May 27, 2011 – Welcome back to Being The Change, the monthly newsletter from the Alliance for School Choice!It’s been an amazingly productive month here at the Alliance, as well as for our allies in the states. We received great feedback for our inaugural newsletter last month, so be sure to keep letting us know what you think! We’re always excited to hear new ideas, so please pass them along as you make your way through our update. Dive in!
It’s May, so Stop What You’re Doing And…
…join in our annual tribute to one of the most generous and committed education benefactors our country has ever known: John T. Walton. Earlier this month in Washington, the Alliance presented the award bearing his name—the John T. Walton Champions for School Choice Award—to a deserving man who has spent decades fighting for low-income children in Milwaukee, who has worked at all levels of our education system, and who has proven to be one of the nation’s most distinguished advocates for providing disadvantaged families with educational options. He is a man who embodies the spirit and passion to help others that John Walton carried with him his entire life, and he is a man whose commitment to fighting for those less fortunate is second to none. The Alliance for School Choice thanks Dr. Howard Fuller for all his contributions to kids not just in his own community, but around the entire country. The lives of countless children have been changed for the better because of Dr. Fuller’s work, which is why we’re proud to honor him with this year’s John T. Walton Champions for School Choice Award. Watch the wonderful award presentation from Walton’s widow, Christy, by clicking here.
The month isn’t over, but we’ve already seen a host of bipartisan advocates speak passionately on behalf of school choice. From a prominent Democrat, Michelle Rhee, explaining how looking into the eyes of desperate parents made her a convert to vouchers, to Indiana’s Republican governor signing the most sweeping voucher bill in America, consensus is building on the importance of the cause:
“If I did not have a spot at a traditional D.C. Public School that I would feel comfortable sending my own two daughters to…who am I to stop this parent from taking a $7,500 voucher so they could potentially go to a Catholic school and get a great education?” – Former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (D), speaking on May 10 at the American Federation for Children and Alliance for School Choice’s National Policy Summit
“We can say today that every child is precious. Every child deserves an equal chance to be all they can be. Regardless of race, regardless of income, every child and every parent deserves an equal chance.” – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), speaking on May 5 at the Indiana State Capitol following the signing of House Bill 1003, the most expansive school voucher plan in the nation’s history
“The kids at [Milwaukee Public Schools] don’t have a problem with the kids at the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. They don’t have a problem with each other. So why do you?” – Wisconsin Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee), speaking on May 10 on the Assembly floor, excoriating his colleagues for their failure to support an amendment eliminating the enrollment cap on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
It has already been a remarkable year for expanding educational options to children in need, and we took some time earlier this month along with many of our allies to assess progress at our second annual National Policy Summit, co-hosted with our sister organization, the American Federation for Children. We heard from a number of passionate champions for school choice, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, andMichelle Rhee, who is now at the helm of StudentsFirst, a new organization working to reform public education across the country. But perhaps the most inspiring message came at the Summit’s conclusion, provided by New JerseyRev. Reginald Jackson. If there was ever any doubt as to the importance of our ongoing fight for school choice, Rev. Jackson put it all to rest. Click below to watch his moving words.
“There’s nothing more important than a quality education” – Rev. Reginald Jackson
Delivering the Message in Ohio
Folks at School Choice Ohio have a friend of school choice in the governor’s mansion and a strong demand for expanding existing programs and creating new ones. Now, they’re working to bring those two minds together. With help from State Rep. Matt Huffman, the Ohio House Majority Leader, School Choice Ohio is educating the public about the governor’s plans for expansion, giving parents a platform to let legislators know about the benefits of current programs, and reminding lawmakers that thousands of children across the state still desperately need more options. From Akron to Cleveland to Springfield to Youngstown, the word is getting out about why school choice works and why more of it is needed. Check out what some of the parents had to say by clicking here. Their words confirm it: the Educational Choice Scholarship Program has given their children a shot at a better future!
A Rally to Save Choices in Georgia
In the midst of a string of school choice successes came sobering news from Georgia, but our friends at the Center for an Educated Georgia helped make clear that the voices of concerned parents and students will still be heard. This month, the state Supreme Court struck down the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, ruling it unconstitutional for the Commission to create charter schools in the state. The ruling gives only local school boards the right to create charter schools, placing the state’s seven existing Commission-created charter schools in jeopardy and calling into question the future of nine more such schools that were slated to open in the fall – possibly throwing thousands of disadvantaged children out of their schools of choice. The response? Just a day after the ruling, hundreds rallied outside the State Capitol to show that they will stand up for their kids and parents’ right to educational options. It’s a lesson in not resting on our laurels: even as school choice expands around the country, efforts by the status quo forces to roll back choices continue, too. Click below to watch a report on the rally and hear from some of the affected students about why they don’t want their schools to close.
Student Spotlight for May: Jacob Peck
Thirteen-year-old Jacob Peck is a student at the Haugland Learning Center (HLC) in Dublin, Ohio, a school that serves the educational needs of over 150 children with Autism or Asperger syndrome. The state’s Autism Scholarship Program has been instrumental in the successful educational outcomes of Jacob and other students in the Buckeye State, who are benefitting from a learning environment that is tailored to their specific needs. “My education is very important to me,” Peck said. “I enjoy attending Haugland Learning Center with kids who are like me and understand what I’m going through.” There are nearly 1,700 students in Ohio receiving Autism Scholarships through the voucher program, which has grown in size every year since it began with just 300 students in 2004. It’s one of three school choice programs in the state and now has scholarship recipients at 223 schools statewide. “I think the Autism Scholarship Program has been a life saver for many families,” said Dr. Morten Haugland, the founder of HLC. “Now they have a real choice that serves the students.” It goes to show that if given the right opportunity, all children can succeed. “People with Autism deserve to be treated with respect and given the same opportunities as everyone else,” Peck said.
We here at the Alliance for School Choice want to thank you for all your continued support in helping kids throughout our great country. You should be encouraged that your support has recently created a string of successes that will benefit children, and we hope you will continue to help as you are able. To donate to the Alliance, click the button below, and, if you’re interested in learning more about school choice programs around the country, click the button below to download our Yearbook. Until next month’s newsletter, thank you for all you do!