Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Indiana Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Families

In a 5-0 vote, the Indiana State Supreme Court voted in favor of upholding the state’s school voucher program yesterday. 

The Supreme Court decision ended a two-year legal review of the Choice Scholarship Program.  When the program became law in July 2011, the Indiana State Teachers’ Association along with the National Education Association filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of the program.  (Follow the program’s legal journey here: November 2012,  December 2011, August 2011, and the program's passage and original legal challenge in July 2011.) 

The monumental decision allows thousands of Indiana students to continue to receive the education of their parent’s choice, ensuring all students are given same opportunities, no matter their parent’s income or their zip code. 

Currently, more than 9,300 low- and middle-income students receive scholarships to attend one of 289 participating schools through the Choice Scholarship Program.  To be eligible for the program, students qualifying for the federal free-and-reduced lunch program ($42,643 for a family of four) can receive a scholarship worth up to 90 percent of the state tuition amount. Children from families who earn up to 150 percent of the free-and-reduced lunch eligibility ($63,964 for a family of four) are eligible for a scholarship for up to 50 percent of the tuition amount.
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, KMS

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Louisiana Families LOVE their scholarship school!

A recent survey conducted by the Louisiana Federation for Children and the Black Alliance for Educational Options found that an overwhelming majority – 92.5 percent of parents are either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their child’s scholarship school!

The direct mail survey also found that 93.6 percent of parents are happy with their child’s academic progress; 99.3 percent of parents said they feel their child is safe at their scholarship school; and 98.1 percent of parents said they feel welcome when they visit their child’s scholarship school.
This sentiment rang true as hundreds of Louisiana scholarship families and education reform advocates packed the steps outside of the Louisiana State Supreme Court in New Orleans yesterday to show their support for their educational choice.

With the mantra “put kids first!” families made their voices heard preceding a Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the program’s funding mechanism.

Nearly 4,700 students are currently enrolled in the Louisiana Scholarship Program.  To qualify for the program, students must be enrolled in an underperforming or failing school and have a family income not exceeding 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline ($57,625 for a family of four).
AFC's Kevin P. Chavous firing up the crowd at the Louisiana rally
-American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice - KMS

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rose: Access to Educational Options Could Be the Ticket to Solving Dropout Problem

Growing up in Northwest Detroit, I watched many of my peers struggle through school – some even dropped out.  What kept me motivated was the fact that I knew getting my high school diploma and making it to college were mandatory steps in achieving my dreams.  I also was lucky to have a supportive mother who kept me grounded and motivated. 

Every day, nearly 7,000 high school students across the country give up on their shot at a better life. In Detroit, four out of ten students do not graduate. A staggering number of these students in Detroit and across the country who decide to drop out of school are African-American and Latino, and come from low-income families with limited access to educational options.
Like my high school peers, students drop out for myriad reasons.  There is one thing that is certain, we need to do more as a country to ensure these students have every opportunity to avoid becoming another “inner city statistic.”  
Providing children with the opportunity for a better tomorrow starts with a good education.  The one-size-fits-all approach to educating students is obviously not working.  We need to provide families with greater access to educational options, ensuring each and every child has the opportunity to receive an education that addresses his/her individual needs.

In 2011 I founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in an effort to give children in my hometown with access to a quality education in a positive environment.  Currently the Academy is serving over 200 ninth and tenth grade students selected at random with a robust educational experience.   Students at the Academy receive a leadership-focused education with the goal of inspiring students to ultimately graduate with a college degree. 
The Academy is just one example of an educational option that is working to address the needs of economically-disadvantaged students.   We must take the steps necessary to provide students with access to the education that works best for their needs if we ever hope to solve the issues that plague our inner-city neighborhoods. 
Statistics show high school dropouts are 72 percent more likely to be unemployed as compared to high school graduates.  What is also startling is the fact that nearly 80 percent of prisoners in the United States do not have a high school diploma.   With nearly 760 prisoners per every 100,000 citizens, as a nation we spend almost $70 billion each year to incarcerate adults, confine youth to detention centers, and monitor those on probation and parole.   

By ensuring every student has access to the best education possible, we can help prevent more students from becoming statistics.  We must call on our elected officials to work together to provide students with educational options, giving them a chance to receive a quality education that works for their needs. 

Through my work with the American Federation for Children, I hope to help raise awareness of the plight of low-income and minority students across the country stuck in schools that do not address their individual learning needs.   These students deserve every opportunity available to help them rise above their current economic situation and achieve their dreams. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Momentum is Building for Educational Options in Tennessee

Momentum is building in Tennessee for private school choice, as Governor Haslam's proposed private school choice bill was passed with a 9-4 vote by the House Education Committee on Tuesday.  The companion bill is set to be discussed by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 21. If passed, the bill would only children zoned to attend the bottom five percent of failing public schools and who qualify for free or reduced lunch to participate in the program.  The program would also be initially capped at 5,000 children, while 35,000 children are expected to be eligible for the program.

A broader private school choice proposal has been introduced that does not include the failing schools restriction.  

Students deserve to have access to the best education possible.  Let’s hope the program allows for as many children as possible to receive the education that works best for their individual learning needs.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Students Deserve a Choice

Thousands of families across the country have thousands of unique reasons why their assigned public school does not work for their child’s needs.  These myriad reasons are exactly why educational options are necessary in order to deliver each and every child an education that works best for their individual needs.   For many families – especially those who are low-income – their ability to choose the best education for their child is limited based on financial constraints. 

Parental choice or opportunity scholarship programs are a lifeline that allow low-income families to have the same choices taken for granted by higher income families.  Nearly 250,000 students across the country are seeing the benefits of such programs

Jason Bedrick, Visiting Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, recently drafted a piece for Educationnext in support of scholarship tax credit programs.

“There is clear evidence that students benefit by participating in educational choice programs,” said Bedrick. 

“Under the status quo, wealthy families already have school choice while low-income families do not,” continued Bedrick.  “Wealthy families can afford to live in districts with high-performing government schools or to send their children to private schools. By contrast, low-income families generally only have one choice: the local assigned government school.”

Assigned public schools may work for many students.  For those students not being adequately served by the status quo, educational options are a must!  This sentiment was echoed in a letter to the editor featured in the Tampa Bay Times from Manuel L. Sykes, president, NAACP St. Petersburg.
Writing in support of FL Senator Marco Rubio’s proposed tax credit scholarship bill, Sykes says, “Two-thirds of the 50,000 low-income students on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship are black or Hispanic. They were the lowest performers in the public schools they left behind and are now making the same academic gains as students of all income levels nationally. Just as encouraging, the public schools most impacted by the scholarship are experiencing higher learning gains.”

Whether on the left or the right of the political spectrum, we can all agree that providing the highest quality education to each and every student needs to be our nation’s number one priority.  If the traditional public school does not work for a student, families need every