Tennessee House Finance Subcommittee Drops the Ball on School Choice

Leaderless Lower Chamber Once Again Fails on Key Platform Issue

Today, the Tennessee House missed another critical opportunity to take a meaningful step forward in reforming education. Failing to bring limited school choice legislation to a vote, the House Finance Subcommittee essentially shelved the issue for the year.

Statement from Tommy Schultz, National Communications Director for the American Federation for Children:

“Despite overwhelming support from President Trump and Vice President Pence, along with 84% of Republican voters nationally, a 12-member, majority Republican House Subcommittee undermined Republican voters across the state and failed to give parents in failing schools a real educational choice for their child.

“Contrast the dysfunctional House process with the Tennessee State Senate, which routinely and overwhelmingly passed opportunity scholarship legislation under the leadership of former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sen. Mark Norris to help students in struggling schools. With her mishandling of this legislation, House Speaker Harwell’s lack of leadership has never been more on display than it has been with this issue.

“After working closely with Democratic leadership to pass a controversial tax measure, Speaker Harwell’s attention to Chairman Brooks’ school choice proposal was simply too little, too late. By allowing her hand-picked committee to not even bring the bill to a vote, she demonstrated to Tennessee’s Republican voters exactly how highly she regards them and the Republican Party platform. It is truly a disappointing day for Tennessee students.”

Matchbook Learning’s Sajan George will give keynote address at AFC’s Summit

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, is pleased to announce founder and CEO of Matchbook Learning, Sajan George, will deliver a keynote address at its 8th annual National Policy Summit, Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“Sajan George has been at the forefront of revolutionizing and innovating poor performing schools for years, and AFC is pleased to welcome him to this year’s Summit,” said Bill Oberndorf, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “As education reformers, it is important to strive to innovate education so every child in our country can compete in the 21st century with the rest of the world. We are excited to hear more about what can be done to achieve that goal.”

“Innovation is the key to creating positive outcomes for children,” added Sajan George. “I look forward to having the opportunity to address the Summit to share my vision of education and what we are doing on the ground to turn around schools to fit the needs of underserved students.”

George leads Matchbook Learning, a national nonprofit charter school turn around management organization, launched in 2011 to turn around our nation’s bottom 5% of schools with a unique, blended learning model. Matchbook has worked to turn around schools in Detroit and Newark. For more information, visit Matchbook Learning’s Facebook and Twitter.

Registration for AFC’s Summit in Indianapolis is still open. Complete step 1 today to secure your registration at the nation’s premier event on school choice Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23. Also, please note the conference room block at the Westin Indianapolis closes on May 5. Make accommodation reservations today. Visit afcpolicysummit.com for more information.

Gallup Poll Finds Strong, Bipartisan Support for Federal School Choice Proposal

59% of Americans agree that school choice should be provided at the federal level

Yesterday, Gallup released a poll measuring attitudes on President Trump’s recent proposals and it showed strong support among Americans for a federal school choice program.

When asked to agree or disagree with the following statement, “Provide federal funding for school choice programs that allow students to attend any private or public school,” 59% of respondents agreed with the concept while only 26% disagreed. Gallup found that this is one of four policy proposals from the President where Americans are in bipartisan, net agreement on an issue.

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

“This Gallup poll shows what school choice advocates have always known: parents want more educational options and support for more educational options stretches across party lines. Congress and the Administration should answer the call from parents who are demanding greater educational choice for their children. We believe the best federal proposal, one that will create immediate educational opportunity for children across the country, is a federal education tax credit. Allowing charitable contributions from corporations and individuals to state non-profits who provide scholarships to eligible children would immediately help hundreds of thousands of children access a school of their parents’ choice. Every child in America should have the opportunity to be in the educational environment that best meets his or her needs. That could be a traditional public school, a private school, a charter school, a magnet school, a virtual school, a home school or a blend of learning environments. Empowering parents with educational choice will give more children access to a quality education and improve educational outcomes across the board.”

Annually, the American Federation for Children (AFC), the nation’s voice for educational choice, conducts a National School Choice Poll which found similar results to the Gallup survey. AFC’s 2017 poll found 68% of likely voters support school choice, with strong support across political parties, and the strongest support among African-Americans, Hispanics, and Millennials. It also found 72% support the creation of a federal tax credit program.

For more results from the Gallup poll: http://bit.ly/2p3cMzF.

Learn more about AFC’s ideal federal school choice plan: http://bit.ly/2omqUUr.

Governor Jeb Bush to deliver keynote address at AFC’s annual Summit

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, is pleased to announce that school choice champion and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will deliver a keynote address at its annual National Policy Summit – Monday, May 22, and Tuesday, May 23, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“Governor Bush has been at the forefront of the educational choice movement, and we are thrilled he will be joining us in Indianapolis for this year’s Summit,” said Bill Oberndorf, Chairman of the American Federation for Children. “His bold and visionary leadership has been instrumental in our efforts to give millions of families across the country educational freedom, and hearing his insights on the state of our education revolution will be a highlight at this year’s event.”

