Friday, June 29, 2012

Ohhh...We're Halfway There!

While most of the nation is focused on staying cool during a recording-setting heat wave, the weather isn’t the only place where records are being set.  This week marks the halfway point of the year, and it's been school choice success after success so far in 2012.

Already this year, there have been four new programs enacted in Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Hampshire—making for 31 programs nationwide, to anyone who is counting. That brings the total number of voucher programs to 16 and scholarship tax credit programs to 13. 

In fact, check out the 2012 Breakthrough Victories for Children handout, which updates the 2011-12 School Choice Yearbook published earlier this year by the Alliance for School Choice.  But in the meantime, here are some significant and fun facts on the momentum of school choice:

  • Four new programs have been created in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Mississippi, and Virginia in 2012. 
  • Five programs have been expanded in four states in 2012—Arizona expanded both its Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit and its Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program.
  • Three states—the most in any year so far—have joined the family of states providing private school choice.
  • Thanks to the statewide expansion of Louisiana’s Student Scholarships for Excellence Program, 380,000 children are eligible under the program.
  • School choice has seen a 98.3 percent growth in number of programs in last five years and a 63.6 percent increase in the number of states offering such programs.
  • In the 2011-12 legislation session, 35 chambers in 19 states passed private school choice legislation.  That’s a 40 percent increase in the number of chambers and a 35.7 percent increase in the number of states since the 2009-10 legislative session.
  • Nearly one-third of states (32 percent) have enacted private school choice programs.
  • Mississippi and Ohio are the only two states that have voucher programs for specific special needs—dyslexia and autism respectively.  Across the nation there are 11 programs specifically tailored for students with special needs.
  • With future enrollment caps due to be lifted in places like Indiana and Racine, Wis., and with statewide expansions like in Louisiana, one million children could be eligible to participate in private school choice programs in the next few years.
Download our Yearbook and the corresponding update sheet for all the numbers.

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

Louisiana Voucher Application Period Ends, Brighter Future for Thousands of Students Begins

It’s not only the end of the workweek,  but also the end of application period for the recently-expanded Louisiana voucher program, Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE). With only a month to spread the word (the application period ran from May 22-June 29), our Louisiana friends wasted no time implementing the statewide program. 

Our friends from the south at the Louisiana Federation for Children and the Black Alliance for Educational Options teamed up with the state’s Department of Education to quickly (and effectively) communicate about the expanded program, its requirements, and the application period from Shreveport all the way down to New Orleans. For the geographically-challenged, that’s north Louisiana to south Louisiana.

The aggressive outreach campaign included an
informational website, direct mail, radio ads, billboards, outbound phone calls, an educational roadshow, and much more. You can rest assured that eligible parents received the word that this program—an indispensable educational opportunity—was available to them.

Take a look at the video below, courtesy of our friends at Louisiana BAEO. At eight minutes long, it tells the story of the battle the Louisiana reformers endured and the momentous success that followed. 

Originally enacted in 2008 for students in Orleans Parish, the SSEE program has consistently boasted high parental satisfaction rates, to the tune of 90 percent.  And during the 2011-12 school year, it served more than 1,800 students in New Orleans.

In its first year of expansion, more than 100 schools have signed up to participate offering nearly 5,000 seats from grades K-12—an impressive feat with such a short turnaround. (Remember, the program was just signed into law by Gov. Jindal on April 18.) And just last week, the state Department of Education reported that more than 6,000 applications have already been submitted. This number was expected to continue to rise as additional applications were input into the system and were still being submitted by eligible parents. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

With More than 17,000 Children on Waiting Lists for D.C. Charter Schools, It’s Time to Expand the Educational Options in the District

Former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is a supporter of vouchers, including the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.  At the American Federation for Children’s 2011 National Policy Summit, Rhee explained why she became a supporter of private school choice.

