Friday, October 26, 2012

VIDEO: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools CEO Talks Educational Options with WSJ

Check out this video with our friend Nina Rees, CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, speaking with The Wall Street Journal about charter schools and the fight to bring more educational options to students in Washington State and Georgia.

Voters in Georgia, already home to two private school choice programs, will vote next month to amend the state constitution to bring back a key charter authorizing board. 

Watch the video below:

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

UPDATE: Judge Rejects Lawsuit Brought by Camden Mothers

Just a few days after three Camden mothers filed a lawsuit claiming the state is not adequately educating their children, a New Jersey judge rejected the claim that their children be removed from Camden’s public schools and transferred to higher-performing public schools or private schools.

Despite the dismal reality that 23 of 26 Camden public schools are failing, Administrative Law Judge Edward J. Delanoy Jr. said the mothers had not proven their case and had not provided specific evidence that their children suffered irreparable harm.

Attorneys representing these Camden moms will take the case to the Education commissioner who has 45 days to adopt, modify, or reject the case.

We are disappointed with the order because it requires (the children) to remain in schools that everyone knows are not fulfilling their mission of educating school children.
This disappointing result is just further proof that true educational choice is needed in New Jersey. It's why the legislature needs to pass the Opportunity Scholarship Act to give families like the three Camden mothers a true choice in their child's education.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kevin P. Chavous Gets it Right on Education Reform in Louisiana

While special interests have been more concerned with, well, special interests, than providing the best education for our children, advocates have been fighting for more educational choice for low-income families in Louisiana.

The state's governor, Bobby Jindal, earlier this year joined with a bipartisan coalition of state legislators to create a strong education reform package that included a statewide expansion of the Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence voucher program. And just a few months later, State School Superintendent John White put forth an accountability proposal that would further strengthen the program.

Alternatively, special interests sued the state over the expanded voucher program, attacked the officials that stood for children, and argued that “public money should go to public schools.”

Luckily, AFC Senior Advisor Kevin P. Chavous set the record straight in a letter to the editor in The Times-Picayune: public money should go to educate children in the best way possible, regardless of the system. Here’s what Kevin had to say:

Re: "Public money should go to public schools," Your Opinions, Oct. 16. State School Superintendent John White's support for the state voucher program is perfectly in line with his commitment to public schools, but more importantly, it's consistent with his commitment to making sure all children -- regardless of the system -- have access to a high-quality education.

For many families, that means a public school, but what about the families for which the public schools simply aren't working? In a state where 36 percent of all public schools are ranked D's or F's and 230,000 public school students are currently performing below grade level, the truth is that we need to give many families another option -- immediately. We've talked for decades about improving our public school system, but the pace of reform is too slow, and Louisiana has always ranked in the bottom five in K-12 public education outcomes.

Read Kevin's full letter by clicking here.

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern: A Strong Supporter of Educational Choice

George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee for president and a former South Dakota senator, died yesterday at the age of 90.  A staunch liberal and outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam, McGovern was the Democratic standard-bearer in the early 1970s. Though he lost the 1972 presidential election in a landslide to Richard Nixon, McGovern had a long career as a member of the House and later Senator from South Dakota.  In 2000, McGovern won the Medal of Freedom --the highest civilian award-- and in 2001 was appointed United Nations global ambassador on hunger.  

Those are the interesting facts and nuggets about McGovern’s life that have populated obituaries and tributes to the former presidential nominee in the past day, but little known among McGovern's causes was his support for educational choice.

In the 1970s, McGovern pushed for tuition tax credits for parents who chose to send their children to private schools, and he also supported New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s legislation to create such a program.  In fact, the 1972 Democratic Platform called for “financial aid by a Constitutional formula to children in non-public schools.”  As has been noted in recent stories on Democratic support for educational choice, this in part reflected the influence of the Catholic Church.

In September 1972, The Washington Post ran the headline: McGovern Pledges Support For Aid to Private Schools, which wrote:

CHICAGO, Sept. 19 — Sen. George McGovern, calling Roman Catholic schools a keystone of American education, pledged his support today of federal tax credits to help offset tuition costs at parochial and other “bona fide” private schools.

“We cannot abandon these schools and we will not,” the Democratic presidential candidate said here this morning before a bubbling crowd of Catholic high school students.

Without government help, he told them, their parents would lose the right to give their children an education in which spiritual and moral values play an important role.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: More than 9,000 Indiana Students Participating in Voucher Program

We at School Choice Now! are pleased to bring you some breaking news from Indiana: more than 9,000 students are enrolled in the statewide voucher program this year! That's more than double the number who participated in the program last year, the first year of the flagship program.

Here's what our senior advisor (and Indiana native) Kevin P. Chavous had to say about the great news:
These numbers indicate what we've known all along—that parents want the option to send their child to the school that best fits their needs. Indiana is a great example of how educational choice empowers parents and provides hope for disadvantaged children.  We look forward to the program expanding for years to come.
Created in 2011, the Choice Scholarship Program is one of the most accountable private school choice programs in the country.  Indiana broke records last year for the highest first year enrollment of nearly 4,000 students.  Now, only in the program’s second year, the number of students more than doubled.

