Thursday, January 30, 2014

Civil rights leaders, elected officials and students join together for Tennessee’s National School Choice Week celebration

More than 1,000 Tennesseans gathered at War Memorial Auditorium Tuesday in recognition of National School Choice Week’s “School Choice NOW” celebration. The celebration brought together civil rights leaders, Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN), Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, other elected officials, and students and parents from across the state. 

Lawmakers were pleased to see the surge of Tennesseans who made their way across the state to attend and show their support for education choice options, including  an opportunity scholarship program that is currently being discussed by legislators.  

Gov. Haslam addressed the crowd expressing his desire to move Tennessee forward and make education reform a top priority for the state. Lt. Governor Ramsey followed, echoing these sentiments and emphasizing the need for greater choice options for parents across Tennessee.  

Parents, students, community leaders and legislators poured into the auditorium with high-energy and began cheering for educational choice options prior to the start of the celebration program. Banners hung from the auditorium balcony saying “Rise Up for School Choice” and a sea of yellow scarves was seen by all in attendance. 

St. Joseph’s Catholic School choir kicked off the program, lifting their voices in harmony to sing The National Anthem. Rep. John Deberry (D - Memphis) was the official emcee for the day keeping the room energized with his own personal education stories and words of support for school choice in the state.  Attendees were prompted to use their smartphones texting “TNkids” to become a direct advocate for school choice options. 

Attendees received a first hand demonstration of the benefits of educational options when student speaker Brianna Terrall, a sophomore at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School, and Raymond Cheers, volunteer and a grandparent of a student at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, shared their personal experiences.  

Former Tennessee Titan Chris Sanders shared his story with attendees, calling on lawmakers not to “fall a yard short in our state’s education.” Rev. Dwight Montgomery, president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, brought the crowd to their feet as he challenged lawmakers to put children first. “Our government bailed out big businesses like Ford and General Motors,” said Rev. Montgomery. “Now it’s time to bail out our children from failing educations.”

Several state lawmakers were in attendance to greet their constituents, including Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), Sen. Reggie Tate (D - Memphis), Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D- Memphis), and Rep. Joshua Evans (R - Greenbrier). 

Coalition members who helped organize the event, include:
  • Agudath Israel of America 
  • Beacon Center of Tennessee 
  • Black Alliance for Educational Options
  • Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
  • Parent Revolution
  • PublicSchoolOptions. org
  • StudentsFirst
  • Tennessee Charter School Center 
  • Tennessee Federation for Children

Tuesday's celebration made headlines.  Click the links below to see the full stories:

Memphis Families Return After Nashville School Vouchers Rally
School Choice Rally Brings Teachers, Parents to State Capitol
Students, Parents Rally in Nashville for School Voucher Bill 

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