Rhee had been a longtime supporter of education reform and charter schools.  When she became chancellor, she heard from parents who did what engaged parents do for their children: looked at the assigned public school, if unsatisfied, applied for a high-performing public charter, magnet, or other opportunity.  But when rejected from the alternative—which is represents a sad reality in which a quality option is based on a lottery system—parents had nowhere to turn.

Said Rhee last year:

These mothers would often come to me and say ‘Now what do I do?’  And when looking these women in the eye, if I did not have a spot at a traditional D.C. Public School that I would feel comfortable sending my own two daughters to—because I did send my children to the system—then I thought ‘Who am I to stop this parent from taking a $7,500 voucher?’

Her explanation for supporting the D.C. voucher program is especially relevant today.  The Washington Examiner reported on Monday that more than 17,000 children are on waiting lists to attend a charter school.  As the D.C. Public Charter School Board notes, that is 51 percent of the total students attending a charter school in the city. That's right—there are more than half as many students on charter school waiting lists as there are kids in charter schools in the nation's capital. Enrollment at charter schools grows every year, while enrollment in D.C. Public Schools decreased almost every year since 1969.  Yet, an astounding number of children are still waiting for access to a high-quality education.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brandon Leads Education Reform Fight in North Carolina

NC Rep. Marcus Brandon (D), speaking at a March 2012
luncheon hosted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and
sponsored by the American Federation for Children.
While being a freshman legislator may leave some without a vision or the leadership abilities to achieve that vision, North Carolina Representative Marcus Brandon (D) is not your typical freshman legislator.  After unseating a four-term incumbent in January 2011he has since defeated that same incumbent again in a primary battle last monthBrandon got right to work on reforming the Tar Heel State’s education system.

But his focus on helping improve the educational outcomes of children across the state is something that predates even his election to the North Carolina Assembly in November 2010. Here's what Brandon had to say during an interview with the Greensboro News-Record during an interview from September 2010:

Our educational system, although improvements have been made, continues to leave most of our children behind. We have been talking about the Education Gap since I was in Kindergarten. We have to change the focus from one on all students in a collective to a focus on individual students. In other words we should ask, “How does Johnny learn and what makes him successful?” rather than “How many students should be in a classroom for the most effective learning environment?” I want to put the decisions in the hands of the actual stakeholders in education: these being the Students, Parents, and Teachers. They should define what quality education means for their community, not completely removed legislators in Raleigh.

Brandon, who represents Guilford County, which encompasses Greensboro, occupies an especially important post for someone intent on passing education reform legislation. As a member of the Finance Committee and the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee, Brandon wants to make changes to the state constitution to provide a truly high-quality education to every child:

As your representative I will champion an amendment to our state constitution that makes equality in education in North Carolina a constitutional right.

No, School Choice will not kill public education

School choice opponents like to argue that vouchers will hurt public schools, segregate students, and worse: destroy public education.  These talking heads like to resort to using fear to defend a system—one that for millions of children provides a great education, but is very simply not the best fit for hundreds of thousands of others.

But what many opponents to education reform forget is that education is not about a certain system, government bureaucracy, or politics.  Education reform is about providing an education for every child in America, because having access to a quality K-12 education is a right, not a privilege.  As a nation, we believe in the equality of opportunity—the opportunity for any person to achieve their dreams.  We don’t believe in systems, we believe in learning.

Public education fulfills that need for lots of families; but others are left behind and don’t receive the quality education that can transform a life.  So it our duty to ensure that children have other options. 

It's with that in mind that we came across a Washington Post blog post by Diane Ravitch, who asked if school choice will kill public education.  The answer, very clearly, is no.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Washington Post Gets it—Why Not the Administration?

The Washington Post’s editorial board has continued to stronglysupport the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program—a voucher program that allows children from low-income families to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.  The editorial board called the scholarship program “worthwhile,” but referred to the deal struck between the Congressional leaders and the Obama Administration “modest” and “disappointing.” An appropriate characterization, we think, since this deal was made after the Administration failed to comply with the deal it made with Congress last year.

In sum, the Administration agreed to the very agreement to which they agreed over a year ago.

