Last night the American Federation for Children teamed up with educational choice partners from across Tennessee to host the Nashville School Choice Celebration. The reception and panel discussion, co-sponsored by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, The Tennessee Chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org, and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, welcomed more than 80 guests to discuss the importance of bringing quality educational options to ALL Tennessee families. The event was only one of over 3,600 that are taking place across the country as part of NationalSchool Choice Week.
The panel discussion featured student leader Sandeep Thomas, Overstock.com and Freidman board member Patrick Byrne, and Olympic medalist and former WNBA star Lisa Leslie. The discussion, moderated by AFC's Kevin P. Chavous focused on the stories behind education reform such as Sandeep’s own journey through the world of school choice. At a young age he was adopted from India after much personal tragedy and had to overcome significant learning challenges. It was only through online and specialized curriculum that he was finally able to excel in his studies. Today, Sandeep is thriving as a college student, thanks to his robust k-12 education.
Speaking from a policy standpoint, Patrick Byrne discussed what effective school choice legislation looks like and the principles for promoting educational freedom for all American children. His work founding and opening hundreds of schools across the world have opened his eyes to the importance of a high-quality American education system. Bringing years of experience to the discussion, he provided insight into the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for Tennessee families.
Finally, Lisa Leslie provided remarks from the perspective of both a former student and a mother of two. Growing up, Lisa always wanted to make sure she was known for more than just her skills on the court. She excelled in the classroom and led her peers as senior class president. It wasn’t until she enrolled at the University of Southern California that she realized she was far behind her classmates in her level of knowledge. By taking extra courses and spending any free time she had on studying, Lisa eventually overcame her struggles and went on to earn her MBA. Recognizing that she did not learn everything she needed from the traditional classroom, Lisa has become an advocate for children all over the country to ensure that every student gains the education they deserve. Through her work with AFC, she has become an outspoken supporter of all forms of school choice including opportunity scholarships and vouchers.
The event concluded with questions from the audience – including many state legislators and staff – focusing on the relevance of these personal stories to the future of education reform in Tennessee. Without a doubt the energy and motivation to bring reform to Tennessee was heightened by last night’s event.
Lisa and Kevin are in Atlanta, Georgia today, attending the Georgia School Choice Rally and Celebration on the steps of the state capitol.
-American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, KMS