Thursday, January 31, 2013

Providing Educational Options for TN Families Topic of Conversation at National School Choice Week Event in Nashville

Photo: National School Choice Week in Nashville with Lisa Leslie

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, 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, 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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Facts on Educational Choice

Today, the House Education and Workforce Committee released a comprehensive list of 10 fast facts about educational choice, in honor of National School Choice Week.

Check out the facts below:
  1. Demand and support for charter schools continues to grow. More than 2 million students are enrolled at 5,618 charter schools in America. An additional 610,000 students are currently on charter school waiting lists.
  2. Eighty percent of states have embraced charter schools. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws that support the funding and authorizing of public charter schools. 
  3. Magnet schools educate millions of students every year. In the 2010-2011 academic year, more than 2 million students were enrolled at 2,722 magnet schools in 31 states. These public schools often have a specific focus, such as science and technology, math, or the humanities, and help prepare students for in-demand jobs.
  4. States are expanding private school choice programs. In 2012, 16 states, the District of Columbia, and Douglas County, Colorado offered private school choice programs. More than 210,000 students participated in these programs in 2011-2012 academic year.
  5. Private school choice programs can help increase college enrollment. According to a 2012 study, disadvantaged African American students who received private school vouchers in New York City were 24 percent more likely to attend college.
  6. Private scholarship programs can help raise high school graduation rates. In the 2010-2011 academic year, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program had a 94 percent high school graduation rate. Nearly 90 percent of participating students went on to pursue a postsecondary degree.
  7. A growing number of states and students are taking advantage of virtual schools. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia allow full time online schools and approximately 275,000 students were enrolled during the 2011-2012 school year. These online schools improve access to education for rural students who would otherwise be forced to commute long distances to attend school.
  8. An estimated two-thirds of school districts now offer blended learning programs, a combination of traditional and online schooling. These fast-growing programs allow parents to select more personalized curriculum for their students, while also incorporating the benefits of a traditional classroom setting.
  9. Since 1999, the popularity of homeschooling has grown significantly. From 1999 to 2007, the number of homeschooled students increased by 74 percent. There were approximately 2 million home school students in the U.S. in 2010.
  10. In 2011, 46 states offered open enrollment to students. Open enrollment policies allow students to transfer to a different public school within the district or state, helping children escape low-performing schools

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Greater Access to Educational Options Necessary for Hispanic Students

As we celebrate National School Choice Week, we are reminded that there is still much work to be done in fixing our nation’s education system.   This rings especially true for the Hispanic community.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 15 percent of Hispanic students dropped out of high school in 2012.  While this number is on the decline of where it was over a decade ago (32 percent in 1990), it is still much higher than the dropout rate for black (8 percent), white (5 percent), and Asian (4 percent) students. 

With limited educational options available to Hispanic students, we can do better as a nation to deliver high-quality programs to communities in need, closing the racial achievement gap.

In a poll we conducted last year in partnership with the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, education ranked second only behind the economy and jobs as the most important issue to Hispanic voters.

In a piece featured today on the Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry blog, Israel Ortega calls on lawmakers to make “bold education reform policies” in order to address the educational needs of Hispanic students. 

“Each parent should have the ability to send his or her child to a better public school, a charter school, or even a private school,” Ortega said.   “What’s more, children should not be confined to failing schools with ineffective teachers or high levels of crime and safety-related issues.”

We couldn’t agree more. 

Students should not be pigeon-holed into a one-size-fits-all education.  All students deserve access to an education that works for their needs, free from senseless restrictions based on their family’s income or geographic location.

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

National School Choice Week is in Full Swing

Over 7,000 school choice supporters gathered in Phoenix, AZ on Friday to kick-off this year’s celebration – the largest event yet!  Check out some of the event’s highlights courtesy of ABC Phoenix and Univison.

Commemorating the week-long festivities, House Speaker John Boehner posted a video today to his official YouTube channel, issuing his support for parent choice. 

“Congress needs to open up the education system to include all forms of school choice, including private, charter, traditional public, and home schools,” said Speaker Boehner in the video.  “School choice has proven to boost graduation rates, improve parental satisfaction and increase student achievement.  If we restrict parents’ choices, we only harm our children’s future.”

Click below to watch Speaker Boehner’s message:

As thousands of school choice advocates, families, and students celebrate access to educational options, we’d like to highlight a few events this week, and encourage you to get involved:
  • Tuesday, January 29: Kevin P. Chavous, Executive Counsel to American Federation for Children will be a featured panelist at the Nashville National School Choice Week Celebration.  Joined by WNBA star Lisa Leslie, CEO Patrick Byrne, and student leader Sandeep Thomas, Chavous will be moderating the discussion on the future of educational choice in Tennessee. 
  • Wednesday, January 30: Thousands of families are expected to gather in Atlanta for the Georgia School Choice Celebration and Rally.  Sponsored by the Center for an Educated Georgia and the? Georgia Family Council, the event will bring together families and state legislators to celebrate the state’s school choice options and support for a quality education for all students.
  • Saturday, February 2: The American Federation for Children will also be participating in a rally on Saturday in Houston, TX hosted by Families Empowered. Also, we’re proud to partner with the Institute for Justice to host a celebration for students currently enrolled in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
For more information on how you can get involved in any of these events, please contact Randan Swindler – Rswindler (at)

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

Friday, January 25, 2013

National School Choice Week kicks off TONIGHT!

The official kick-off celebration will begin at 5:30 p.m. PST in Phoenix, kicking of a 14-city whistle-stop train tour in support of educational choice. 
More than 7,000 families from across Arizona are expected to take part in the event, which will feature speeches from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan, and many other educational choice advocates and students. 

The event will conclude this evening with a private concert from the Jonas Brothers.

Over 3,500 events are planned across the country in conjunction with National School Choice Week. 

Click here to find events near you!

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Indiana Governor Calls on Legislature to Lift Restrictions on State Voucher Program

An expanded school voucher program could become a reality for Indiana students—if Governor Mike Pence has his way!
In his first State of the State address, Governor Pence told lawmakers on Tuesday night he’d like to open up access to the program.

Currently, the state’s voucher program provides at least $4,500 per year to Hoosier students who meet the income guidelines to qualify for free or reduced lunches and who have spent at least one year in a public school. 

Pence hopes to lift the prior public requirement, and open up the program to children of military veterans, those who are adopted or in foster care, and students with special needs.

"I have long believed that parents should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income,” said Pence.  “We must continue to expand educational opportunities, especially for those with the fewest resources."

The voucher changes are a component of a wider-sweeping education bill proposed by House Education Chairman Bill Behning.

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013: The Year of Education Choice?

While more students than ever have access to educational options this year—and you can get the full slate of numbers when our annual School Choice Yearbook is released next week—thousands more are still unable to attend the school of their choice. 

Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, recently wrote an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling on lawmakers across the country to expand or grant access to choice programs being considered in their state.