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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What about Motivation and School Choice? Look at the Research

In a study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found a 21-percent decline in truancy rates for males entering high school. 

The Yale Daily News sat down with one of the coauthors, Seth Zimmerman, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics.  Here’s what Zimmerman said on the research:

Q What’s the essence of school choice?

A School choice is when students have the option to attend schools other than those in their local school zones. In the district we studied, there is a pretty comprehensive district-wide choice program where students can choose from a variety of public magnet schools or charter schools. Each year there is a lottery in the spring where students will submit a ranked list of the schools they want to attend. After the district conducts the lottery the students find out where they are going to go the next year.

Q Do you think that the motivation to go to a choice school would in itself have an effect on lowered truancy rates and improved test scores?

A I think that in general if you were comparing students who wanted to attend a new school or attended a school of choice to students who didn’t, that would be a problem. What we do in the paper to deal with that is we use these lotteries. We say, anyone who wants to attend a school, signs up for the lottery. Then, within the lottery, some students are randomly selected to have that opportunity. If you compare the students who wanted to go versus the students that wanted to go but weren’t selected, that is a pretty clean comparison because they would both in theory have the same level of motivation.

Q But couldn’t the students who applied for but were not accepted to the lottery program also affect truancy rate if, let’s say, they lost motivation due to the rejection?

A What we do to think about that is we compare the students who win the lottery to the students who lose the lottery, and we then compare both groups to students who don’t enter at all. The idea is the students who don’t enter at all don’t receive a positive or negative shock, and what you see is the students who lose the lottery and the students who don’t enter at all basically continue along the same trend, whereas the students who win the lottery tend to have lower truancy rates. That’s sort of the way we deal with that.

Q How do you think your study would fare in terms of repeatability and scalability?

A There have been other studies of these high-performing charter schools, especially in Boston and neighboring cities that have come up with results that are qualitatively similar to ours in terms of finding these large test score effects. I would say that the result is beginning to appear more frequently. There have also been other large-scale studies on the effect of school choice, like in New York City … , that have found modest but positive effects. I would say, in general, our test score findings are broadly consistent with current research.

Q In the paper you focused on truancy rate change after students were admitted to their choice school, but before they actually enrolled. What was the reasoning behind that?

A The idea is that students that get to attend their chosen school benefit in at least two ways. On the one hand, they may benefit if their new school is better than the school they might have attended, or if the school is a better match for them. That could be true for how they score on tests, or for how they behave in the classroom if the pedagogical style is better suited to them. At the same time, students may benefit if they are more motivated and bring more to the table themselves when they have the opportunity to attend a school that they want to attend. Now, the problem is that generally those two things take place at the same time, so you are becoming more motivated, but you are also attending a school that may be a better match for you. The insight that we had is that there is a brief period of time when students haven’t been directly exposed to this new teaching that happens at their chosen school, but may already have accrued some of the motivational benefits just by knowing they have the opportunity to go in the future.
Q That kind of reminds me of college admissions.

A Yeah, right? College admissions might be the opposite though because once you find out you got in, it’s over [laughs].

Q Are you continuing this research?

A One project I’m currently involved with is a project I am doing with one of the co-authors of this paper, Chris Neilson, about school construction. New Haven has one of the biggest per capita school construction projects in the country and it’s been sort of a high priority of the mayor and the school administration for about 20 years now. They’ve rebuilt nearly every school in the city. If you walk around New Haven you’ll notice that a lot of these elementary schools are really beautiful. [Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School] downtown was rebuilt under this project. [Worthington] Hooker School at East Rock was rebuilt as well. It’s about a $1.5 billion project. Chris and I worked with the New Haven district to evaluate that project and tried to understand what impact rebuilding the schools had on the students in terms of scores and also what the impact was on neighborhoods and home prices around the schools. [We found] that these schools had relatively large and sustained effects on student performance and the neighborhoods that surround the schools had increases in home prices. If they build a new school in your school zone, the value of the surrounding homes will tend to go up by a modest to large amount, I would say. This suggests that people value these projects because people are willing to pay more for a house that has default access to the newly constructed schools.

Q What about your upcoming projects?

A We’re doing a big project in Chile right now where we’re trying to run a large informational experiment with the goal of seeing how having better information about the costs and benefits of different college degree programs affect students’ choices about where to attend college. Chile is facing many of the similar issues that we are facing here in the sense that they have a partially privatized higher education system together with public loans. [This means that] choices that students make about where to go to college have consequences as far as student loan default, [which can pose] big costs to the government. In some ways it is a more extreme situation than we have here.

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

What’s the Buzz in Education?

With the 2012-13 school year well under way across the country, it seems that everyone—from Hollywood with the new hit movie Won’t Back Down to President Obama and Governor Romney in the race for the White House—is talking education reform.

So the Schools of Thought blog over at CNN summed up what people are saying about education reform.  So what are the top buzzwords in education reform?  Well the list would not be complete without educational options:

School choice – The different educational options available to parents and students and the extent to which they can take advantage of these options.  School choice is not a new term, but one that will continue to drive the education conversation this school year, especially around election time. It’s a concept that is politically popular, though some opponents question the fairness of vouchers and some point out mixed reviews on charter schools and student achievement.  For most students, their school is determined by their address.  School choice advocates prefer that parents, not ZIP codes, determine what school their children will attend. Among the current educational options available in different districts are magnet schools, charter schools, private schools (with vouchers in some places), open enrollment (where students can attend any school within a district) and homeschooling.  As a result of school choice legislation in some states, some parents are enrolling their children in online classes, while others are opting for “blended learning” – a combination of online and classroom instruction.

We’re glad to see school choice make the five buzzwords along with common core standards, flipped classes, gamification, and massive open online course.  But we’d like to point out the research that shows that vouchers not only help disadvantaged children, but have strong educational attainment rates.

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

Monday, September 24, 2012

It’s Education Nation! So Let’s Tweet

We're at Education Nation today and tweeting all of the school choice news.  Here are some of our tweets (and we even made it on the Education Nation Twitter board):

Make sure you follow all of the Education Nation news by following @schoolchoicenow.

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

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Other Good News About the Louisiana Voucher Program

Last week, the Louisiana Department of Education reported that nearly 4,944 students are participating in the expanded Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) Program this year.  As nearly 5,000 families celebrated hearing that their children would be escaping poor-performing public schools and education reform advocates celebrated a large growth in parental options in the Bayou State, one part of the story got lost in the news.

The Department reported that 118 schools were participating in the program and one school—Park Vista Elementary in St. Landry Parish—was the only public school accepting voucher students.

The school, located in Opelousas, La., is the only B-rated school in the Parish.  Not only is the school high-performing, it serves a large percentage of students living in poverty.

The school decided to participate because the staff wanted to help students.

"To be honest with you the staff are the ones that said ‘why don't we do that,’ said Park Vista Elementary Principal Ulysse Joubert.  “I said very good."

Watch a report about the school below.

The Graduation Rate Reality

During the 2009-10 school year, 52 percent of black male students graduated from high school with a regular diploma within four years. This is the first time that the graduation rate has been above 50 percent.  According to a study released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the achievement gap between white males and black males has closed by 3 percentage points over 10 years.

In other words, it would take more than 50 years for this gap to close.

The story for Hispanic males is not much better: the national on-time graduation rate for Hispanic males is 58 percent.

Match these dismal statistics with the graduation rates and college enrollment rates of private school choice programs:

  • The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has a graduation rate of 91 percent—more than 21 percentage points higher than those who were interested in the program, but did not receive a scholarship and more than 30 percentage points higher than the graduation rates of D.C. Public Schools.  Taking into account that 87 percent of this year’s participating students identify themselves as black and 11 percent identify has Hispanic or Latino, the graduation rates for students currently in the program will go far beyond the dismal national rates.
  • In Milwaukee, a “gold standard” evaluation found that the on-time graduation rate for students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was 7.2 percentage points higher than the graduation rate of students in Milwaukee Public Schools.
This New York research is particularly poignant since the Schott Foundation’s report showed that New York has the worst graduation rate for black males—at only 37 percent.

The reality is that the graduation rates of minority children are far behind those of white students.  The answer is not to set low standards, but to offer educational options for students to access great schools today.

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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Measuring Parent Power Because Parents Know Best

How do you measure the success of education policy?  Education policymakers have used high school graduation rates, college graduation rates, proficiency exams, per-pupil funding, and many many other measures.

Thanks to the Center for Education Reform, we can add a new one: the measure of parental options.  In its Parent Power Index, which measures states based on several elements of power” charter schools, private school choice, teacher quality, transparency, and online learning.

Measuring the education by access to educational options is a great way to measure how a state has reformed its education, since parents know best.

Not surprisingly, nine out of the top 10 states on the index are states with robust private school choice programs.  Ranking first is Indiana, which in 2011 enacted the Choice Scholarship Program.  In its second year, more than 8,500 students are going to a school of their parents’ choice thanks to the voucher program.

Also ranked in the top 10, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.—all home to strong private school choice programs from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, both of which boast high graduation rates.

Check out the Parent Power Index to see how your state ranks and how private school choice programs mean more parental power.

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Reality of the Education Status Quo: Lower Expectations for Black Students

Public education is supposed to provide an equal education to all students, regardless of race or family income.

But parents and education reformers have long recognized that this is not the reality of our current education system.  Public charter schools, open enrollment, traditional public schools, magnet schools, and private school choice have been tirelessly fought for to allow low-income families to escape failing public schools where achievement is low and violence is often high.  After all, our equal system wasn’t supposed to determine a child’s future because based on a ZIP code.

But opponents to school choice have long claimed that instead of providing educational options to low-income families whose students end up at the bottom of the achievement gap, we should invest more money into fixing schools.  Years later, our failing schools are still failing—and there are more of them than ever.

We need a robust public education system that can serve our children; and we need educational choices for families that feel their children are being left behind.  Because the reality is, the status quo is leaving many of our children behind.

And now, defenders of the status quo are lowering expectations on academic performance—but only for students that are black, Hispanic, or poor.  Under waivers to 27 states, the goals over the next five years are lower for black, Hispanic, and poor students than they are for white and Asian students.

Parents have called this what it is—a prejudice. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This Young Superstar Mayor is Fighting to Bring School Choice to his City…and We’re Not Talking about Cory Booker…

We’re talking about Toru Hashimoto, the Mayor of Osaka, Japan. This 43-year-old-mayor is the newest superstar in Japan having started his own national party. Called a “political maverick” by The Economist, Hashimoto, like Cory Booker, is putting off a run for national office because he still has to do work in his own city.

At the top of Hashimoto’s priorities is reforming Japan’s education system. His party, the Japan Restoration Party, believes in creating self-reliant individuals who can support a self-reliant nation. The party aims to dismantle the pyramid model of education by implementing a national voucher system—including at the university level—to promote competition. Hashimoto also believes in allowing local governments to choose their own education systems. Not surprisingly, The Economist notes, Japan’s teachers unions are opposed to Hashimoto’s reforms.

And Hashimoto is not just talking about vouchers, he’s working to bring them to Osaka.

While Japan will look to see where Hashimoto will go and what he will do in the future, education reformers should take a close look at where Japan goes with education reform and what school choice could look like in Japan.

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

Friday, September 14, 2012

In Louisiana, Voucher School Says It's "Up to the Challenge" of Improving Student Performance

Just yesterday we told you that nearly 5,000 students have enrolled in Louisiana's newly-expanded voucher program. Today, check out this great video on the experience of one school participating in the program:

Hosanna Christian Academy is educating 283 students participating in the voucher program.  The school hired 22 new teachers to teach the nearly 600 students who attend the school.
"I love new students," said Zanetta Trahan, an American History teacher at the school. "I love the opportunity to teach new students. I see them all as potential scholars."
Principal Josh LeSage has for months been excited for the school year to start, in part because of Hosanna's ability to participate in the program. He'll also soon be taking part in a state education panel on the program, where he intends to recommend that greater preference be given to siblings of current students.
Though LeSage notes that many of the voucher students are two or three grade level behind, the school is up to the challenge. 
“I always feel good to be a part of an effort that says you know what these kids can grow and learn and grow and achieve as well," he said. "They're parents' pocket book doesn't really matter."

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

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Nearly 5,000 Students Enroll in Expanded Louisiana Voucher Program

The Louisiana Department of Education today announced that 4,944 students at nearly 120 schools are participating in the expanded Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program in the 2012-13 school year.

