Being The Change | July 2012

JULY 9, 2012Greetings from everyone at the Alliance for School Choice, and welcome to Being The Change, and our first summer 2012 edition! June was a month of celebrations, from anniversaries to new kids signing up for school choice programs to recognizing the amazing accomplishments of children benefiting from school choice. We’re also very pleased to report that the implementation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program will be allowed to move forward, and we’ve got some new information about next year’s National Policy Summit! Dive in to learn more!

Celebrating Choice in Cleveland

Ten years ago last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, an educational lifeline for thousands of families since it was created in 1995. And our friends at School Choice Ohio wanted to celebrate this landmark victory with a party that only the Buckeye State could pull off. At an event last month called Fulfilling the Promisemore than 650 advocates, supporters, parents, legislators, and scholarship recipients came together to celebrate what has become a strong bipartisan movement. And Ohio certainly has a lot to celebrate. Since the Cleveland Program was created in 1995, Ohio has enacted three more publicly funded private school choice programs that serve nearly 24,000 students. The June event honored the students whose lives have been transformed thanks to these educational options, as well as the many heroes who have fought in the decade-long battle for creating more educational options. Among them was the late Fannie M. Lewis, the former member of the Cleveland City Council, who was honored for her lifelong dedication to the city of Cleveland and her strong support for creating the Cleveland voucher program. Lewis, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 82, wanted all children in her home city to have access to a quality education. Thanks in large part to her advocacy, thousands of children—including her own grandchildren—have received scholarships through the Cleveland program. Now that’s a legacy to celebrate! Click below to see what our own Kevin P. Chavous had to say at the celebration in Cleveland.

Choice Quotes

“For eight years, this scholarship program has empowered low-income parents to choose the best learning environment for their children. Thousands of families have taken advantage of this scholarship program to give their children an opportunity to succeed in life, and there’s strong evidence that it’s both effective and cost-effective.”
— U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner, speaking on June 18 in announcing an agreement with the White House to fully-implement the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program

“[The legislation is] a strong first step toward what we need to help…provide families with real choices in how to best educate their children.”
— Charles J. Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, in a July 2 statement praising the newly-approved scholarship tax credit program in Pennsylvania

“It’s sad that people would want to get in the way of choosing what’s right for their kids.”
— Louisiana Superintendent of Education John C. White, speaking on June 17 about the onslaught of lawsuits against the state’s expanded voucher program this year


The Sign-Up Down South

It was only a couple of months ago that we were following the debate between Louisiana legislators about expanding the New Orleans voucher program, Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence, statewide. And after the expansion was enacted into law on April 18, our friends at the Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) and Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) wasted no time teaming with the Louisiana Department of Education to implement the program! Both organizations worked nonstop to inform families of the new educational options available to them. Through mail, phone, radio ads, billboards, and a statewide road show, thousands of parents have turned out to apply for a scholarship to one of the more than 100 participating schools. The program’s first year is offering nearly 5,000 available seats, and that’s in addition to the more than 2,300 seats already awarded in Orleans Parish! Eligible children must be enrolled in a Louisiana public school labeled “C,” “D,” or “F” by the state or entering kindergarten. Families must also meet income eligibility requirements—house income cannot exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($57,625 for a family of four). We’ll be sure to report back with exciting results and updates throughout the program’s first year of expansion. In the meantime, you can find frequent updates about the program and other school choice happenings in the Pelican State by visiting the LFC website.

Let The Countdown Begin!

It’s official: we’ve announced the dates for the next AFC Policy Summit! The year’s largest school choice event will be held May 20 – 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. at the Gaylord National Resort, located on Washington’s National Harbor. It’s never too early to get fired up to hear from the nation’s leading education reform advocates! As you know, in years past we’ve welcomed Governors Bobby Jindal of LouisianaChris Christie of New Jersey, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, along with dozens of elected officials from across the country and leading researchers, educators, and media personalities from all across the political spectrum. We expect 2013 to be even bigger and better than years past, so stay tuned for more information on how to register and of course, announcements on the great line up of speakers!
Chartering Changes!

Our intrepid senior advisor Kevin P. Chavous just wrapped up a trip to Minneapolis a few weeks ago, where he joined our friends at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) for their annual conference. And what a great conference it was! There were hundreds of school choice advocates from across the country, all gathering to discuss the importance of pushing forward with ways to improve the education system for our children. And they graciously allowed Kevin the opportunity to share a few stories from his latest book, Voice of Determination, with the group.  The conference was a great reminder of the broad and expansive nature of the coalition fighting for educational options. We’d also like to give a special shoutout to Nina Rees, who recently took over the position of CEO for the NAPCS. Nina and Kevin worked together to help pass and implement the highly-successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program back in 2004, and her commitment to the educational needs of our children are unmatched. We’re excited to see all the great things she will do for such an important and valuable organization! Take a look at the photo below from the keynote address—what a crowd!

Student Spotlight: Jonah Lytle

There aren’t a whole lot of students like Jonah Lytle—entrepreneurs before their 10th birthdays, committed philanthropists, and inspiring leaders in their communities. But Jonah, a third-grader and recipient of an EdChoice Scholarship in Ohio, has never sought to be like others; instead, he’s always sought simply to do what his conscience told him was the right thing to do. It’s why when his teacher urged him to use his gift of writing to author a book in just the second grade, Jonah did so. It was last year, in the aftermath of the Japanese Tsunami that devastated the region, and so when Jonah decided to sell his books at a book signing event, he didn’t use the money on himself—he donated it to the relief effort to help victims of the natural disaster. And while Jonah’s unselfishness is unique amongst people of all ages, the opportunities he’s been afforded are indicative of the experiences of thousands of students who have benefited from school choice both in Ohio and around the nation. School choice is not only valuable to communities here in America, but as Jonah has proven, it can actually change the lives of people and families on the other side of the world. So to you, Jonah, we say thanks for the hard work, the dedication, and for putting others ahead of yourself. You’re an inspiration to us all!Watch yourself below:

Thanks for reading another edition of Being The Change! We’ll be back again later this summer, but until then, be sure to visit, and as heat waves continue all across the country, stay cool!