents’ choice thanks to 10 scholarship tax credit programs across eight states.

The justices reversed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and instead ruled that the Arizona’s Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program does not violate Constitutional principles with regard to separation of church and state.    

In the 5-4 ruling, the majority decided that choice opponents lack standing to challenge the Arizona program on grounds that it uses government funds to promote religious institutions.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that although parents use most of the scholarship funds to send their children religious-affiliated schools, it does not amount to the funding of those schools by the government.

“Contributions result from the decisions of private taxpayers regarding their own funds,” Kennedy said.

Since it began in 1997, the Arizona Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program has grown to become the third-largest school choice program in the country—one of four school choice programs in Arizona alone. It is also the third-longest running school choice program in the country and the nation’s oldest scholarship tax credit program.

The ruling was just one of many victories for educational options in 2011—a year The Wall Street Journal—dubbed “the year of school choice.”  In addition, seven new publicly funded private school choice programs were enacted and 11 were expanded.

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

School Choice Legislation Makes Headway in 2012

We’re only a quarter of the way through the year, but school choice legislation is not only making headlines, but also significant progress in state legislatures across the nation.  Here’s an update on the progress in 2012:

Education Savings Account Expansion: The Arizona legislature passed an expansion to the states’ fourth—and the nation’s first—education savings account program.  Originally created in 2011, this program allows parents of students who are identified as having a disability to receive 90 percent of the per-pupil expenditure to use on a variety of educational tools, including tuition and fees, textbooks, educational therapies, and tutoring.   House Bill 2626 increases the number of students who would qualify for ESAs by including students who attend a school or school district with a “D” or “F” rating, students of a member of the U.S. Military, and students identified as gifted. The bill now heads to Gov. Jan Brewer for her signature.

Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program Expansion: In February, Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation expanding the nation’s first scholarship tax credit program into law.  Under the expansion, donors can now donate up to $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for married couples to Scholarship Tuition Organizations.  Originally created in 1997—and upheld in 2011 by the United States Supreme Court—the program today serves more than 25,000 students and receives more than $47 million in donations.  

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion: Governor Scott signed legislation into law that expanded the highly-successful Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.  The legislation increased the cap on donations by $10.25 million next year, bringing the statewide donation cap to $229 million.  The bill also allows students in grades 2-5 to receive a scholarship without attending public school in the prior year. In addition, participating private schools can administer the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and the state education commissioner can suspend participating schools that demonstrate “a previous pattern of failure to comply” with state regulations.

Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program Expansion: House Bill 181 which strengthens the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program by providing specific parent notifications of student eligibility, creating multiple enrollment dates, establishing state payment deadlines, and changing the IEP requirements for student eligibility has passed both the House and Senate.  The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.  While technical in nature, this bill will allow more parents, students, and schools to participate in the program, which has grown every year.  In the 2011-12 school year, the program serves 2,965 students.

Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program Expansion: House Bill 976 which includes a statewide expansion of the New Orleans voucher program passed the House with bipartisan support—including ‘yes’ votes from 12 Democrats.  The program would allow children from families making less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline and who attend a school with a “C,” “D,” or “F” rating to qualify to receive a voucher to attend the participating private school of their parents’ choice. The legislation also creates a “parent trigger” for failing schools, expands pathways to create high-quality charter schools, and establishes a per course provider program.  The Senate Committee on Education unanimously passed the bill out of committee.  The full Senate is expected to pass the legislation.