Thursday, May 30, 2013

Indiana School Choice Program to Return Millions Back to State’s Schools

Parents deserve educational choices, not excuses. And, one of the biggest excuses from the “anti-school choice” crowd is the claim that school choice drains funds from public education. However, new data indicates that Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program could save the state millions of dollars, all while providing parents with the opportunity to choose the best school for their child. 

Check out this article by’s Megan Banta below for more info on how this school choice program is helping students and saving money:

“Indiana’s voucher program could return just under $5 million to the state’s schools this year – nearly $800,000 more than last year, the state’s top school finance officer said Wednesday.

“Melissa Ambre, director of the Indiana Department of Education’s office of school finance, told the State Budget Committee that the voucher program will result in a maximum of $4.9 million in redistributed savings statewide this year…”

“…School vouchers only cover up to 90 percent of the cost of a student’s private school education, the state gets back at least 10 percent of the per-pupil education funds set aside for those students that use vouchers. That remaining money is then pumped back into the statewide school funding formula.

“This year’s $4.9 million is more than the amount distributed last year, when the state distributed between $4.1 million and $4.2 million in savings to 292 public schools and 63 charter schools.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Parents, Students and Education Reform Advocates "Go Big" and "Go Bold" at National Policy Summit

The 4th annual National Policy Summit officially concluded this afternoon after two days of impassioned speeches, closing with the marching orders for attendees to go home and work to implement big and bold ideas, policies and strategies to further expand educational choice.
Bringing together hundreds of parents, students and education reform advocates, we spent two days sharing success stories and discussing strategies for making school choice a reality for thousands of students stuck with limited access to quality education options.

Day one kicked off with a breakfast session featuring Washington Archbishop His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl and D.C. Opportunity Scholarship parent advocate Sheila Jackson on the benefits of the scholarship program in our nation’s capitol.  During her speech, Sheila revealed some amazing news to the group: her daughter Shawnee, a D.C. OSP recipient, graduated as her school’s valedictorian and will be attending St. Augustine University in the fall!
At dinner, attendees heard from former Florida Tax Credit Scholarship recipient Denisha Merriweather on how her choice education opened the doors to greater educational opportunities, including college. Also at dinner, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence spoke passionately about the importance of school choice in the Hoosier State. (See Gov. Pence’s full speech here.)
Day two kicked off with Ohio mother Tera Myers’ heart wrenching story of her fight to ensure her special needs son was given the same educational opportunities as other children. Also at breakfast, former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry discussed the role bipartisanship plays in furthering the goals of the school choice movement. (Watch Mike McCurry’s full speech here and our exclusive interview with the Governor here.)
Student advocate Sandeep Thomas kicked off the closing luncheon with an inspiring story about how school choice played a role in helping him overcome the scars of his traumatic childhood and help him grow into the student he is today. Former WNBA star and four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Lisa Leslie joined AFC’s executive counsel Kevin P. Chavous on stage to close out the conference with a conversation on why she got involved in promoting educational choice. Delivering what could be the quote of the conference, Leslie said, “It's about the opportunity to choose your education. What are we fussing about? This is the right thing to do" (Check out Leslie’s full interview here.)
From the entire AFC team, we hope everyone found this year’s Summit to be as informative – and enjoyable – as we did! Feeling completely inspired by all of our great speakers and fellow attendees, we cannot wait to hit the ground running to promote BIG and BOLD education reforms, giving thousands more students across the country a chance to be another school choice success story. To give you even further inspiration, check out AFC’s Kim Martinez’s interviews with attendees and speakers (update 1, update 2 and update 3).

Former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry Opens Up the 2nd day of the 2013 AFC National Policy Summit

The path to bipartisanship was a main talking point from former White House Press Secretary for President Bill Clinton, Mike McCurry.  McCurry was the guest of honor and keynote speaker for the breakfast program starting off day two of the 2013 AFC National Policy Summit.

During this morning’s address, McCurry emphatically discussed the importance of bipartisanship for the school choice movement.  “We can come together and share our different perspectives and create a much larger force, that’s kind of a more moderate force in the center, to make change happen,” McCurry said.  McCurry petitioned the nation’s school choice leaders in attendance, to not let the partisanship that “infects Washington, invade our work.”

He also asked school choice advocates to be careful of the language used, which could undermine the overall cause, “In everything about politics, people get so angry and so bitter and they use language that’s way over the top."

McCurry praised the American Federation for Children for bringing so many people together during this year’s summit, “We’ve got people from all walks of life who are together united in the cause of education reform.  We are really figuring out how to take this to the next level and to 'Go Big and Go Bold.'”

Monday, May 20, 2013

Local Leaders Standing Up for Educational Choice

Former Louisiana Senator Ann Duplessis wonders how educational choice may have affected her life, had it been available earlier in Louisiana.  Years ago, her father was killed.

“He was shot five times for seven dollars.  The two men who killed him were dropouts.  They had no opportunities in life, so they were surviving,” Duplessis said, “If they had choice, perhaps my father and others would still be alive.”

Duplessis’ heart-wrenching story is why she went from fighting against the scholarship program to fighting for it throughout her community.  But the battle was, and still is, very difficult, since she says providing educational choice often boils down to money.