“I look forward to joining AFC at their annual Summit and celebrating the expansion and progress of school choice over the past year,” said Gov. Bush. “Our efforts to empower parents and disrupt the failing status quo in education are more important now than ever at this time of unprecedented opportunity for our movement.”

Jeb Bush served as the 43rd Governor of the State of Florida and, under his leadership, the state dramatically expanded school choice opportunities and improved educational outcomes for students, especially those from disadvantaged families. Governor Bush currently serves as Chairman of Dock Square Capital LLC, a merchant bank headquartered in Miami. Governor Bush maintains his passion for improving the quality of education for students across the country by serving as the Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national nonprofit education reform organization he founded to transform education in America.

Registration is open to join AFC in Indianapolis Monday, May 22, and Tuesday, May 23. Click here to complete step 1 of registration and secure your spot at the nation’s premier event for educational choice.  AFC has a room block open at the Indianapolis (Downtown) Westin. Click here to make your accommodation reservations at a discounted rate before May 5.

AFC Applauds Gov. Ducey for Signing Bill Giving Sweeping School Choice to All Arizona Kids

The American Federation for Children (AFC), the nation’s voice for educational choice, praises Governor Doug Ducey for signing SB1431 within hours of the legislation passing both the House and Senate yesterday. Now all Arizona children will, over the course of four years, become eligible to apply for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program that allows education dollars to follow each individual child to the school or learning environment they need.

Statement from Bill Oberndorf, Chairman of the American Federation for Children:

“AFC is thankful that, with his signature, Gov. Doug Ducey has handed every parent in Arizona the ability to truly customize their own child’s education. We commend Gov. Ducey for his leadership and his insistence that the program offer more help to low-income families, while also adding both academic and financial accountability. No longer will students be trapped in any one school as parents will have greater opportunities to seek the best education for their children.”

  
Statement from Governor Doug Ducey:

“The quality of a child’s education should not be determined by what neighborhood their parents can afford to live in. Through Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, thousands of Arizona students have already benefited from an education that’s customized to their unique needs and circumstances. Today, we lead the nation again with a bill that’s fiscally responsible, improves accountability and transparency, and prioritizes low-income students and families. When parents have options, students win. I’m incredibly proud to sign this legislation to give all students in Arizona, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are, an education that’s best for them.”

  
The ESA program changes will take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

Arizona Legislature Passes Education Savings Accounts for Every Child

State lawmakers vote in favor of expanding Empowerment Scholarship Accounts

Today, the Arizona Senate and House passed SB1431, expanding educational opportunity to every child through the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, praises the state legislators who have once again brought Arizona into the education forefront today by passing a bill which would allow all parents to customize the education for their children. Previously, only specific groups of kids were eligible for ESAs. SB1431 makes every child eligible to enter the ESA program and would be phased in over the next four years, subject to enrollment caps.

Statement from Kim Martinez, Arizona Communications Director for the American Federation for Children:

“This is a monumental day for parents who were just handed the power to access any school or learning environment for their child. We are so thankful to Sen. Debbie Lesko, Governor Ducey, and the House and Senate Leadership who led the charge to expand ESAs and support the learning needs of each individual Arizona child.”

Statement from Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, who sponsored the universal ESA expansion bill and has fought tirelessly for SB1431 at the state legislature all session, with the purpose of bringing school choice to all Arizona families.

“This next generation of school choice will empower parents and children, not only in Arizona, but throughout the country, for today Arizona once again exerts its leadership as the education innovation catalyst for America. States across the country have followed our lead on school choice and they will now also follow our lead on providing families with true educational freedom.”

ESAs allow parents to use 90 percent of the education tax dollars assigned to their child for the customized education they deem the best fit. The program includes covering private school tuition and a variety of other educational expenses or curriculum. SB1431 opens up eligibility of ESAs to all children attending a public school, subject to an enrollment cap of about 5,000 children a year. The bill also adds greater academic and financial accountability into the program. There will be standardized testing for ESA children with public reporting of the aggregate results. Also, financial transparency that rivals or exceeds that of any other state program will be added, allowing the public to examine how ESA funds are being spent. ESAs can be used to pay private school tuition, online curriculum, home school expenses, educational therapies, tutors and more.

Currently, ESAs can only be used by specific pockets of children – those with special needs, in D or F-rated schools, children living on tribal lands, those in foster care or children with active-duty military parents. There are approximately 3,500 children in the program, mostly with special needs.

SB1431 next goes to Gov. Ducey’s desk for his signature.