More than 10,300 students applied for scholarships after Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the statewide expansion into law earlier this year.

The program was originally created in 2008 for students from low-income families that attended failing schools in Orleans Parish.  The legislature passed the statewide expansion of the program with strong bipartisan support earlier this year.  The expanded program allowed students from low-income families that attended schools rated “C,’ “D,” or “F” to attend the school of their parents’ choice.

Click here for more information!

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meet Kate Baker: The Executive Director that’s Putting School Choice into Action in New Hampshire

We often hear from the families whose lives have transformed thanks to private school choice.  We hear from schools that participate in the 32 programs nationwide; and we hear from elected officials who support strong educational options. 

Today, we’re hearing a new side to school choice.  Kate Baker is the executive director of NEO-New Hampshire, the first scholarship tuition organization working in New Hampshire.  Earlier this year, the New Hampshire Education Tax Credit was created to allow children from low- and middle-income families to attend the school of their parents’ choice. 

New Hampshire families—and School Choice Now!—are excited to see how this program will help thousands of students across the state. Earlier this week, a reporter with the Concord Monitor spoke with Baker about her efforts and what’s to come:

Question: What do you mean, best practices?

“I'm finding that scholarships organizations will do better and more people will want to give if they are meeting the needs of the children with the highest need. People want to help the children that need help. . . That's really the point.”

Question: So you were an accountant before taking this job?

“I've been kind of doing this all along, helping families to create educational options for their children, helping them to find the right option.”

Question: What have you been doing in the first month of work?

 “There's an organization in New York called the Children's Scholarship Fund and they've been mentoring us how to do this right. So rather than me reinventing the whole wheel, I'm looking at the best practices and seeing how do people do this correctly.”

Question: Did you hear about the position or did they hear about you?

“Somebody made a joke once, they said, 'all school choice paths in New Hampshire lead to Kate Baker.' . . . I had crossed paths with the people working on the legislation, and so for example, when the governor vetoed the legislation, I got a grassroots group to make calls to the state (representatives) and so I was crossing paths with the other people that were working on it in New Hampshire.

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

Meet A’bria

A’bria is excited for her future ahead of her.  Why? Because A’bria has big plans: she wants to become a lawyer or a pediatrician.  As for college, A’bria wants to attend Miami (in Ohio, not Florida) or Harvard.  She loves learning history and algebra, and she is grateful to attend a school with such supportive teachers. A’bria’s mom Sheryl applied for the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program for A’bria when she was entering kindergarten, and she continues to receive the scholarship today.

Check out A’bria speaking at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the landmark Supreme Court decision that upheld the Cleveland voucher program.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Midst of Chicago Strike, Focus Should be on Students, Choice

As the Chicago Teachers Union strike nears the conclusion of a second day, more than 400,000 students are left out of classrooms and, as a result, failing to get the education that is so fundamental to their growth.  

But even before the strike, there were far too many children trapped in failing schools that was providing them with a substandard education.

As negotiations between the CTU and city officials continue, lawmakers in Illinois and around the country would do well to take this time to think about our educational priorities. And while they sadly seem to have become collateral damage in a fight between adults, foremost among those priorities should be our children. 

And among the most important answers to that question is school choice.

If parents in Chicago—and everywhere else—had real options as to where to send their kids to school, they would have the opportunity to choose the education they feel is best for their children and, as a result, achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment would all increase. With all options on the table, including private school choice, children, not special interests or money, would be the centerpiece of this discussion.

And Illinois has in the past seriously considered these options. Back in 2010, the Illinois Senate passed legislation that would have created a statewide voucher program, And leaders in Chicago and throughout the state continue to support vouchers. Among them:

  • Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, who believes “it’s a matter of making sure the dollars follow children. If 500 traditional [Chicago Public School Students] would go to the parochial schools…the proportional share (of dollars) should to the school actually educating those children.”
  • Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, who for voted in favor of the voucher bill while serving in the State House in 2010
  • State Senator James Meeks (D), who sponsored the voucher legislation in 2010
  • The Chicago Tribune, which has printed dozens of editorials in support of bringing private school choice to the Windy City, including one as recently as two days ago

Monday, September 10, 2012

National Polling Report Findings: Support for School Choice Strong

The American Federation for Children today released a national polling report on the growing public support for school choice. 