Kevin Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children, joined Duplessis to take on that question during the 2013 AFC National Policy Summit’s breakout session on how local leaders stand up for educational choice.

“What’s the goal—to prop up a system or to educate children?  Instead of trying to prop up a system that may or may not be working, we should be supporting the system that works for the children,” Chavous said.

The system that works best for children—and one that is worth paying for—is one with competition, according to educational choice champion former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot.

“As a lawyer, what if I came to work between 11 and 1, charged a rate you couldn’t afford, all because I was the only game in town?” Vinroot said.  “Competition is what makes me a better lawyer, and competition is what makes the system better.  That’s what made America great, is competition.”

All the panelists agreed: competition is what will force improvement in schools across the nation; it’s also what will make the schools themselves worth taxpayer money, and it is what will create the quality education all children deserve.

Learn more about the power of educational choice by watching our breakout sessions live online, or find updates throughout the day on our blog, YouTube, and Twitter.
Learn more about the power of educational choice by watching our breakout sessions live online, or find updates throughout the day on our blog, YouTube, and Twitter.

The Power of Choice

Right now, today.  Go big, and go bold.  That was the appeal from the AFC’s executive counsel, Kevin P. Chavous, during lunch at the 2013 AFC National Policy Summit.  Chavous praised victories across the country, where five educational choice programs have been created since last year, and five have been expanded during the same time period.

“People know by now we know how to fight, and fight we will,” Chavous said.One D.C. mother who knows better than anyone about fighting for a quality education is Sheila Jackson, who also addressed the crowd at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center in Maryland.  Her daughter, Shawnee, struggled in her old school until fourth grade.

“She was intimidated by math.  [The school] didn’t want to do anything with me to help my daughter.  One of her former teachers informed me of the Opportunity Scholarship Program.  She was given a tutor to bring her up in math, and now math is her strong subject,” Jackson said.  “I will continue to advocate for this program even after Shawnee graduates out, because I believe every child deserves to be in an environment that works for them.”

As a testament to the power of Jackson’s ability to choose the education that best fit her daughter, Shawnee just graduated as valedictorian from her high school!  She is now headed to college at St. Augustine University, and Chavous calls her story a testament to the power of overcoming the status quo.

Learn more about the power of educational choice by watching our breakout sessions live online, or find updates throughout the day on our blog, YouTube, and Twitter.

AFC Policy Summit: Off to a Great Start!

So many people filled the room at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland for the first break-out session at the AFC’s 2013 National Policy Summit that the hotel had to bring in stacks of chairs to accommodate!

What they heard from AFC’s national government affairs director Jonathan Nikkila during the first break-out session shows promising growth across the nation: states with already-established educational choice programs are growing bigger and bolder.  From coast to coast, there are 34 educational programs that have expanded to add thousands of students during the past year, thanks to increased bipartisan support.

Additionally, even legal challenges can be seen as a positive, according to Dick Komer with the Institute for School Justice, who has worked over the past year to defend programs in five states.

“This is a nice indicator of the broad interest in school choice,” Komer said.

Choice programs have so far been successfully defended from litigation in three states: Texas, Colorado, and Indiana.  Komer is hopeful pending litigation in New Hampshire will bring a victory for the state’s business tax credit program.

“School choice is no longer this crazy idea.  It’s a very serious threat [to the status quo],” Komer said, “But on your side, you have us.”

If you can’t make it to the summit, you can live stream each session by going to the AFC Policy Summit website and clicking on the “Live Stream” box.

We’ll have more updates from the summit throughout the day on our blog, Twitter, and YouTube!

Friday, May 17, 2013

4th Annual AFC National Policy Summit Starts Monday

The 2013 AFC National Policy Summit officially kicks off on Monday!

With recently-approved expansions to the Indiana school choice program, a funding debate in Louisiana and momentum for new and expanded school choice programs across the country, there is no better time than now to take part in this year’s conference.

Every year, the Summit brings together education reform leaders, education choice advocates, lawmakers and researchers from every corner of the U.S. to discuss the momentum within the school choice movement.

This year’s keynote speakers include Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Olympic Gold Medalist and former WNBA star Lisa Leslie, former White House press secretary Mike McCurry and Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Unable to travel to D.C. to take part in the year’s event?  Be sure to follow all of the action on Facebook and Twitter! We will be live tweeting from the event and continuously posting pictures and quotes on our Facebook page.  Follow along with the conversations on @schoolchoicenow
#AFCPolicySummit and

Friday, May 3, 2013

This is the time

We previously reported on April 10th School Choice Ohio rally that brought THOUSANDS of engaged Ohio parents, students and education reform activists to the steps of the Ohio Statehouse to show their support for school choice.

We wanted to share with you some fantastic video footage of AFC's Kevin P. Chavous addressing attendees at the rally on the need to stand up for education choice.  "This is the time for parents, students and families to stand up for children," said Chavous to the crowd. "Right now through educational choice, the only way you see change is when you put power in the hands of parents!"

Chavous showed his support for efforts made by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature to expand educational options.  Chavous said it is important that families have as many quality options as possible today, to adequately educate as many children as possible.

Check out Kevin's speech in its entirety below: