Thursday, February 28, 2013

CO Court of Appeals Overturns Ruling on Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program

Good news for students in Colorado!

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled to overturn a lower court ruling that blocked the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program.

According to the ruling, the program, which offers scholarships to students residing in the Douglas County School District, does not violate the state Constitution. 

“The requirement that the General Assembly create a thorough and uniform system of free public education does not preclude a local school district from providing educational opportunities in addition to and different from the thorough and uniform system” the appeals court ruled.

According to the 2013 School Choice Yearbook, the program, which was enacted in 2011, is capped at 500 students.  To receive a scholarship, students must live in the Douglas County School District and have attended a Douglas County School District school for at least one year.

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why I Joined the Fight for Educational Options

Lisa Leslie
When my husband and I researched the schools in our area, we were surprised to see how low the schools were ranked. We have heard about the fight and argument for better education but never took the time to research it until it was time for our daughter to go to school. We had to make a decision: Either put the money into a private school or move to a new house in a location where the schools are ranked higher. We chose to move and enroll our daughter into a public school. I then thought about all those children who were left behind. Having the opportunity to receive a high-quality education should not be reserved for those with the money to send their child to a private school or – in our case – physically relocate to an area with better schools.  All children, no matter their family’s income or Zip code, are deserving of the same quality education my children receive.
The more I thought about it, the more passionate I became. I want to help more children find the best education possible. While the local public school may work for some students, it is not the answer for every child.   We need options on the table to ensure all children have access to the education that best addresses their needs.

In high school, I was an honor student, class president (three years in a row!) and graduated with a 3.7 grade point average. Growing up in a single-parent home with limited financial resources, my local neighborhood school was my only educational option. I really loved my time in high school and did the best I could in the classroom. I had a true appetite for learning and felt great about what I learned.  It wasn’t until I got to college and struggled, forced to take extra classes to get me caught up to freshman level, that I began to question whether I had actually received the best education possible. 

This doesn’t have to be the case. 

Educational options – including private school choice programs – have a proven track record of providing students from low- to middle-income families with access to a quality education. It provides parents with the ability to choose the education that they feel is best for their children. It is the foundation for ensuring all children have every opportunity to build a successful future.

Thanks to my work with the American Federation for Children, I had the opportunity to share my story at National School Choice Week events in Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee.  I instantly connected with the families in these cities who face the same obstacles my husband and I encountered.  When your child’s school is failing to address your child’s needs, what do you do?  Where do you go? 

I decided to join the fight to ensure our children have access to educational options to help give a voice to the countless number of parents across the country who want to see their child succeed in a school that works.   

It is time all students – regardless of their family’s income, zip code, or race – be given an equal shot at a quality education and a brighter future.

-Lisa Leslie

Friday, February 22, 2013

IN House Votes to Expand Private School Choice Program

Thousands of low-income students in the Hoosier State are one step closer to receiving an education that works for their needs, thanks to moves made by the state House to approve the expansion of the state’s private school choice program.

House Bill 1003 passed the House chamber by a vote of 57-36 on Thursday.

In a press release announcing the vote, bill sponsor Rep. Bob Behning (R-91) said, “This legislation will give many Hoosier students the ability to access areas of education that are currently out of reach due to financial limitations. 

“We are telling people that, here in Indiana, our education system knows no boundaries and wants to give every student the best possible start. I firmly believe that every Hoosier student deserves the chance to learn and every parent the choice to decide what is in the best interest of their child,” continued Rep. Behning.

Some of the changes the bill makes to the current law include providing incoming kindergartners with access to the program and lightening eligibility requirements for children in military and foster families, and for special needs students.

The bill also allows family incomes of current scholarship recipients to rise above the initial limits to about $84,000 a year without jeopardizing their child’s scholarship.

According to our 2013 School Choice Yearbook data, 9,324 students received scholarships to attend the school of their choice for the 2012-13 school year.  This number was nearly 6,000 more than the number of students who took advantage of the program in its first year, which was the 2011-12 school year.

Indiana is also home to the Corporate and Individual Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which allowed 2,890 students to receive a quality education in 2012-13.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Private School Choice Has Presidential Roots

Calvin Coolidge served as U.S.
president from 1923-1929.
School choice is a hot topic of conversation these days with legislators and education leaders across the country debating new policies to expand educational options for families.  Despite its recent and growing attention, school choice and private school scholarships are no new phenomena.  In fact, according to the Heritage Foundation, the nation’s first private school choice program began back in 1869!  What is even more interesting is our nation’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, received a voucher to attend St. Johnsbury Academy. 
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice says that many small towns in Vermont do not have the resources to operate their own high schools, so the town pays for students to attend public schools or non-religious private schools in other towns. 

Today, private school choice programs are helping nearly a quarter of a million students receive a quality education they deserve.  Check out our 2013 School Choice Yearbook to see how private school programs are helping students in 16 states and Washington, D.C. attend the school of their choice!

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

They Said it: School Choice and the State of the Union Address

A lot of chatter surrounding last night’s State of the Union Address has been focused on coming up with ways to solve our nation’s education issues.  While President Obama discussed the importance of providing low-income families with access to quality pre-k programs, many conversations have arose on the need to expand access to quality k-12 programs for America’s poorest students. 

In the Tea Party response to President Obama’s address, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) focused on the need to make options available to all students, no matter how much their family makes or where they live:

“For those striving to climb the ladder of success we must fix our schools. America’s educational system is leaving behind anyone who starts with disadvantages… A great education needs to be available for everyone, whether you live on country club lane or in government housing.