Among the major findings:

  • National: 85 percent of likely voters and 91 percent of Latinos in five battleground states—Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Nevada — think vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs should be available in some form.
  • Louisiana: In the month before the April 2012 expansion of Louisiana’s Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program, nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent) favored the voucher program, compared to 26 percent who opposed it.
  • Washington, D.C.: Prior to the April 2011 reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, 74 percent of District residents wanted the program restored and expanded, and 64 percent approved of the program.
  • Tennessee: 61 percent of Volunteer State residents support scholarship tax credit programs, more than double the number that oppose them (26 percent).
Support for private school choice is the highest it has ever been.  In fact, the public support of school choice jumped 10 points since last year.  To see all of the findings in the report, click here.

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

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Calls in New Jersey for School Choice Options

This week, an education task force on education in New Jersey recommended implementing major education reforms backed by Gov. Chris Christie, including using public money to send some students to private schools. 

The Education Transformation Task Force, convened by the governor a year ago, called for 428 regulatory changes and 46 legislative changes.  Included in the recommendations are implementing a scholarship tax credit program—which would allow children from low-income families living in certain cities to attend the private school of their parents’ choice—and end some limits on charter schools in the state.

The report specifically noted how children from low-income families need a quality education:

We must concede that the world deals tragically bad hands to many children — burdening them with poverty, challenging home and community environments, and more — and that overcoming those challenges is extraordinarily difficult. At the same time, progress depends on our belief that talented educators and effective schools can make a profoundly significant difference in helping children achieve despite the challenges imposed by circumstances beyond their control.

But not everybody was happy with the report. 

Steve Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association—that’s the same organization whose executive director said “life isn’t always fair” while arguing against giving expanded educational options to students trapped in failing schools—said the report pushes to privatize public schools.  That’s an argument we’ve heard before.

But the Education Transformation Task Force’s report is not the only call for private school choice this week in the Garden State.

The Courier Post praised the state’s interdistrict public school choice and called for creating private school choice in the state as well in an editorial published this week:

Nonetheless, [interdistrict public school choice] can mean everything in creating a better future for individual boys and girls across our state. It helps kids who desperately want to get out of a failing and/or dangerous school. Trapping them and sentencing them to a life deprived of quality education all in the name of maintaining an educational status quo based solely on geography is wrong. It’s one of the most maddening things about our state — we pour billions of extra dollars from Trenton into our most deprived schools, yet largely do nothing to see that those schools improve as they should. We accept that they continue to fail kids.

The editorial continues:

We believe throwing out multiple lifelines — be they public school choice, school vouchers, magnet and charter schools and simultaneously fixing the public schools — is the right path, the one that does best for kids, which is what the goal must always be.

Now it’s time for officials to read the news and this state report.  Because New Jersey kids don’t have time to wait.

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

National PTA Embraces More Educational Options; At Odds with Georgia Chapter

The national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) took a significant step forward in embracing additional educational options when the group recently amended its policy to support all entities to have the ability to approve high-quality charter schools.  A change from just supporting charter schools approved by local school boards, the PTA recognizes that nearly half of all charter schools across the country are approved by non-school board entities.

The board of directors of the National PTA adopted the measures—the first change in policy since 1995—last month.  The new policy wants its support to “extend to all authorizing bodies and public charter schools,” as long as they meet high standards.  With more than five million members, this pledge to ensure that children have access to more educational options is a step that should be applauded by parents, teachers, and educational reforms.

But not everyone in the PTA is happy.

The Georgia chapter of the PTA does not agree with this new policy—and in fact, is actively working to ensure that Georgia does not reinstate a critical state authorizing board of charter schools.

More focused on keeping education at the local level, than on ensuring that children attend the school that best fits their individual needs, the Georgia PTA is opposing an amendment to the state constitution that voters will decide the fate of this November.

Reestablishing the Commission would significantly strengthen the educational options in Georgia, a state that currently educates more than 48,000 children in charter schools and more than 11,000 children in two publicly funded private school choice programs.

