AFC Statement Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Statement from Ann Duplessis, AFC board member, and Bill Oberndorf, AFC chairman:

“As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we reflect on his commitment to the principle that that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family. Dr. King dedicated his life to achieving equality for African Americans in all realms of American life, including the workplace, lunch counters and schools.

“In May of 1965, Dr. King, in his ‘People to People’ column that appeared in the New York Amsterdam News, portrayed an education landscape which sadly could describe America’s K-12 education system of today. As Dr. King wrote,

“‘We owe it to our children to give them the best possible chance to cope with the realities of this world. If we are not careful another generation will slip by, paralyzed and ill-equipped for a lifetime. There is no need in kidding ourselves, that this education, poor as it is, is better than none. Year in and year out, children finish twelfth grade with reading and mathematics skills crippled at the fifth or sixth grade level.’

“Dr. King was writing in the context of the segregated education system of the 1960s. Today, America’s education system is failing our children—not just African-American children. As we look at 12th grade math, only 25 percent of American students are at or above proficient in the subject. And math proficiency for African-American students is even lower at only 7 percent.

“We cannot let yet another generation slip by, paralyzed and ill-equipped for a lifetime. The American Federation for Children will continue to champion school choice options that provide all children—regardless of race, religion or economic status—access to a quality education that allows them to build the strong foundation needed to succeed and reach their potential.”

AFC Announces CEO and President

Today, the American Federation for Children and its affiliate organizations announced Greg Brock will become Chief Executive Officer and John Schilling will become President of the organizations.

Brock, formerly AFC’s Executive Director, is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has been with AFC since 2009. He previously served as Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party and Executive Director of All Children Matter prior to joining AFC. He will work closely with the organizations’ Boards of Directors in setting the strategic direction and fulfilling the overall mission to help as many children as possible access a quality education at the school of their parents’ choice.

 

Schilling, formerly AFC’s Chief Operating Officer, has been with AFC and its predecessor organizations since 2007. He has been involved in K-12 education reform for 20 years, previously serving as Associate State Superintendent in Arizona and in senior management and leadership roles with two education non-profits. Based in Washington, D.C., where AFC is headquartered, he will lead the organization’s staff and activities in the states and Washington, D.C.

 

Statement from Bill Oberndorf, Chairman of the American Federation for Children and AFC Growth Fund:

“Our organization has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the awareness and number of K-12 educational choice programs over the last decade. Greg Brock and John Schilling have been key players throughout this time in the movement to provide parents more and better options when it comes to their child’s education. As the American Federation for Children seeks to expand our horizons in the coming years to open the doors to a high quality education for even more students, we want to elevate and leverage our talented, dedicated leadership in this endeavor. I’m thankful for their tireless work thus far in our rapidly growing organization and am looking forward to even greater successes in the years to come.”

AFC Statement On Tax Reform

After the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the federal tax reform bill, the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement.

Statement from John Schilling, Chief Operating Officer of the American Federation for Children: 

“The American Federation for Children thanks House and Senate members who supported the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The final bill included an expansion of 529 accounts that will give parents the freedom to use those funds for K-12 tuition. AFC has long supported the 529 expansion and this is a good step forward in providing families greater flexibility and options when it comes to their child’s education.

“We were also pleased to see that Congress retained current law on two other important issues. The bill will continue to allow religious and independent elementary and secondary schools to offer tax-free tuition to the children of teachers and other staff, which helps attract high-quality employees. Also, allowing schools to cover up to $5,250 annually in tax-free educational expenses for employees, another attraction in recruiting high-quality staff.

“Congress and the Administration can and should look for more ways to facilitate greater educational choice for families and children across the nation. All educational options should be available to families so they have the freedom to choose the best educational environment for their children. We are hopeful that Congress and the Administration will pursue bold action in 2018 and revive proposals to expand educational choice for children in low-income families, as well as children in military families and in Bureau of Indian Education schools.”

Tennessee Poll: Overwhelming Support for School Choice

As the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s National Summit on Education Reform kicks off in Nashville today, a new poll of 625 Tennessee voters conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy shows that 65 percent of Tennesseans support the issue of school choice. When told that President Trump was strongly in favor of school choice, supporters were 42 percent more likely to support it. The poll also received broad bipartisan support, with 78 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Independents, and 52 percent of Democrats supporting the issue. There was also considerable geographic support for school choice across the three regions of the state, with 68 percent of East Tennessee voters supporting school choice, along with 64 percent of Middle Tennessee voters and 63 percent of West Tennessee voters.

