The Best of School Choice 2017, A Look Back
School choice had a rock star year! From the nomination and confirmation of Betsy DeVos, one of the country’s most outspoken advocates of school choice, as the Secretary of Education to the addition and expansion of several school choice programs across the country – 2017 was a monumental year for families and their right to choose their child’s educational experience. The best part about the success of school choice? The families and students whose lives have changed for the better because they now have access to schools, programs, and resources that they’ve decided works best for their needs.
So, without further ado, here’s our best of school choice 2017!
Our Voices for Choice Tell Their Stories on Capitol Hill (twice!)
School choice alumni, now named Voices of Choice, came from states across the country to share their personal stories of the impact choice has had and continues to have on their lives. From elementary to college students, each were excited to tell their stories to legislators. Be sure to read a few of them at the links below.
On August 31st, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law a bill which created a tax credit scholarship program and established charter funding equity, after the House and Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan basis earlier in the week. With this act, Illinois became the 26th state with private school choice and now has the 52nd private school choice program in the country.
A year after Martin Luther King III led a massive march and rally in Tallahassee with 10,000 people, urging the Florida teachers’ union to drop its lawsuit, which would have evicted more than 98,000 low-income and working-class children from the private schools their parents chose for them, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed the suit.
In June, the North Carolina General Assembly approved their general appropriations bill that would expand educational opportunities to more North Carolina families, including funding for the creation of a new Education Savings Account Program – the sixth program of its kind in the nation. The new $3 million program will take effect in the 2018-2019 school year and will provide up to $9,000 a year to offset the cost of educational expenses.
Families and students who were in need and in search of better educational opportunities won when Betsy DeVos, former AFC chairman, was confirmed as Secretary of Education. With more than 30 years advocating on behalf of families, she was a bold pick to lead the Department of Education. Secretary DeVos has long believed that innovation and choice will improve educational outcomes and create educational opportunity for every child. A passionate believer in every parent’s right to choose the best educational environment for their child, Secretary DeVos pledged to focus our nation’s education system on students and their needs.
A Gallup poll released in April made a not-so-secret secret, even more not-so-secret: lots of people really like and support the idea of school choice! These results will help pave the way for more states to enact and expand school choice programs for their residents.
In April, the new and improved www.FederationforChildren.org, went live. With features including an interactive map that lets users quickly find school choice programs across the country, success stories that spotlight the necessity for choice, and an overview of the various types of choice programs available, families now have a plethora of information right at their fingertips making choice even more accessible.
The Fashion Institute of New Orleans’ 11th Annual Passion for Fashion show, which has received national recognition, gives students the opportunity to produce a fashion show using their own designs. This year’s show featured the AFC “Freedom” Teen Line. Models donned t-shirts and displayed signage with messages of freedom, choice and academic achievement.
In May, more than 1,500 school choice supporters rallied at the Ohio Statehouse to encourage the state’s elected leaders to support empowering Ohio families and students with educational options. Their efforts paid off – the Cleveland Scholarship Program received increased funding of nearly 10% per child for all students participating in the program!
Hosted by School Choice Congressional Caucus co-founders Rep. Luke Messer and Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Messer emceed the event featuring speeches from members of Congress and over 200 students who participate in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program or attend a public charter school in the District. While it was a time to celebrate the success of school choice, particularly in the District, it was also an opportunity to advocate for the reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. In May, Congress completed work on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget bill, which reauthorized the program for three years.