Turning the Tide | March 2012
Posted on Monday April 02, 2012 | National
APRIL 2, 2012 – Happy Spring, and welcome to Turning the Tide, the monthly newsletter of the American Federation for Children! In addition to the flowers, trees, and grass in various states of bloom around the country, there’s something else growing: educational options for kids! Last month, we told you about the successful passage of a new scholarship tax credit program in Virginia, and since then, there’s been even more good news. We’re on the way to new programs, expansions, or the restoration of educational opportunities in Georgia, Arizona, and Louisiana. Though 2011 proved to be perhaps the most groundbreaking year for school choice ever, we’re a quarter of the way through 2012 and prospects for continuing this momentum are very, very bright. Want to shine even more light on what’s happened in the last month? Read on!
March's Champions for School Choice
Since its inception in 2008, the New Orleans voucher program has been a valuable educational lifeline for low-income families trapped in failing schools. But student eligibility for the program only extends to families in Orleans Parish, meaning that thousands of other kids across the state are sadly without the full slate of educational options they deserve. But this year, with leadership from Gov. Bobby Jindal, Rep. Steve Carter and Sen. Conrad Appel led the legislative effort to change that. They are the principal authors of legislation in their respective chambers to enact a statewide expansion of the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) voucher program. Having already passed the House, Appel is currently shepherding the plan through the Senate. If passed, it would be a substantial victory for the neediest students all across Louisiana. It would also send a message to defenders of the status quo—including union officials who canceled classes to protest reform and national lawmakers out of touch with the realities facing Louisiana kids today—that there are leaders willing to stand up for kids. And stand up, both Carter and Appel have. Their background and roles as Education Committee chairs have given them useful insight into how to best extend opportunities to disadvantaged students. Carter worked for years in higher education at LSU, while it was Appel who poignantly said at the Louisiana Leadership for Change! Education Summit earlier this year that “the foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” Both legislators were instrumental in organizing the Summit, which brought together state and national education leaders for a thoughtful discussion of the problems facing Louisiana schools today. Just two months after that gathering in Baton Rouge, it’s clear that Carter and Appel have put their words into action. For their work to bring parental choice to families statewide, for forging common ground in education reform, and for recognizing the value in giving every child access to a quality education, the American Federation for Children is proud to name Rep. Steve Carter and Sen. Conrad Appel as Champions for School Choice.
The Pelican State Pushes Forward
As you just read above, there’s cause for celebration in Louisiana and no, we’re not talking about Mardi Gras (that was in February, remember?). We’re talking about the education reform legislation that is poised to create one of the nation’s most expansive school choice programs. The aforementioned passage of House Bill 976 in the Louisiana House of Representatives came by a 62-43 vote, with a dozen of those “yeas” coming from Democrats. You already know that under the plan, the state’s Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program, currently limited to Orleans Parish, would be expanded statewide. But the bill does even more to empower parents to help get their children out of failing schools and into environments that can best serve their needs. In addition to an expanded voucher program, House Bill 976 also would create a “parent trigger” for failing schools, expand pathways to create high-quality charter schools, and establish a per course provider program. We weren’t kidding when we said “expansive,” were we? The bill now heads to the State Senate and if passed, will open the doors to a quality education for thousands of additional children in Louisiana. For more on this crucial legislation, visit www.Louisiana4Children.org.
The Summit Springs Near!
The springtime is filled with many exciting opportunities. After a long winter on the East Coast, the new season can mean trips to beach or picnics in the park. But for us—and we hope, for you too—it means it’s almost time for our third annual National Policy Summit! We are so excited to invite you to join us for the American Federation for Children’s third annual Policy Summit, titled “Breakthrough Victories for Children,” on Thursday, May 3 and Friday, May 4 in Jersey City, New Jersey. The leading minds from all across the education reform spectrum will join us for the nation’s premiere school choice event, and you’ll want to be there with them. We’re thrilled to welcome the leading reform-minded elected officials, policy and business leaders, and YOU for thoughtful discussions on education reform. If you haven’t already, check out www.afcpolicysummit.com to learn more about the event and register today! You won’t want to miss it!
A Luncheon to Remember: BAEO Symposium
The beginning of March saw us team up with our friends from the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) to welcome legislators from across the country to Washington, D.C. to the annual BAEO Symposium 2012. On the second day of the event, we gathered nearly 40 reform-minded legislators to discuss the progress (and challenges) they face in fighting for reform in their states. Elected officials from across the country joined us for an informative and inspiring luncheon, and guest speakers Reps. Jason Fields (D-Wisconsin) and Marcus Brandon (D-North Carolina) wowed the crowd with their passionate plea to continue the fight in favor of kids. We were honored to hear from so many elected officials who understand the magnitude of the challenges we face, yet continue to remain optimistic and determined to see real reform in their states. They also heard from AFC Senior Adviser Kevin P. Chavous—also a founder of BAEO—who encouraged the elected officials to never give up on this monumental fight. We are looking forward to working with these lawmakers from around the country throughout the year to help promote school choice in their states!
Chartering Ahead in Georgia
The choice is in the hands of voters! Democracy prevailed in Georgia this month, as both the State House and the Senate have passed House Resolution 1162, which proposes a constitutional amendment that would reinstate a key commission to authorize charter schools. Reestablishing the Commission would significantly strengthen educational options in Georgia, a state that currently educates more than 48,000 children in charter schools and more than 11,000 children in two publicly funded private school choice programs. Now, voters get to vote—and voice—their support for charter schools and educational options on the ballot this November. The measure, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass, would be of especially important value to the students who were displaced from their schools as a result of last year’s State Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Commission. We’re hopeful that the voters will restore the commission.
School Choice Bill Blooms in the Garden State
They say April showers bring May flowers, but we already have some spring news in New Jersey. The Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA)—a plan calling for the creation of a scholarship tax credit program for kids in failing school districts—has been introduced. If passed, thousands of students who attend the state’s worst schools could receive a scholarship to attend the school of their parents’ choice. The OSA has bipartisan support in the legislature, not to mention support from Republican Governor Chris Christie and Democratic Mayor Cory Booker. We’re looking forward to not only when our flowers bloom, but also seeing this important program passed!
Now isn’t that some of the sweetest news you’ve heard this season? There’s more where that came from, but you’ll have to wait until next month to get it! As always, thanks for reading Turning the Tide this month, and we’ll see you at the end of April!
Copyright © 2012
American Federation for Children