The American Federation for Children released the following statement from Shaka Mitchell, the new State Director of the Tennessee Federation for Children:

“Tennesseans have demonstrated time and again in public surveys and in the voting booth that they believe parents should have options when it comes to their child’s education. They fundamentally want to see their tax dollars follow their child in their K-12 education, whether that’s at a traditional district public school, public charter school, magnet school, private school, or at a blend of options to customize the education to fit the student’s needs. While Tennessee has made progress over the years, still too many children are trapped in schools that simply aren’t meeting their needs. They deserve access to a seat in a better school today. As we enter into a critical election year for 2018, we hope that gubernatorial and legislative candidates across the Volunteer State recognize that voters overwhelmingly support giving parents more choices and control in the education of their son or daughter.”

Polling questions:

“As you may know, school choice allows parents to use their child’s K through twelve education tax dollars to send their child to the public, charter, or private school that best serves their needs. With this in mind, would you say you support or oppose the concept of school choice?”

SUPPORT – 65%
OPPOSE – 22%
UNDECIDED – 13%

(IF “SUPPORT”)
“If knowing that President Trump is also strongly in favor of school choice, making it a key policy issue in his presidential agenda, would that make you more or less likely to support the concept of school choice?”

MORE LIKELY – 42%
LESS LIKELY – 12%
NO EFFECT/NOT SURE – 46%

The poll was conducted on behalf of the American Federation for Children from November 17 – 20. The margin of error for the poll was +/- 4 points.

American Federation for Children Statement on BAEO

After the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) announced they would discontinue operations, the American Federation for Children released the following joint statement from three former BAEO board members who are part of AFC’s team:

Statement from Kevin P. Chavous, Ann Duplessis, and Michael Benjamin:

“When we heard the news that the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) would discontinue operations, our collective hearts were heavy. BAEO gave voice and empowerment to thousands of low-income and working-class Black families across the country. Their work was defined by the spirit, courage, and vision of its founder, presidents, board members, senior staff members, employees, state teams, affiliates, and advocates for a better future for children in America. We are proud of their relentless work and offer special thanks to Dr. Howard Fuller, our tireless and steadfast leader, who led this exceptional group of freedom fighters for the betterment of the educational future of families and children. Though BAEO as an organization will cease to exist, their cause, their passion and their legacy will continue for generations.

“Always partners and yes, the struggle continues.”

Kevin P. Chavous – Founding AFC board member and former Board Chair of BAEO

Ann Duplessis – AFC board member and former BAEO Board Member

Michael Benjamin – AFC National Grassroots Director and former BAEO Board Member

Former BAEO Staff at AFC:

Christa Andrews – Alabama Grassroots 

Alkinee Jackson – Louisiana Grassroots 

Carra Powell – Tennessee Grassroots

McCain Files Amendment to Help Fund School Choice for Native American Students

The American Federation for Children applauds Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for filing an amendment to the FY18 budget resolution which re-ignites the fight for the Native American Education Opportunity Act. In his amendment, McCain is pushing Congress to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to support school choice options for students currently attending Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools. BIE students who qualify would be able to access tribally-operated education savings accounts (ESA), charter schools and distance learning programs.

Statement from William E. Oberndorf, Chairman of the American Federation for Children:

“We applaud the continued commitment and diligence of Sen. McCain as he fights for the future of many Native American students who are not learning in their schools and not making it to graduation day. Native American students come from some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, and expanding education opportunities will empower these families to use many school choice options, including education savings accounts and charter schools.”

McCain has been vocal about his disappointment in BIE schools, calling out BIE officials on startling statistics including low test scores and some of the worst graduation rates in the nation. Nearly half of BIE students will not graduate high school.

Earlier this year Sen. McCain and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced S.1294, the Native American Education Opportunity Act (NAEO) to expand education savings accounts as an educational option for all students eligible to attend BIE schools. The proposal would enable Tribes to award education savings accounts for ESA eligible students.

NAEO would apply to the states that have both an education savings account program and BIE schools, which include Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Mississippi. NAEO was inspired by a state law already in place in Arizona where children living on tribal lands and attending state-funded public schools are automatically eligible to receive an education savings account.