“This will only happen when we allow school choice for everyone, rich or poor, white, brown, or black. Let the taxes you pay for education follow each and every student to the school of your choice. Competition has made America the richest nation in history. Competition can make our educational system the envy of the world.”

In the official Republican response, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) reiterated the point that all students deserve an equal opportunity to receive a quality education: 

“We need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.” 

Senator Rubio followed up his response by introducing legislation today aimed at expanding access to a federally funded scholarship program for low-income students.   If passed, the Educational Opportunities Act would provide families with household incomes equaling 250 percent of poverty ($57,625 for a family of four) with the opportunity to take advantage of scholarships to attend the private school of their choice.   

Learn more about the Educational Opportunities Act here 

Read American Federation for Children’s response to Senator Rubio’s bill here.
-American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, KMS

Friday, February 8, 2013

Putting Power in the Hands of Parents

Parent choice was the topic of conversation this week as Fox news analyst Juan Williams joined “The Jerry Bader Show” on WTAQ 1360AM in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“This is really about kids,” said Williams. “This is about making sure the best education possible is available to our kids, no matter where they’re born, no matter who they are, no matter if they come from a single parent family. We as Americans need to do a better job of focusing on what goes on in terms of educating our children because we are falling behind in competition with other countries,” continued Williams. 

“It’s a global economy and our kids have to be prepared if we want to be the best.”

Williams talks about taking the politics out of education.  He said the focus needs to be placed on students and achieving success in the classroom, not on “maintaining the status quo of bad schools.”

Williams was the keynote speaker at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's Academy Series on School Choice in Green Bay on February 7th.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Education Over Politics

One’s political affiliation should not dictate their stance on educational options, including opportunity scholarship programs, says StudentsFirst’s Michelle Rhee in her new book, “Radical: Fighting to Put Students First."

Rhee, who previously served as the chancellor of the D.C. public school system, is a lifelong Democrat, something that she says squares perfectly with her support for vouchers. 

When Rhee arrived in D.C., she was faced with a dilemma.  Families had been enjoying the benefits of the city’s Opportunity Scholarship program, but this program went against what she thought she should believe as a Democrat. Rather than rejecting the program, Rhee decided to meet with families across the city and get a sense of their stories.  She soon discovered that countless families across the city depended on the scholarship program to deliver their children with a high quality education.

“After my listening tour of families, and hearing so many parents plead for an immediate solution to their desire for a quality education, I came out in favor of the voucher program,” Rhee recalls.  “People went nuts. Democrats chastised me for going against the party, but the most vocal detractors were my biggest supporters.”

Across the board, Democrats and Republicans tend to agree on the issue of providing tax dollars to private hospital institutions, Rhee says.  Schools should not be an exception.  

“Our approach should be no different for our children,” she says. “Their lives are at stake when we’re talking about the quality of education they are receiving.”

Rhee isn’t alone.  Doug Tuthill, President of Step Up For Students, is as a progressive Democrat and even served as president of two local teachers unions in Florida.

In a recent piece for the Huffington Post, Tuthill says the number of Democrats siding with educational choice is a growing trend. 

“Despite charges to the contrary, school choice is not a right-wing plot to privatize public education,” Tuthill writes.  “McGovern, Moynihan and Humphrey were not right-wing zealots, and neither are the increasing numbers of modern Democrats who want to give more options to underprivileged and struggling students.”

With bills under consideration in Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee to create voucher programs, bipartisan support is necessary!  With substantial learning gaps between students based on their family’s income, it is time our leaders put politics aside and take a stand for students.  Providing low-income families with educational options is a proven way to close the achievement gap and give all students a fair shot at a quality education and bright future.

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Louisiana Families Celebrate Educational Options with Marvin Sapp

Over 2,000 of our friends in Louisiana had the opportunity to spend “An Evening with Marvin Sapp,” last night, in celebration of educational options for African American families.

The Grammy-nominated, Dove, Stellar and BET award-winning gospel artist and Michigan pastor was in Baton Rouge, LA as part of his multi-city tour, sponsored by the Black Alliance for Educational Options through its “Give Parents a Choice, Give Children a Chance” campaign.

Dr. Sapp is a proponent of school choice, as he opened a charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan this school year for performing arts students.  The Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology is the first performing arts school in the West Michigan area. 

In addition to a special performance for the crowd, Sapp also talked about the importance of educational options for all students, and the choices available in the state for families seeking better educational opportunities.

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

It's a Wrap! 2013 National School Choice Week Ends Saturday

Over 1,100 parents, students, and school officials braved the cold temperatures to rally on the steps of the Georgia statehouse yesterday in support of National School Choice Week and educational options.

Addressing the crowd was WNBA star Lisa Leslie, who told her story of why she believes having a voice in education is important for all families – no matter their income or where they live.

While in Georgia, Lisa sat down with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and discussed her involvement in promoting education options across the country.  In the interview, which aired earlier this afternoon, Lisa told Suzanne that while she received fantastic grades in high school, she realized her education did not adequately prepare her for applying and to and succeeding in college.    Her personal experience as a student inspired her to search for an educational option for her own children that would adequately address their needs, and ultimately prompted her to get involved in promoting access to educational choice schools for all families.

Lisa Leslie with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux

National School Choice Week officially wraps up tomorrow with the Putting Families First rally in Houston in support of education choice, an event here in D.C. promoting choice for families participating in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, and hundreds more events around the country.  Representatives from AFC will join hundreds of other advocates at the events in Washington and Houston.

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