The Administration’s opposition to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is puzzling on many fronts.  Never mind that the President himself attended a high-achieving private school thanks to a scholarship that helped his family with the tuition, and that sends his daughters to one of the city's most elite schools, which also participates in the voucher program. And again, never mind that Secretary Arne Duncan chose to live in Arlington, Virginia, which has some of the best-performing public schools in the nation.  The issue at hand is that the Administration continues to try to not fund a small federal program that is “enormously popular with D.C. residents, with demand far outstripping the number of vouchers [available].”

An Administration that claims to support both low-income families and expanded educational options certainly puts in a lot of effort to make sure families right here in the District don’t have access to strong educational options.  This a policy contradiction in its most clear form. After all, the Administration supports Pell Grants— effectively vouchers for post-secondary educationand public charter schools, not to mention a wide variety of policies that are targeted to low-income families, including housing vouchers. It's beyond unfair for District families to be locked out of the program because of arbitrary funding limits.

Those families want this program: nearly 10,000 families have applied to the program since it was created in 2004.  And the program works: participating students had a 91 percent graduation rate—more than 21 percentage points higher than those interested in the program who did not receive a scholarship—and 92 percent of parents report being satisfied with the program.

But what's perhaps most striking is the defense tactic taken by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who attempted to "clarify" the Administration’s position on the scholarship program to ensure that no one is confused. Take a look below, noting that, again, the president signed into law the five-year reauthorization of the program last April.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Poll: Support for Charter School Amendment in the Peach State

A poll released late last week shows strong support among likely Georgia voters for a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the state ballot this November. The proposed measure would reinstate a key charter school authorizing commission, thereby increasing the number of educational options available to Peach State families.  

Earlier this year, the state legislaturepassed House Resolution 1162 after the state Supreme Court ruled that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission was unconstitutional.  The Commission was a state-level authorizing board that could approve charter schools that had been denied approval at the local level.

The Georgia Charter Schools Association released the poll, which shows 58 percent of those surveyed supporting the amendment. McLaughlin & Associates conducted the poll on March 29-30, surveying 600 likely voters. 

Among the findings, 38 percent strongly supported the amendment and 20 percent reported probable support. A total of 19 percent were undecided.  The survey also showed that 62 percent of respondents under the age of 55 supported the measure.

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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Legislative Update: From the Bayou State to the Granite State

The school choice world was abuzz yesterday with exciting news from our nation’s capital, but D.C. isn’t the only place where school choice news is brewing.  Here’s a legislative and news update on bills all across the nation:


The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved measures on the framework for the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program, which was expanded statewide earlier this year.  BESE included a new provision, creating a cap on how much private schools can raise tuition as they accept voucher students. The state Department of Education is continuing to develop accountability requirements for the program.

The expanded program is set to begin in the 2012-13 school year with more than 5,000 scholarships spots available in schools statewide.

New Hampshire

Governor John Lynch yesterday vetoed legislation that would create a scholarship tax credit program in the Granite State.  Senate Bill 372 would allow businesses to donate to scholarship organizations that would provide scholarships to children from low- and middle-income families.  The veto comes despite broad support for the legislation in both chambers of the legislature, which passed the bill with a veto-proof majority.  In his veto message, Lynch falsely cited that the bill had no income restrictions, despite the legislation requiring that students come from families with a household income of 300 percent or less.

The legislature is set to convene on June 27, where it can take up the bill and override Governor Lynch’s veto.

North Carolina

The Equal Opportunity School Tax Credit, proposed legislation that would provide scholarships for students from low-income families to attend the public or private school of their parents’ choice, has been integrated into a larger education overhaul bill.  The House Education Committee rolled HB 1104 into the Excellent Public Schools Act, which also includes measures to grow public school reading programs, end teacher tenure, and implement merit pay.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Champions of D.C. Voucher Program Strike Deal with Administration

House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman — two longtime champions of school choice in the nation's capital — today announced an agreement with the Obama Administration to fully fund and implement the highly-successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Last year, Speaker Boehner secured the reauthorization and expansion of the program through the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act during budget negotiations.  Despite overwhelming support from the D.C. Council and District Residents—74 percent of D.C. residents supported reauthorization of the program, according to a February 2011 poll—theAdministration zeroed out funding forthe OSP.

