|MAY 21, 2010- Welcome to Turning the Tide, the monthly e-newsletter of the American Federation for Children. As we mentioned in our inaugural issue last month, we're going to keep our newsletters pithy and direct. And we're going to link to a lot of cool videos, too. So sit back, relax, and enjoy...there's been a lot this month!
May's Champion for School Choice:
U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman
|U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is the first winner of the American Federation for Children's monthly "School Choice Champion" award. Senator Lieberman, long a supporter of school choice, has been fighting tirelessly to save the embattled D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally-funded voucher program for low-income children.
He faced down opponents, including Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, stood alongside families at events and hearings, and pushed the issue of educational equality in our nation's capital city into the national consciousness. For this, Senator Lieberman was recognized by The Washington Post and is beloved by D.C. parents and scholarship recipients. The best part: he's still fighting. Senator Lieberman will accept his award in June at a special event in his office. Meanwhile, please donate today to support Senator Lieberman's work with a contribution targeted specifically to help the Federation fight for a full reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. (Just type the word 'Lieberman' in the contribution comments box!)
Special: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Wows AFC Summit Participants.
As you may have heard (or seen for yourself), the Federation’s recent National Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. was a smashing success. Truth be told, we got off to a great start! The crowd roared as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered what can only be described as a fearless address, which, if you have the time, you should watch online here. Participants also enjoyed several bipartisan panels featuring commentators and experts providing thought-provoking insights on the future of school choice. If you couldn’t attend the conference, you’ll want to check out our special video highlighting school choice programs (just 8 awesome minutes), Governor Christie’s comments, and the rousing luncheon speech by noted journalist and CNN analyst Roland Martin.
1. “School Choice, Jersey Style”
Premiered Last Week.
When a Democratic State Senator (Ray Lesniak) stands up to a state’s teachers union and demands that union reps let children witness a legislative hearing (the union had packed the committee room, refusing to let kids watch) and then proceeds to move that Senate committee hearing outside when the union refuses, you know that history is being made. Well, that exact drama unfolded in New Jersey last week. The best part: the committee voted unanimously to approve a school choice bill (the New Jersey Opportunity Scholarship Act), after holding their hearing outdoors at the site of a 2,000-person rally to support school choice. Check out this video. (And kudos to our friends Derrell and Brian at New Jersey’s E3 for organizing such a tremendous event).
2. Sunshine Days in Florida as Governor Crist Enacts Historic Choice Program Expansion.
We like using the word “historic” to describe school choice happenings in the Sunshine State, but we’re not being gratuitous. Just days after Florida made history by holding the largest school choice rally in American history (5,500 people!), Governor Charlie Crist signed the largest–ever expansion to the state’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program into law—an action that, by 2015, could turn the 27,000+ child program into a 70,000 student program. Wow. Notably, the bill was supported by the Southern Christian Leadership Council—the same pioneering organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., – and earned the backing of a record number of Democratic legislators. Talk about a broad base of support for a great program serving disadvantaged children! (Three cheers to AFC Vice-Chairman John Kirtley and team at Step Up For Students and the Florida School Choice Fund!)
3. Arizona Rising!
School Choice Bills Gain Passage.
We’re hearing a lot about bills signed recently by Arizona’s governor—but here’s something you probably haven’t read in the news. Crucial legislation to increase financial transparency and accountability for scholarship organizations was signed into law this month—a big win for school choice advocates. This new law will ensure that Arizona's school choice programs best serve the kids who need scholarships the most by holding scholarship organizations to high standards of ethics and accountability. In addition, following extensive advocacy efforts, Arizona’s Governor, Jan Brewer, signed a law making it easier to donate to the state’s scholarship tax credit programs. This initiative will give taxpayers extra time to make donations—up until tax filing time—increasing the base of potential scholarships for kids to attend private schools.
4. Opportunity Denied in Chicagoland.
Despite the courageous efforts of Democratic State Senator James Meeks, kids in Chicago's worst-performing public schools won't be receiving vouchers to go to better schools— at least not this year. The bill didn't gain enough votes in the state's House to move forward. Senator Meeks' bill—which was no small program (it would have empowered 30,000 kids)—had already passed the Senate, received the endorsements of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, was supported by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, and made waves nationally. This time, though, Republicans oughta be really careful about how they place blame for the loss of this bill, because as The Wall Street Journal and Crain's Chicago Business aptly point out, "of the 48 GOP members of the House, only 29 ever were listed on the tote board as voting ‘yes.’" The bill needed 60 votes to pass; it got 48. You do the math. Next year, Senator Meeks...
5. An Especially Happy
National Charter Schools Week in Georgia
Just as America’s 5,000+ charter schools prepared to celebrate National Charter Schools Week, a judge in Georgia handed down a decision that was quite peachy for that state’s charter school community. A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission does, in fact, have the authority to charter special schools in local districts. The ruling came as a blow to some anti-charter school districts that had sued the state to prevent the creation of charter schools. The districts’ bureaucrats lost—and kids won—but now an appeal has been filed. Let's hope the good guys and gals prevail!
Until June, best wishes and thanks for your support of the American Federation for Children. We're glad you're in this battle with us—this fight to give kids hope!