NOVEMBER 15, 2012 – Greetings and welcome to Turning the Tide, the monthly newsletter from the American Federation for Children!The elections are over, but the news never stops in the fight for high-quality educational options for children all across the country. As some of the bitterness and partisanship of the campaigns subsides, we’re hoping for some much-needed unity: particularly around the continued effort to make sure that educational choice is a right for every family. And we continue to make significant progress on that front, in the form of both the recent election victories of educational choice champions and initiatives, as well as the remarkable increases in enrollment numbers we’re already beginning to see for the 2012-13 school year. It’s an exciting time to be working to help improve the lives of children, and we want to thank you for all your support. And keep reading below to learn about how three ordinary citizens are making national news in standing up for their own children.
November's Champions for Educational Choice
You might not recognize the names of the three mothers from Camden, New Jersey, but you’ll certainly recognize the story they had to tell—it’s sadly common for millions of parents across the country. In short, the children of Sandra, Maria, and Gricelda (left) weren’t getting an adequate education in their neighborhood schools. But here’s where things got interesting. Last month, the three mothers
—not only for their three boys, but for all 15,000 students in Camden. The public schools in Camden are among the state’s worst performing public schools, with 23 of the city’s 26 public schools identified as failing. Instead of being resigned to failure, these three mothers stood up for what they called (and we agree) the constitutional right for their children to get a quality education. And while a New Jersey judge
for students to be removed from Camden’s public schools and transferred to higher-performing public schools or private schools, these mothers exemplify the fight to increase educational choices and, in New Jersey, pass the Opportunity Scholarship Act, which has yet to receive a vote in the legislature despite strong bipartisan support. Vargas, Roldan, and Ruiz may be the rare case of parents filing suit against an underperforming school district, but they’re not alone in the growing movement by parents to exert their right to find the best option for their kids. After all,
. For maintaining high expectations, putting action to their words, and not being content with failure, the American Federation for Children is proud to name Sandra Vargas, Maria Roldan, and Gricelda Ruiz as Champions for Educational Choice.
This month, we hear from a committed parent in Louisiana, a legislator in Tennessee, and an Ohio principal.
“At her old school, there was no structure. There was no consistency. It was chaos. There weren’t enough books to go around…At her new school, her test scores were outstanding…They teach in different ways. It’s just a structured environment…it’s wonderful."
in his state, which ranks 47th in the nation in education
“Public education should not be merely what goes on within the walls of a publicly governed building. Public education is really the public’s responsibility to educate all children wherever their needs are best met.”
Growing Support for Educational Choice in Georgia
The elections provided a great opportunity to showcase the growing support for educational choice across the country. But, perhaps no state offered their endorsement of choice greater than Georgia. Residents of the Peach State voted
. The results set the stage for educational choice advocates to push for even more expanded options in the upcoming legislative session—and we couldn’t be more encouraged by those prospects! The constitutional amendment will result in an expanded number of charter schools able to operate in the state, therefore providing parents with more choices and opportunities for their children. And on the legislative front, one newly-elected lawmaker, Michael Smith of Cobb County, even credited the American Federation for Children as
. We want to thank lawmakers like Smith, as well as the voters of Georgia, for recognizing the importance of educational choice—especially for the families most in need.
Enrollment's In, and the Truth is in the Numbers!
The old adage is true: numbers don’t lie! Support for educational choice programs across the country continues to grow, as new enrollment figures are being released showing huge growth in the number of students benefiting from publicly funded private school choice programs. In Indiana,
, more than twice the number of kids who participated last year—when it boasted the largest first-year enrollment ever for a voucher program. And in Florida, the state’s acclaimed scholarship tax credit program now gives almost 49,000 students the opportunity to attend the school of their family’s choice. We wish it was all good news, though—in the nation's capital, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program saw
. Still, it’s expected that when all the numbers are in, as many as 250,000 students will be participating in private school choice programs—an increase of 40,000 from last year. You’ll get the numbers from all 32 programs when the Alliance for School Choice’s annual Yearbook is released in January, but in the meantime, stay tuned for individual updates from the states!
Keeping Programs Accountable
has resulted in five new private school choice programs, six expanded programs, and two successful ballot initiatives bringing and expanding charter schools in Washington and Georgia, respectively. But 2012 hasn’t just been about expanded choices—it’s been about higher quality choices, too. Our
highlights the increased accountability provisions in Louisiana’s expanded voucher program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, and the voucher program in Milwaukee, among many others. We believe that successful private school choice programs start with strong bill design and high accountability standards—it’s what kids, families, and taxpayers deserve. Check out
to see where accountability has increased in 2012.
Hey Folks –
It’s only been a matter of days since millions of Americans stood in line to vote, but the results of the elections are already resonating as victories for the education reform community.
, showcasing the remarkably bipartisan nature of the movement. In the end, 83 percent of candidates supported by the American Federation Action Fund or its allies
. As a Democrat who has always stood up for educational options for all kids, it’s gratifying to see more members of my party who are willing to challenge the status quo. As we embark on President Obama’s second term, I wrote in
about how we need President Obama to stand up for kids in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, who deserve the opportunity to attend a school that is designed to fit their needs. I encourage the President and other elected officials to
in hopes that we can all work together.
Student Spotlight: Elias Pittman
Coretta Pittman’s 6-year-old son, Elias, is one of 4,944 students receiving a scholarship through Louisiana’s newly-expanded Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program. Pittman chose Good Shepherd Nativity Mission School in New Orleans, because she feels like it’s the best place for Elias to learn how to be a leader and, ultimately, succeed in life. That’s why she’s so committed to giving Elias the best opportunity possible. Don’t just listen to us, though—click
to read Coretta and Elias’s story, courtesy our friends at the
From all of us at the American Federation for Children, thank you for reading and for everything you do. We’ll talk to you again in a month, and until then, be sure to visit www.FederationforChildren.org for updates!
Copyright © 2012
American Federation for Children