Just last month, Speaker Boehner and Senator Lieberman sent a series of letters to President Obama and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan that called out the Administration for not effectively implementing the program as designated by law, and thus putting the educational futures of thousands of D.C. students in limbo.

But today, the families participating in the OSP can breathe a sigh of relief.  Under the agreement, the program will not limit the number of students that can participate in the program.  Further, parents seeking to renew their children’s scholarships can continue to submit their applications and parents who want to participate in the program may apply for a new scholarship.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was created in 2004 as part of a three-sector approach that equally funded the OSP, public charter schools, and traditional public schools. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Setting the Record Straight

The conversation about school choice has been making the rounds in national media lately, following Mitt Romney's inclusion of a voucher proposal in his recently-unveiled education plan, large expansions in Louisiana and Arizona, and the creation of new programs in places like Virginia and the aforementioned Bayou State.

It has all resulted in a crush of media attention, all of which has not been accurate, fair, or unbiased.

Instead of focusing on the evidence showing the benefits of school choice, many editorial boards and reporters have taken to conveying many of the common myths of school choice. But our resident myth-buster, senior advisor Kevin P. Chavous, has made short work of their claims in exposing the truth about choice.

In fact, here’s what Kevin wrote in yesterday’s Boston Globe, in response to a Globe editorial earlier this month:
The Globe’s June 2 editorial “ Romney’s education plan offers serious, debate-worthy proposals” strongly mischaracterized current voucher programs in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., as yielding “unimpressive results.” The evidence of success of these programs can be clearly seen in the graduation rates of participating students.  
The D.C. voucher program is especially impressive on that indicator. The US Department of Education evaluation of the program found that students who used the vouchers graduated at a rate of 91 percent, more than 30 points higher than the graduation rates of D.C. public school students. An evaluation of the Milwaukee program also found higher graduation rates, and that students are more likely to enroll and persist in a four-year college than their public school peers. 
Furthermore, the D.C. voucher program boosted student reading scores, and students in the Milwaukee program showed improvement in both reading and science. 
For thousands of low-income families across the nation, school choice is a lifeline that rescues children from failing schools and struggling districts. As the bipartisan coalition supporting these initiatives expands, it’s important that politicians, parents, and citizens have a clear picture of the benefits of choice for families in need.
But that's not all. Kevin has also published responses to unfair stories in the New York Times and in a local Louisiana publication in response to a recent Reuters piece about the expansions in Louisiana. He's also worked feverishly to respond to a host of other stories that have appeared in recent weeks, and we'll be sure to share those with you when they're published, too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

AFC Congratulates Nina Rees as new CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice are pleased to congratulate Nina Rees, who was today named the new Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).

AFC Senior Advisor Kevin P. Chavous worked closely with Rees in the effort to pass the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program while Rees served as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). As the first head of the Office for Innovation and Improvement at DOE,  Rees helped bring about the nation's only federally-funded voucher program, which is now thriving as a model for private school choice across the country.

According to Chavous:
I am a huge fan of Nina Rees. Having worked with her closely, I can attest to her leadership skills and her ability to build consensus. More significant, however, is Nina's heartfelt commitment to the educational needs of our children. She is an excellent choice to lead the Alliance at this time.
As a good friend to the Federation and the Alliance for the better part of a decade, Rees has regularly embraced bringing all educational options to low-income families. In addition to her work in spearheading the creation of the D.C. voucher program and the city's burgeoning charter school sector, Rees  has served as a key White House domestic policy advisor, a senior education analyst at the Heritage Foundation, and as a regular presence on a host of national news outlets.