School Choice Now! applauds the work of the National Parent Teacher Association on promoting more educational options for children.  Let’s hope the Georgia chapter can get on board because high-quality options are a benefit to both parents and teachers—which is what the Parent Teacher Association should be all about.

To check out some organizations that support the ballot initiative, visit Brighter Georgia Education Coalition and Families for Better Public Schools.

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

Meet Aaron

Aaron, 16, has received a scholarship through the Milwaukee Parental Choice program since he was in Kindergarten.  He considers himself very fortunate because he attends a school where he gets pushed to do better and is constantly motivated.  His Chemistry teacher in particular constantly gives Aaron a heavier load work “because he knew I could do it."  Aaron’s parents applied for Aaron and his sisters to participate in the scholarship program because it gives Aaron and his siblings the opportunity to attend a private school they could otherwise not afford.  Aaron says attending private school keeps him out of trouble and provides more than academic knowledge: it teaches him how to be a better man, something Aaron talks about at home every day.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was enacted in 1995 and serves more than 23,000 students.  Independent research has demonstrated a higher graduation rate for participating students.  Parental satisfaction surveys also demonstrate high support among parents. 

Meet Raunel

Raunel, 15, is starting his sophomore year at Shoreland Lutheran High School thanks to the Racine Parental Choice Program.  Since started receiving his scholarship last school year, Raunel has improved in English, earned his way into the Honors Study Hall, and joined the AV club. 

“Last year, I learned right away that the teachers were willing to help me if I had any questions. So I asked questions,” Raunel said.

The Racine Parental Choice Program was created in 2011 and modeled after the highly-effective Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.  Raunel is one of 500 students participating in the program—the cap on the number of students allowed to participate.  Beginning next school year, the enrollment cap will be removed, allowing more children in Racine to attend the school of their parents’ choice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Education Talk at the Democratic National Convention

Education reform—with a strong focus on school choice—took up a large portion of the Republican National Convention last week.  And as the Democratic National Convention rolls on this week, it looks like education reform will also play a significant role.

Among the highlights is the new Hollywood film “Won’t Back Down,” which is being played at the Convention to the support of many.  The film, which tells a fictional story of a low-income mother and teacher working to take over a failing public school—called parent trigger laws—was also shown at the GOP Convention to much praise.

But that won’t be the only similarity when it comes to education reform between the two party’s conventions.  For one, school choice supporters will appear at both conventions.

We already told you about Condoleezza Rice’s inspiring speech and Jeb Bush’s education-focused address.  For the Democrats, we already heard from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a strong supporter of educational options and the New Jersey Opportunity Scholarship Act. Said Booker last night:

And you should be able to give your children the kind of education that allows them to dream even bigger, go even farther and accomplish even more than you could ever imagine.

Other supporters of educational options slated to speak: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Senate candidate from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, who reportedly called for school vouchers.

Here's a video from a town hall hosted this week by our friends at Democrats for Education Reform:

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Convention Recap: How Did School Choice Play at the GOP Convention?

During last week’s Republican National Convention, education reform emerged as one of the major issues addressed by keynote speakers.  Here’s the rundown of the top school choice moments of the GOP Convention:

Condoleezza Rice

The former secretary of state wowed the crowd when she spoke about what she called the civil rights issue of our time: our K-12 education reform. Read more about her comments here, and watch the accompanying video:

Jeb Bush

The former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, welcomed the convention to his home state.  He spoke of the successes of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and what school choice would mean for America:

We say that every child in America has an equal opportunity, but tell that to a kid in whose classroom learning is not respected.  Tell that to a parent stuck at a school where there is no leadership.  Tell that to young, talented teacher who just got laid off because she didn't have tenure.  The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn't exist in many of our schools.  We give some kids a chance, but not all.  That failure is the great moral and economic issue of our time and it is hurting all of America.

I believe we can meet this challenge.  We need to set high standards for students and teachers, and provide students and their parents the choices they deserve.


So, my question to you is, shouldn't parents have that kind of choice in schools that best meets the needs of their students?

Governor Romney gets its.  Mitt Romney gets it.  He believes parents, regardless of zip code or income, should be
able to send their child to the school that fits them best.

That has set him up against some entrenched interests. There are many draw the line at school choice.  ``Sorry, kid.

