Being The Change | September 2011

September 30, 2011 –Welcome to Being The Change, the monthly newsletter of the Alliance for School Choice! This past month made clear the importance of one of our most important roles here at the Alliance: making sure parents are informed about their choices! Once the laws gets passed and the programs are enacted, it doesn’t mean much if parents aren’t aware of their options. Parents clearly care about their children’s future, and especially at the beginning of the year, they’re engaged. As the school year moves along, we want to keep them that way. How will we do it? Read below to find out!

It’s September, so Stop What You’re Doing And…

…head on over to our new, revamped website! The address is the same the same, but what you find there most certainly isn’t. In addition to a new look and feel, we wanted the Alliance’s presence on the web to connect you with the stories that make school choice so rewarding for so many families across the country. At the new allianceforschoolchoice.org, you can hear from student participants themselves, along with parents and elected officials who fought to expand educational opportunities. In addition, we give you easy access to our award-winning 2011 Yearbook, “Hope for America’s Children,” as well as news and updates on Alliance work around the country, information about current school choice programs across America, and what parents need to know about programs and how they can get their children involved.

  • Our site has Alliance fact sheets that explain how school choice has raised achievement and parent satisfaction across the country, as well as guidance on how programs actually save states money.
  • We also share our philosophy about program quality and the fundamental importance of having strong accountability measures in place to ensure the success and sustainability of programs, and give you a sense of  program accountability today.
  • We offer and give  insight into model legislation for useful guidance in developing new programs, and we also pay tribute to all of our past winners of the John T. Walton Champions for School Choice Award, given every year to a person who displays a passionate commitment to helping kids.

Needless to say, we’re excited about the new allianceforschoolchoice.org, and there will be more features that we’ll be rolling out over the next few weeks. We’ll of course keep you updated on all of those, but in the meantime, check out the new site! You’ll be glad you did.

Choice Quotes

As legislators around the country generally kept quiet in advance of fall legislative sessions, a parent spoke out in favor of the actions she took to give her children a quality education, a governor made clear just how much school choice matters in the coming months, and a member of a state school board sticks up for putting all educational options on the table.

“Both my daughters were devastated. There was a trickle-down effect. When I hurt, they hurt. When it first started, I tried not to show that – to be protective of them. But eventually, I had to explain to them: ‘Mommy enrolled you in Copley-Fairlawn schools and that wasn’t right because we don’t live there day and night.’ They are still affected. They still have moments when they think Mommy is going to be taken away.” – Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar, explaining her daughters’ reaction when she was jailed for enrolling them in a school district based on her father’s address. She was interviewed by The New York Times in a piece published on September 26.

“School choice, probably if I had to rank them, would be number one.” – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, explaining the hierarchy of his legislative priorities to a Philadelphia radio station earlier this month.

“Now, reasonable people can make reasonable objections to blurring the distinction between parochial schools and non-denominational schools. But it’s far easier to raise those objections if you don’t have children trapped in persistently failing schools…Diane Ravitch and Barbara Keshishian are right: We do have some of the best schools in the nation. Until all our kids get to attend them, however, we need the options offered through school choice.” – Laura Winters, president of the Lawrence Township School Board in New Jersey, writing in NJ Spotlight on September 12.

Going Back to Indiana: Hope Springs Successful for Hoosier Kids

It weathered a long legislative life and now a legal challenge, but now we’re seeing just how impactful Indiana’s expansive Choice Scholarship Program is shaping up to be for kids. Nearly 4,000 students signed up during the short enrollment program, and the Alliance went all-in helping to make sure we filled as many spots as possible. In fact, in states all around the country, the Alliance invests significant resources in making sure programs, once passed, are implemented fairly and efficiently. And while it’s a component of the process that doesn’t get a lot of publicity, a strong argument can be made that it’s the most important facet of our work. Getting bills passed is just one step in a long process that ultimately brings choice into the homes of thousands of families across the country. And it’s seeing school choice work on that personal level—as you can read about again in this month’s Student Spotlight—that is a constant reward for and reminder of why we do the work we do. In Indiana, we were pleased to work with our wonderful state ally, School Choice Indiana, as well as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, both of whom worked tirelessly to fill program slots (85 percent of which are occupied by students eligible for reduced or free lunch). To hear from Bennett about the numbers, watch a report below that describes the program s as “the biggest first-year choice program in the history of the United States.”

School Choice Data Yields Degrees, Determination

The National Bureau of Economic Research is a busy place during a struggling economy, but the institution carved out time to conduct an expansive study on school choice in North Carolina and the long-term effects it has on students. The results? Not only are choice students more likely to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college, and earn a bachelor’s degree, but they’re also more likely to earn a degree from a so-called “elite” university. Far beyond the positive results of yearly test scores, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the existence of educational options can change the trajectory of a child’s life entirely. And it’s especially important for combating the ever-growing achievement gap:access to choice can erase 75 percent of the existing achievement gap between black and white children (not to mention 25 percent of the gap in bachelor’s degree completion). The stories and the passions behind school choice supporters are great, but a little bit of data doesn’t hurt, either! And on the heels of the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll from the summer showing rising school choice support across ideological lines, this is reinforcing the fact that school choice is poised to spread. Check out the video below from a local Charlotte news station to learn more.

Traveling the Nation, Training our Allies

School choice has made significant gains in a host of states this year, and we here at the Alliance weren’t content to just sit by applauding the progress. Intent on taking a hands-on role in educating parents and allies, we conducted media trainings last month in Arizona and Georgia, helping nearly 100 of our local and state allies develop the skills to accurately and effectively promote our issue to the press. Both were a resounding success, so much so that we plan to take our media training show on the road again soon, at which time we will be expanding to even more states! But our travels were not entirely about teaching…we also did a little bit of learning ourselves! The Alliance spent some time at NBC’s second-annualEducation Nation event in New York City, which featured a comprehensive conversation about education from stakeholders across the board. Perhaps most interesting among the sessions was a discussion of state-specific education reforms among 10 current governors, which was moderated by NBC Nightly News Managing Editor Brian Williams. Outside of the national and respective party governors associations, it was the largest number of sitting governors gathered to talk about a single event in recorded history. And while there was much disagreement as to the best methods to go about giving students a quality education, we can applaud the fact that everyone was there with the right people in mind: the kids. Click hereto check out some insights about the panel and the rest of Education Nation.  Now, it we can only get all of them to round the corner and embrace putting ALL options on the table to help kids!

Governors from 10 states talk education reform. From L-R, Parnell, Markell, O’Malley,
Fallin, LePage, Hickenlooper, Williams, Chafee, Haslam, McDonnell, and Walker.

Student Spotlight: Justin Snead

A second-grader at Naylor Road School in Washington, D.C., Justin Snead uses the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) to grow and prosper in an environment that helps him learn, in addition to being safe and fun. “My classmates don’t tease me, and my teachers help me learn,” Justin says. A self-professed fan of science class, his school asks parents to be involved in their child’s classroom experience, so Justin’s mom occasionally comes to his school and helps him with science projects. But Justin’s experience is about much more than the academics. At his previous school, students like him who were intent on learning often had to worry about their safety. That has all changed since he came to Naylor Road School. “Now I don’t have to see fighting,” he says. “I can just focus and listen.” For Justin, the OSP has given him more than just access to better supplies, more attentive teachers, and an environment that encourages learning. Now, he looks forward to school, spending time with his classmates, and thinking about his future. “Things are a whole lot better,” he says.

We want to thank you again for reading Being The Change. Remember to check out our new website at www.allianceforschoolchoice.org, and we’ll check back with you next month. Have a great October!

www.allianceforschoolchoice.org