Click here to read our press release and find out more.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Families in Camden, New Jersey Lead the Fight for Educational Options

Three mothers of Camden students in New Jersey are suing the state for not providing children with a quality education as required by the state constitution.  And if precedence means anything in the New Jersey Courts, these mothers have a good shot.  Thirty-two years ago, Raymond Abbott, a Camden student and the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging inadequate funding for schools in impoverished cities, led the charge in what resulted in an overhaul of how the state funds public schools.

So these moms have some good history behind them—and, unfortunately, some sobering statistics about Camden Public Schools:

  • 23 of 26 public schools in Camden are failing
  • Camden schools make up one-third of the poorest-performing public schools 5 percent of schools in New Jersey
  • Less than 1 percent of students who take the SATs score high enough to meet college standards
 While New Jersey has charter schools and public school choice, these mothers are asking the state education commissioner to find better-performing schools for their children—and the 15,000 students in Camden—immediately.

Several groups supporting the suit—Excellent Education for Everyone (E3), the Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey, and the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey—have the answer:  a scholarship tax credit program.  These organizations are also strong supporters of the Opportunity Scholarship Act.

The OSA has strong bipartisan support and the backing of Governor Chris Christie.  Despite this strong support, the bill is not yet law because of politics as usual: Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will not let the bill come to a vote.

It’s time the New Jersey Education Commissioner, Speaker Oliver, and other opponents of immediate educational options know this: Parents Know Best.  So let’s listen to these Camden mothers.

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where do the Candidates Stand on THIS Form of School Choice?

With the election just around the corner—and school choice playing a big role in the debates—President Obama and Governor Romney have similar views when it comes to school choice (except, that is, on vouchers).

We’d like to know where the candidates stand on another form of school choice that often does not get the coverage charter schools, voucher programs, and scholarship tax credit programs do: Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).

ESAs—the newest form of school choice—currently exist only in Arizona, which created the program in 2011 and significantly expanded it in 2012.  Under the program, students with disabilities, children attending failing public schools, children who are in or have been in foster care, and children of military personnel are eligible to receive their education funding dollars in accounts.  These dollars can be used on a variety of educational tools including, tuition to public or private schools, textbooks, educational therapies, and college courses.

On, James Marshall Crotty argues the free market view in support of these programs.  But ESAs are not the new frontier of school choice because of free market ideals, but rather because these programs give parents real choice in personalizing their children’s education.

Arizona State Senator, Rick Murphy, who sponsored the 2012 legislation that expanded Arizona’s program said, “ESAs…give parents the flexibility to fill in their children’s learning gaps with specialized services, like tutoring or online courses.  There’s not any other tool that allows parents to do that.”

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Detroit Parents Want Educational Options; When Will the City Catch Up?

Nearly 80 percent of parents in Detroit would choose an educational option other than their child’s assigned public school, according to a survey by The Detroit News and the Thompson Foundation. 

The survey also found an even split among support for different types of educational options:  20.8 percent favored Detroit Public Schools; 23.8 percent for charter schools; 23.5 percent for private schools, and 17.6 percent preferred schools outside Detroit.

Only one in five Detroit residents believes that their child's assigned public school is the best educational setting for that child. Despite not having the full slate of educational options available to families—Michigan has no publicly-funded private school choice options—parents are already choosing alternatives to Detroit’s schools.

It’s time for real educational choice in Michigan, and especially Detroit, where the following statistics are the sad reality for the struggling city (all statistics courtesy the New Detroit coalition):
  • Only 3 percent of Detroit’s 4th graders and 4 percent of its 8th graders meet national math standards(source:
  • 2010 Michigan on-time high school graduation for African American students was 58%, compared to Latinos (64%), Native Americans (66%), whites (82%), Asians (88%) and 76% overall.
  • Only 2 percent of Detroit’s high school students are prepared for college-level math and 11 percent for college-level reading (source:
  • African-American males in Michigan have the lowest high school graduation rate in the country at 33%. White males in the state gradate at a rate of 74% (source:
  • The achievement gap continues to persist as evidenced by the 2009 Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test – see chart (source:
  • Nationally in 2008, the status dropout rate for white persons was 4.8% compared to 9.9% for black and 18.3% for Hispanic persons. “Status dropout rate” is defined as the percentage of 16- through 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential (source:
The survey polled 800 Detroit residents by landlines and cellphones from September 22-25 by Glengariff Group Inc.  The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Want to learn more about public polling on educational choice in cities and states across the country? Download our comprehensive polling report, released last month.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Florida Set Goals to Provide More Educational Options for Families

The Florida State Board has adopted a new strategic plan for education in the Sunshine State. And it's predicated upon more educational options.

The strategic plan includes the goal of 17 percent of students attending charter schools or using private school choice to attend private schools. This would include more than 300 new charter schools opening in six years to serve nearly 360,000 students. The Florida Tax Credit Program would aim to serve more than 100,000 students; the John M. McKay Scholarship to serve more than 31,000.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, 9 percent of students in Florida today attend charter schools or receive a scholarship through the Florida Tax Credit Program or McKay Scholarship.