Giving you equal opportunity would be too risky, and it would upset powerful political forces that we need to win elections.'' I have a simple message for these masters of delay and deferral. Choose -- you can either help the politically powerful unions, or you can help the kids.

Frantz Placide

Frantz Placide spoke about his success thanks to the school choice initiatives in Florida.  Check out what Placide, a successful student as a result of school choice, had to say in the video below:

Chris Matthews

After Gov. Bush spoke, MSNBC host Chris Matthews argued in support of school choice during a segment with Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton:

There are a lot of people out there who live in opportunity scholarship, any chance for a better education for their children.

The way you do that is through opportunity and competition, not by stifling the hopes of kids in terrible neighborhoods.

The GOP convention addressed education reform and school choice, and later this week, School Choice Now! will analyze how the Democrats will address education reform at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

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

Meet Jaevion

In its second year, the Choice Scholarship Program in Indiana enrolled more than 8,000 students in the program—more than doubled the enrollment of the program’s first year.  One of the students participating in the program is Jaevion.

“As a single mother, I had lost the ability to, not just give my son the great education he deserved, but to finance an appropriate and fitting education for Jaevion,” said Jeronna, Jaevion’s mother.  “Up until recently, Jaevion and I were homeless.  During that time, I didn’t think sending my son to a school where he would thrive would even be possible, but then, the voucher program came along and there was renewed hope that Jaevion could receive the quality education I have always wanted for him. So, we applied and were accepted into the voucher program.”

The teaching strategy that Jaevion’s school uses has encouraged his desire to learn more and to earn good grades.  In fact, Jaevion enjoys attending school every day and is more committed than ever before to reading.

“There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Jaevion is exactly where he needs to be in order to thrive academically,” says Jaevion’s mother.

The Choice Scholarship Program was created in 2011 and had the highest first year enrollment of any voucher program at nearly 4,000 students.  This year, more than 8,000 students are participating in the program.  

Watch a video below about Jaevion and his mother:

Meet Anthony

Anthony’s family moved to Florida just to participate in the Florida Scholarship Tax Credit program because his family wanted to find the school that could best serve Anthony, who has Asperger’s syndrome.  Here’s Anthony, in his own words, on his experience of attending the school of his parent’s choice thanks to Florida’s private school choice program:

Before I started going to Liberty Christian Academy, I thought it was normal that kids didn’t accept kids like me, or that all teachers didn’t know just how to deal with someone who was different. I have Asperger’s  syndrome, but I do well in school. Still, I didn’t seem to fit in. I thought, well, that’s as good as it gets. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like school. I ate alone. My mom didn’t know what to do until she heard about Step Up For Students in Florida. We moved from Ohio to Florida and once I qualified, she applied for the scholarship and I started at Liberty Christian part way into my sophomore year. The kids there are accepting of different people. They even chose me as the vice president of our National Honor Society chapter. It’s a challenge, but I think I’m ready to step up and rise to the occasion. I think I can really be a standout.

—Anthony Hamilton, a Florida Tax Credit Scholarshi recipient and junior at Liberty Christian Academy, Tavares, Fla.

The Florida Scholarship Tax Credit is serving more than 45,000 students this school year.  And earlier, the program was expanded by increasing the cap on donations by $10.25 million, bringing the statewide donation cap to $229 million and expanding eligibility to include students in grades 2-5 without the prior public school attendance requirement.

Meet Lamar

 Lamar, who loves nature, science, and especially plants, now attends the Preparatory School of D.C. thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.  Lamar’s mom, Tiarra, applied for Lamar to participate in the program in the 2011-12 school year, but Lamar was not yet five years old.  She applied again this year and was excited to learn that Lamar had received a scholarship.  In fact, she was so excited that not only did she attend the School Welcome and Placement Fair to visit some of the private schools participating in the program she volunteered to help set up the fair.  Lamar received his school supplies donated by the Alliance for School Choice and is all ready for his first day of kindergarten thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was created in 2004 for children from low-income families living in Washington, D.C. to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.  The program, which was reauthorized in 2011, has a graduate rate of 92 percent—more than 21 percentage points higher than those who were interested in the program, but did not participate.  This year, 229 new students are participating in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.