Tuesday, June 12, 2012

School Choice Ohio Celebrates Anniversary of Yesterday's Milestones, Looks Forward to Tomorrow's Victories

Our friends at School Choice Ohio yesterday celebrated the 10-year anniversary landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program in Cleveland, Ohio.

At “Fulfilling the Promise,” hosted by School Choice Ohio and sponsored by a broad coalition of supporters (including the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice), more than 650 advocates, supporters, scholarship recipients, parents, and legislators came to celebrate the victory 10 years agoand the imminent victories for the families of Cleveland.

At the event, our own Kevin P. Chavous spoke on this landmark decision and its impact on the larger impact it had on the school choice movement.  In 1995, when the Cleveland Program was enacted, there was only one other private school choice program--the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. 

Thanks in part to vouchers being upheld by the Supreme Court in 2002 and scholarship tax credit programs being upheld by the high court last year, states have enacted private school choice programs in significant numbers around the nation.  In 2012 alone, Louisiana expanded the New Orleans voucher program statewide, Florida expanded its flagship scholarship tax credit program, and Arizona expanded the nation's oldest scholarship tax credit programs as well as its first-of-its-kind Educational Savings Account program.  And Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi have created new private school choice programs, bringing the total private school choice programs to 30 programs across 15 states and the District of Columbia.

“Fulfilling the Promise” also focused on the students and families empowered by Ohio’s private school choice programs.  We heard from Walter Woodard, an EdChoice Scholarship recipient and A’Bria Robinson, a Cleveland Scholarship recipient.  The event also featured Tumpa Lewis and Tera Myers, parents whose children receive scholarships thanks to the state’s two private school choice programs for students with special needs.

And the event focused on the fight ahead and the imminent victories of tomorrow, including State Representative Bill Patmon’s fight to enact legislation that will eliminate the parent contribution requirement for students—allowing more families to participate.  Under current law, students in grades K-8 can receive up to $4,250 and students in grades 9-12 can receive up to $5,000 in scholarships.  The parent contribution requirement mandates that parents of low-income families contribute 10 percent of the scholarship and parents of other students contribute 25 percent of the scholarship.  This legislation will allow students to receive scholarships without the parent contribution.  The bill is expected to pass the legislature and be signed into law by Governor John Kasich.

The bill has bipartisan support in the legislature, including the support of House Speaker William Batchelder (R) and State Senator Nina Turner (D).  Both elected officials also spoke at the event.

Representative Patmon was not only honored for his work on this bill, but he was also honored, along with Senator Turner and Friends of Breakthrough Schools President John Zitzner with the School Choice Ohio Courage Award—an award named after Fannie Lewis, the late Cleveland City Councilmember and advocate for school choice.

“Fulfilling the Promise” is about celebrating families and students whose lives have been changed thanks to educational options. But it was also about gearing up for new victories to come.

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

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