Being The Change | January 2012

JANUARY 31, 2012Welcome to the January edition of Being the Change, the monthly newsletter of the Alliance for School Choice! Since we last spoke, we’ve celebrated the New Year and have gotten back to brushing up on our math skills.  Math, you ask? Yes! We have tallied up some data to show you exactly why 2011 was dubbed far and wide as “The Year of School Choice,” and we’re fired up after a host of amazing events during National School Choice Week.  So, keep reading to see how the school choice world has kicked off 2012!

The Results Are In…

…And school choice really did have a breakthrough year in 2011! That’s our conclusion thanks to the Alliance for School Choice’s annual award-winning School Choice Yearbook 2011-12, released on January 26.   School Choice Now: The Year of School Choice shows that more children than ever before are attending the private schools of their parents’ choice thanks to 27 publicly funded private school choice programs across the nation. According to data collected and analyzed by the Alliance:

  • More than 210,000 students are enrolled in school choice programs in the United States, a growth of nearly 25 percent since 2007.
  • Seven new programs were enacted last year, including a new program in Indiana that boasted the highest first-year enrollment ever for a voucher program. Of the new programs, there are four voucher programs, one scholarship tax credit program, one individual tuition tax credit, and one education savings account program—a new program that lets parents of special needs children use education dollars on a variety of educational tools.
  • Ten of the 27 school choice programs are specifically tailored to serve children with special needs, benefiting almost 30,000 students nationwide.
  • Nearly all of the children benefiting from America’s school choice programs come from low- or middle-income families or are students with special needs.
  • Florida is home to the greatest number of students who benefit from school choice, with 65,000 students participating in the state’s two existing programs. Two states—Ohio and Arizona—have four school choice programs each.

Now that’s a lot of numbers (now you know why we’ve had math on our mind)!  To see some great charts and tables that make math easy—we promise—and to see the most comprehensive resource for private school choice data anywhere, download the complete 2011-12 Yearbook at www.yearofschoolchoice.com.

Choice Quotes

“The fact is, every educational setting is a choice. Public schools, public charter schools, private and parochial schools — all these represent school choice in action.”
— Janine C. M. Allen, an American Association of Educators member and educator,writing on January 22 for the Herald Times in New Jersey.

“[The program] is designed to benefit students, not schools, and the court recognized that very essential fact. It’s the most salient fact in determining that the program is constitutional.”
— Bert Gall, an attorney from the Institute for Justice, on the speaking on January 13 about the Marion County court ruling that upheld the Constitutionality of the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program.

“Today we say to parents, ‘tough luck’ if you happen to live where there aren’t a lot of options. We say, ‘tough luck’ if you can’t afford to pay to send your student to private school. The current system is unacceptable and unfair. Parents and kids should not be trapped in a failing school because of their zip code, income, gender or color.”
— Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, speaking on January 16 at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E School Choice, Come On!

As mentioned, we’ve spent the last week celebrating good times during National School Choice Week, a seven-day look at what school choice means to families and supporters across the nation. The kick-off event—which took place in New Orleans on Saturday, January 21, even included a performance by The Temptations! Here at the Alliance, we hosted our own event with our friends at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Institute for Justice, titled “The Results of 2011, The Promise of 2012.” We heard from Alliance Senior Advisor Kevin P. Chavous about what 2012 has in store for school choice, as well as from parents who participate in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. And the event served as the formal launch of the new Yearbook! But we’re not the only ones celebrating. National School Choice Week included more than 400 events all across the country.  Why is the week so important?  Well, it’s about getting folks educated on what school choice could mean in their state! Plus, it sets the stage for expanding educational options to families all across the nation.  In fact, governors from more than 25 states officially declared this week National School Choice Week! Watch below for a video from the kick-off event:

Who’s Talking About the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?

You’ve heard Juan Williams—one of the nation’s leading journalists, commentators, and political analysts—talk on NPR, on cable news, and via his words in newspapers nationwide, but now you can hear him at our 2012 National Policy Summit! Williams will give a keynote speech on the importance of educational options, which he has called the “civil rights issue of our time.” He is the author of six books, a renowned writer and journalist, and currently a political commentator for Fox News.  He previously hosted “Talk of the Nation” and “America’s Black Forum” on NPR and worked as a political columnist, editorial writer, and White House correspondent for more than 20 years at The Washington Post.  And just in case you forgot, our National Policy Summit, “School Choice Now: Breakthrough Victories for Children,” will be held at the Westin Jersey City Newport Hotel in Jersey City, NJ on May 3 and May 4, 2012. Don’t forget to register at here! Register now to get a discounted rate!

And Speaking of Civil Rights and Education Reform…

“Like you, I won’t rest until we achieve our noble goal; the goal of knowing that each and every child born in this country has equal access to a high quality education. But for that to happen, the education of our children must be on the hearts, minds, and souls of everyone. It must be personal; it must be driven by the fierce urgency of now; and it must be acted on with a revolutionary spirit, a spirit found in freedom fights throughout time.” — Kevin P. Chavous

Former D.C. Councilman and Alliance Senior Advisor Kevin P. Chavous celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 21st annual Indiana Holiday Celebration and Youth Summit in Indianapolis earlier this month, emphasizing a renewed commitment to showing courage in the fight to expand educational options.  Invoking the spirit of the civil rights icon’s revolutionary passion for civil rights in America, Chavous called the need to reform our education system a national imperative.  He told a crowd of hundreds that bold change is integral to decreasing the dropout rate, closing achievement gaps, and bringing true educational choice to American families. “We need a revolution in education in this country,” said Chavous. “Movements for change are successful when they become personal to those fighting for change.” And Indiana has been at the forefront of that change, having created the Choice Scholarship Program last year that’s now serving nearly 4,000 students.  Watch the speech below, and continue to work with us to ensure that every child in America receives a quality education!

Student Spotlight for January: Max Ashton

Our January Student Spotlight goes to a high school sophomore student at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, who testified this month in support of expanding the corporate scholarship tax credit program. But Max Ashton isn’t your typical 10th grader. Ashton, who utilizes Lexie’s Law to attend his current school, told legislators of his amazing accomplishments, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—an amazing feat for anyone, but all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that Ashton is blind.  Read what he said to the Senate Finance Committee on his amazing accomplishments and how using a scholarship has changed his life:

Thank you Mr. Chairman, members.

My name is Max Aston and I’m a sophomore at Brophy College Preparatory.  I was born with a retinal condition called Leber.  Many people ask me what I can see and basically I have peripheral vision and little sensual vision.  So I can’t really see things in detail.

I am a braille reader and yet I am a straight-A student.  I recently scored in the 85th percentile nationally on the PSAT.  I am the starter on my wrestling team.  I am [in the] percussion ensemble at school.  And I’m exploring MIT, Stanford, and Barrett Honors College at ASU – Go Devils!

[…]

Now, I don’t consider myself to be disabled.  In fact, I am probably more abled than many of the people in this room.  I am the youngest blind person to summit Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet. I have hiked the Grand Canyon’s 24-mile Rim Trail in a single day.  And I threw out the ceremonial first pitch at this year’s Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series between the Diamondbacks and Brewers, a perfect strike.

It goes without saying, but it’s kids like Max that make all the work you do so important!

That’s it from us! For everyone at the Alliance for School Choice, thank you for reading Being the Change, be sure to download our Yearbook, and we’ll see you next month!

www.allianceforschoolchoice.org