Turning the Tide | April 2010
Posted on Monday April 19, 2010 | National
APRIL 19, 2010- Welcome to Turning the Tide, the first monthly e-newsletter of the American Federation for Children. You probably get a ton of spam...so we're going to keep our newsletters pithy, humorous, and direct. And we're going to link to a lot of cool videos, too. You can expect to receive our e-newsletter every month, mid-month. We'll restrict ourselves to five news alerts--the five most important and current issues (we think) going on right now-- and a quick, 30-second spotlight of a school choice champion who's making waves to give kids hope. We value your support and your continued readership.
On that note...enjoy.
The 30 Second Spotlight: Louisiana Rep. Austin Badon
"Being one of the first black Democrats in Louisiana to support vouchers was like being alone on an island...sort of like Tom Hanks in Castaway. But instead of leaving that island, we invited more people to move there. And now parents have options."
That's how Democratic Louisiana State Representative Austin Badon of New Orleans describes his experience as one of the Bayou State's first Democratic champions for school choice. He's taken political hits for his support of school choice, but he's not backing down.
Together with Democratic State Senator Ann Duplessis, Badon authored the legislation that created the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) Program, which, as you'll read in item 2 below, is proving quite popular in the Bayou State.
Rep. Badon sat down last week with AFC staff to discuss his support for school choice...you can catch his comments in our soon-to-be-released short film on school choice programs.
To those who would bow to special interest pressure and deny kids the scholarship opportunities they deserve, Rep. Badon offers sage advice: "As legislators, our special interest should be children." We agree!
1. You shoulda been there!
Florida's school choice advocates, led by our indefatigable board member John Kirtley, made history last month—planning the largest school choice rally in American history. That's right! More than 5,500 parents, teachers, and activists converged on Tallahassee to support the Sunshine State's school choice programs. Some participants even traveled through the night to participate in the epic rally, which featured Governor Charlie Crist, Democratic lawmakers, and of course, parents and children. On the same day as this gathering, the Florida Senate passed a landmark bill expanding and strengthening the Florida Scholarship Tax Credit Program. Check out some amazing news coverage of the rally here.
2. Doubling down on choice in New Orleans.
It's not every year that we can report that a voucher program practically doubled its enrollment in just one week. But in the Bayou State, that very well may be the case. Lines of parents numbering in the thousands wrapped New Orleans city blocks last month for a chance at receiving scholarships to send their children to better schools through the state's Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program. You'll recall that this program was authored by State Representative Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) and State Senator Ann Duplessis (D-New Orleans). More than 1,100 new students applied for the vouchers. Check out some of the fantastic news coverage on our video site. Oh, and an important PS--Ohio is posting fantastic enrollment numbers for the Buckeye State's EdChoice voucher program, hitting the state imposed cap of 14,000 students after only a few years.
3. We're not making this up!
When we talk about the rapidly growing base of support for school choice among Democratic lawmakers, we're not just blowing smoke. And March proved that point to be very, very true. Consider this: a Democratic Governor (Martin O'Malley in Maryland) publicly backed a school choice proposal, a legendary Democratic leader (Senator Ray Lesniak in New Jersey) is shepherding a scholarship tax credit bill to passage, and in the Land of Lincoln (and Obama) a Democratic Senator (James Meeks of Chicago) is fighting to bring vouchers—yes, the V word—to Illinois, with the backing of the Chicago Tribune, no less. Did we mention that the Maryland and Illinois bills passed their respective state senates? They did. So, see, folks, bipartisanship isn't just a talking point. The tide is turning for school choice (hence the name of our cool new e-newsletter) and this movement is open to everyone!
4. Senate shenanigans.
President Obama and Democrats in the U.S. Senate are apparently a bit slow to pick up on the news we just reported above—about growing Democratic support for school choice. Sadly, despite more rallies and protests in favor of a school choice program than ever before in our nation's history, the U.S. Senate put the kibosh on Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman's proposed extension of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which would have allowed low-income students to go to the private schools of their parents' choice. In a vote of 55-42, Senators denied low-income D.C. children the opportunities to go to better schools—a devastating blow to the embattled D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that was criticized in editorials across the country. However, there was courage in the well of the senate (Dianne Feinstein asking her Democratic colleagues "What are you afraid of?" was our favorite moment), and shout-outs are in order for Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida), who joined Senator Feinstein (D-California) in crossing partly lines to support D.C. kids.
5. The Federation's summit: be there!
Saying that the new "federation" has planned a "summit" sounds a bit like something that needs State Department approval, but in reality, the American Federation for Children's Policy Summit is the "event to attend" for an unvarnished, insider-type briefing on school choice. We're super excited to announce our speakers and participants...but we'll keep you on the edge of your seat for just a bit longer. If you're in D.C.—or willing to travel here—on May 3-4, join us for "School Choice Now: Empowering America's Children." Register online today.
And... We're looking for a few heroes.
Each month, the American Federation for Children will use the pages of this newsletter to celebrate a different school choice champion—someone at the state level who fights tirelessly for reform. It could be a parent, a teacher, a legislator, or an activist. We want to celebrate the people who do the work to improve education for our kids. So, send your recommendations to us straight away via e-mail at email@example.com. The nomination process is simple: tell us who you're nominating and why you're nominating that person—and maybe we'll have the opportunity to tell the nation more about your champion for choice.
Until May, best wishes and thanks for your early support of the American Federation for Children. We're glad you're on this journey with us—this journey to give kids hope!
Copyright © 2010
American Federation for Children
State By State A look at school choice programs