Here's more on Rees's expansive and deep background in the realm of education:
Rees currently serves on the board of advisors of the Education Policy and Governance Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the Apple Tree Institute for Education Innovation and the review board for The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. She also serves on the board of directors of the Charter School Development Corporation and the Education Industry Association. 
Most recently, Rees spent over six years as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for Knowledge Universe, a leading global education company with investments in early childhood education, before- and after-school programs and online instruction. Rees oversaw the organization’s public policy and government relations work in Washington, DC. 
Those of us in the private school choice movement have greatly appreciated the continued support of charter organizations like the NAPCS. Formerly led by ex-Colorado Senate President Peter C. Groff -- also a strong supporter of all forms of choice -- the union of choice organizations from across the movement is a fundamentally important part of making sure that all children have options, especially as we see more and more students who seek but are denied strong charter options because of burgeoning waiting lists.

Rees will be formally introduced as the new NAPCS CEO at the organization's annual conference, which is to be held next week in Minneapolis, MN.

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

The Waitlist Reality in Education

More children than ever before are waitlisted to attend public charter schools.  Losers in the lottery system, more than 600,000 students are waitlisted across the nation, according to a survey released this week by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The survey showed a 67 percent growth in waiting lists since the 2008-09 school year, which outpaced the increase of 650,000 additional seats added in charter schools during the same period. 

More than 60 percent of charter schools reported having children on a waitlists, with longer-running charter schools averaging a 239-student waitlist.  Twelve charter schools reported lists of more than 2,000 students.

These results demonstrate the national cry for real educational options.  Parents want school choice outside of an arbitrarily-assigned (and often underperforming) public school.  Elected officials from the local school board up to the President of United States must stop political maneuvering that caters to special interests.  It’s time for our leaders to listen to parents: put all educational choices on the table. It’s time to create more high-performing charter schools and enact accountable voucher programs.  

Because children waitlisted to receive an education is simply wrong.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Story the Media Fails to Report: School Choice is a Republican Issue—and a Democratic One, Too

We’ve all heard the misconceptions in media reports about school choice, which we've chronicled in recent weeks.  But the media has it wrong, as Ron Matus points out in yesterday’s The Herald Tribune.

School choice is an issue that is growing more bipartisan everyday—something that fails to penetrate in many of the popular conversations about the issue.  Matus writes that all-too-often, the media writes of school choice support from fringe groups and only the support of lawmakers from a single political party.

The media does not report, however, that the Florida Scholarship Tax Credit has the support of nearly half of Democrats.  Also often not reported, Senator Lieberman stands with Speaker Boehner to protect the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (which also has the support of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Representative Daniel Lipinksi, and former Mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty).  Or, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and a host of Democratic Legislators support New Jersey implementing a scholarship tax credit.  Or that in Louisiana, Governor Jindal signed legislation expanding the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program into law after 45 Democrats in the House and nearly half in the Senate voted for the legislation.

Matus notes that support of school choice is broad.  Many come to support school choice for different reasons from social justice to the free market.  Diversity is good.  And in the end, everyone in support of school choice is really in support of educating children.

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.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In Education Reform Debate, A Tale of Two Media Stories

Many folks in the Washington Beltway woke this morning to a front-page story in Politico giving President Obama a first-term grade on a host of different education initiatives, while also comparing his performance to some of the proposals and recent assertions made by Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

It's interesting in the common ground it finds between the two presidential candidates, but it's conspicuous in what it leaves out -- any discussion of the treatment of school vouchers or other choice measures by either candidate.

And that's not just because that's a place where there's a real difference in each man's approach, but also because expansive school choice legislation has been a part of legislative agendas to a great extent over the last year.

In addition to the seven new private school choice programs last year, two additional programs this year, and the large number of expansions of current programs over the past 17 months, the movement has demanded a great deal of ink in both small and mainstream publications throughout the country.

So why would it be left off the list of education items in today's Politico piece? That's not a question we're able to answer, but not surprisingly, this weekend also featured a stark example of how many in the media are still committed to telling the full story of the role vouchers and scholarship tax credits are playing in the broader education reform narrative.