Today, the tax credit program serves 49,000 students and has a waiting list of 9,000 students.  More than 61,000 students are on waiting lists for charter schools.
"This board favors more school choice for individual kids," said board member John Padget.
This is certainly an ambitious goal, and we’d love to see more states set high goals of providing educational options to disadvantaged children.  Florida continues to be the educational choice model for the country.

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

Monday, October 8, 2012

D.C. Mayor Supports Scholarship Program for College Students; When Will He Support D.C. Vouchers?

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, along with the D.C. Council, created a $1.59 million scholarship program to help low-income District residents attend colleges in Washington, D.C.  The program, called the Mayor’s Scholars Fund, provides $10,000 for students attending private universities, $7,000 for students attending the University of the District of Columbia, and $3,000 for students attending community colleges.

The 185 students who received news of their scholarships over the summer were surely elated to get significant financial assistance for attending the city’s universities—both public and private.  But others, including the Mark Lerner writing in The Washington Times, are remarking on the contradiction of the Mayor’s support for the Mayor’s Scholars Fund, but strong opposition to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Earlier this year, President Obama zeroed out funding forthe D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program in his 2013 budget and Gray also made clear that parental choice is no longer a priority of his administration.  In his proposal, he breached a promise made to the charter school community by failing to close the funding disparity between charter schools and traditional D.C. public schools, as required by law.

The Administration—and Mayor Gray both opposes the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and follows the Administration’s lead on the program—argue that funding should only go to public schools, despite the fact that as many as 17,000 students are on waiting lists to attend charter schools and the voucher program continues to be oversubscribed.  The question is, why is it ok for college students to receive government money to attend private universities, but children in poor-performing K-12 schools can’t receive a scholarship to attend private schools?

As Mark Lerner writes, you’ll have to ask Mayor Gray.  To us, it doesn’t make any sense.

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

The New News on Dyslexia: Steven Spielberg, New fonts, and HBO

Last month, Steven Spielberg opened up about being diagnosed as dyslexic five years ago.  While he was diagnosed as an adult, Spielberg speaks about the struggles of learning to read and being bullied in school.  What helped him overcome his struggles?  Making movies and his parents’ dedication to ensuring that he received the education that best fit his needs.  Every night, Spielberg says in his first interview about his dyslexia, his parents worked with him and reviewed his homework. 

And while James Redford, not Steven Spielberg, is the director of a new HBO documentary on dyslexia called The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, which premieres on Monday, October 29, both have a lot to say on the subject matter.  The film profiles students and famous faces including Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, all of whom have thrived despite—and sometimes in part because of—their dyslexia.

Today, we still don’t know a lot about dyslexia.  But we do know that people with dyslexia have normal and healthy brains that work differently. There are more tools nowadays to help students struggling to learn to read, including a new font called OpenDyslexic, which weighs letters down to make them easier to read.  And of course, there is a private school voucher program in Mississippi that began this school yearfor students with Dyslexia.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Presidential Debate and Choice: A Brief Appearance

Just a few days after we urged the Commission on Presidential Debates to pose questions to the candidates about education, the topic made a surprising but much-needed appearance during last night’s presidential debate.  In a segment on the role of government, moderator Jim Lehrer asked President Obama and Governor Romney about the federal government’s responsibility to improve public education.

Both candidates pointed to the success of the President’s Race to the Top initiative, as well as their support for teachers.  While there were some jabs—it was a presidential debate, after all—the two candidates also differed on the substance of their education stances.

Romney called for more educational options:

My own view, by the way, is I've added to that. I happen to believe, I want the kids that are getting federal dollars from IDEA or Title I— these are disabled kids or poor kids or lower-income kids, rather, I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice.

So all federal funds, instead of going to the — to the state or to the school district, I'd have go, if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their student.

The former Massachusetts governor went on to say:

The right answer for government is say, How do we make the private sector become more efficient and more effective? How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let's grade them. I propose we grade our schools so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, so they can take their child to a — to a school that he's being more successful.

I don't want to cut our commitment to education. I wanted to make it more effective and efficient. And by the way, I've had that experience. I don't just talk about it. I've been there. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn't have commitment to education. It's because I care about education for all of our kids.

Monday, October 1, 2012

If You Could Pose One Question... either of this year's presidential candidates, what would it be?

We here at School Choice Now! have thought of that ourselves recently, which is why we reached out to folks from President Obama and Governor Romney's campaigns to find out what they think about educational choice. The respective campaign responses (or lack thereof) may or may not surprise you, but either way, it gives you insight into what both candidates think about educational choice, as well as what we'd ask if we had a say in this year's presidential debates.

We even sent our proposed questions, along with an explanation of why this issue is so important to our country's future, to the Commission on Presidential Debates as well as the debate moderators.

Take a look at our letters to them, to each of the campaigns, as well as the responses, by clicking here.

And be sure to watch the first debate this Wednesday, October 3 at 9 p.m. EST! It takes place in Denver, CO, and will be moderated by PBS NewsHour host Jim Lehrer. The topic is domestic policy, so who knows...maybe an education question or two will make it in!

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