U.S. House Education Committee Hearing Showcases Opportunity through School Choice
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing solely focused on school choice and the message was clear – school choice is the civil rights issue of our time.
The Committee heard powerful testimony from Denisha Merriweather, a former Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program student, who shared her story about how access to the program changed her life. She was the first from her family to graduate from high school, has now graduated from college and is currently working on her master’s degree. Denisha credits the Florida program with ending the “cycle of poverty” in her family. She went on to say, “I’ve seen the power of tailored education demonstrated in my own life, and I would like to see it expanded in future generations and this one.”
North Carolina State Representative Rob Bryan, the primary sponsor of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, also testified before the Committee. He expressed the need for bipartisan cooperation in order to create the best school choice programs, and described how he’s seen firsthand how parents are willing to do whatever they can to access a quality education for their child and North Carolina’s program is helping them do so.
In his testimony, the American Enterprise Institute’s Gerard Robinson summed up the national sentiment on the issue perfectly when he said, “School choice is not a sound bite – it’s a social movement.” He also delved into the research that shows how school choice programs across the country are helping students achieve better academic outcomes.
Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN) said during his opening remarks, “Everyone here agrees our children deserve better. They deserve the opportunity to receive a better education and pursue a better life…By empowering parents to do what’s best for their child, school choice has been an instrumental part of that effort.”
House Republican Policy Committee Chairman and education committee member, Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), emphasized the importance of empowering parents to help students succeed. “If we want to determine what the best option is for a child, we ought to ask their parent.” He also added that through educational choice “we can make sure that every kid in America has a chance.”
AFC wishes to thank Chairman Kline for holding this hearing to highlight the importance of school choice in America. While K-12 education is largely a state and local issue, the federal government has a limited yet important role to play. Right here in Washington, D.C., Congress should reauthorize the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), a program where 90 percent of scholarship students graduate high school and go on to college. More broadly, AFC looks forward to working with Congress to develop new and innovative ideas to leverage federal dollars in a way that will complement what states are already doing to advance all forms of school choice.
Both sides of the aisle agree, we need to be doing more to help children in our country receive a quality education. Empowering parents to choose the best educational environment for their child accomplishes this immediately. As we saw during the hearing – through Denisha’s powerful story, proven research and committed lawmakers – school choice can make an incredibly positive difference for America’s children.
The full hearing can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1PTdbPX.