The Wall Street Journal, which famously referred to 2011 as "The Year of School Choice" midway through last year, this weekend profiled the profound effect voucher legislation is having on Catholic school enrollment and the performance of the students in those institutions.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Correcting the Record on the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program

Legislators in North Carolina are looking to enact House Bill 1104, a scholarship tax credit program that will help students from low-income families.  The bill has strong bipartisan support and includes high academic, financial, and administrative accountability standards. 

And despite attempts from opponents to paint an inaccurate picture of what the legislation is going to do, our friends at Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) have been making sure that the billand school choice more generallyare accurately portrayed in the media.

Yesterday, Darrell Allison, president of PEFNC, wrote in The Ashville Citizen Times that, despite an opponent writing recently that the proposed legislation was "nonsense," quality educational options are in reality far from it:

Tangela is a working mom currently looking for an alternative education for her son but has not been able to find an affordable option that meets his needs.

House Bill 1104 N.C. Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program allows corporations to receive a tax credit for contributions helping poor children attend a nonpublic school through scholarships. The Citizen-Times claims this would divert needed funds away from public schools, but research has shown that Florida, one of nine states with a tax credit scholarship program, has saved more than $98 million since 2001. House Bill 1104 is expected to save North Carolina more than $28 million within the first three years which can then be reinvested into public schools.

“I don’t think it’s nonsense to give my sons an equal opportunity to succeed in school,” Tangela said. “When I hear how children like mine are performing on state tests, now that’s nonsense because they deserve better.”

And Allison was doing the same in The Star News last week:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Seven Reasons to Support Scholarship Tax Credit Programs

Since Arizona created it first scholarship tax credit program in 1997, states across the country have followed suit, enacting private school choice programs that let individuals and corporations donate money to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships for students to attend the public or private school of their parents’ choice.  Today, there are 12 scholarship tax credit programs in 10 states. Already this year, Virginia and Louisiana having enacted programs and Florida and Arizona have expanded existing programs.  And more states are considering creating scholarship tax credit programs, including New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.

Despite recent attacks on scholarship tax credit programs—and letters to the editor correcting these fallacies, support for scholarship tax credit programs (from both Democrats and Republicans) is stronger than ever.  Keep reading to see seven reasons why these programs are so important to the families enrolled in them.

Scholarship Tax Credit Programs…

...Serve the Children Most in Need

Scholarship tax credit programs help students from low-income families that could not otherwise attend a school outside of their assigned public school.  Of the 12 publicly-funded private school choice programs, nine are means-tested and one is tailored for students with special needs.  In fact, a June 2010 Pennsylvania General Assembly report shows that the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit—the nation’s largest scholarship tax credit program—serves the educational needs of predominately low-income families.  The average income per family participating in the scholarship program is $29,000, which is 48 percent of the maximum allowed for a family with one child in the scholarship program.

...Have Been Upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court

In 2011, the highest court upheld the constitutionality of scholarship tax credit programs.  In Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, the Supreme Court held that scholarship tax credit programs do not violate the separation of church and state.  Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy wrote that “contributions result from the decisions of private tax payers regarding their own funds.” 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Letter to the Editor: Our Response to (and in) the New York Times

We told you last week about the poorly-reported front page story in the New York Times about scholarship tax credit programs, and many organizations throughout the movement have responded over the last week and a half to make clear that on the whole, scholarship tax credit programs are a lifeline to children from low-income families in desperate need of a better education.

You've heard our senior adviser, Kevin P. Chavous, talk frequently about that reality. And while he spoke to Stephanie Saul, the Times reporter who authored the piece in question, Chavous' quotes didn't make it into the final story.

We've spent the past week and a half demanding that the Times let us tell our side of the story, and finally, a letter to the editor Kevin wrote the day the story dropped has made it into the paper.

Click here to read Kevin's response, or view it after the jump.