Of Politicians & Passionate Opportunity Advocates
But first, a brief commercial…
A New Age of Education Disruption: The Yass Summit
Bringing together the brightest minds in education, and celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Center for Education Reform (CER), the Yass Summit will present an array of keynote speakers, engaging panel discussions, networking opportunities, and provides a platform for attendees to voice their own insights and ideas.
In addition to enlightening conversations and empowering experiences, attendees will meet this year’s Yass Prize awardees – the innovators who have pushed boundaries, questioned the status quo, and brought about transformative changes in the sphere of education.
And in celebrating CER’s 30th year, we’ll take time to reflect on three decades of tireless effort and significant progress, and look to the horizon in working to shape an inspiring, impactful future for global education.
Want to attend? Click here to request your invitation.
Pennsylvania and Education Freedom: A Slow Walk to Unity
It’s been an interesting few months watching the “debate” and horse trading over budgets in the birthplace of freedom. It shouldn’t be this difficult to give kids a chance, particularly when so many from different backgrounds believe it’s important. As the The Philadelphia Citizen explains:
“If you’re a working-class Commonwealth parent, your kid is only in third grade once. To you, education isn’t some abstract debate; it’s an urgent matter. Telling parents it’s just too bad that their kid is stuck in an underperforming school while parents of greater means are free to put their kids in better schools? That’s akin to playing education roulette with other people’s children. It has a decidedly let them eat cake feel to it, coming from an increasingly elitist party.”
There’s more to the story of course. My latest in Forbes explains.
On Democrats and Education Freedom
A leader of Democrats for Education Reform says today that his party is missing the boat on school choice, but leaves that confined to public schools.
“As a party that prides itself on supporting solutions backed by evidence, many Democrats have missed the mark on public school choice, and it's costing future generations dearly.”
But some much wiser Democrats believe their party much go much farther:
“The truth is that access to a high-quality education and opportunity – that includes access to scholarships and vouchers — are not partisan issues unless we allow them to be.”
Those are the words of two civil rights icons with more than a century of combined experience in working to rectify the most stubborn inequities in American society, particularly for young Black and Brown people.
“Millions of Democrats agree that a one-size-fits-all approach to education simply doesn’t work. We know because we’ve seen it.
“We are both proud HBCU graduates who have dedicated ourselves to creating, or supporting, organizations that ensure equal rights for all. We’ve worked for some of our nation’s greatest civil rights leaders, such as Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund…
“Either you believe that students should be relegated to a failing school simply because of their zip code, or you don’t. Either you believe that students with special needs deserve access to better academic opportunities outside their local school district, or you don’t. Either you believe that low-income, underserved children have the right to attend an exceptional charter or private school that’s more personalized and safer than their assigned school, or you don’t.
“Of course, we know that there are a host of great public schools that work for kids. Still, like us…”
On Republicans and Education Freedom
When former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is not “prosecuting” Trump, as the WSJ puts it, he’s boldly making the case for not just education choice but for giving parents all the money that governments allocate for students to make their own decisions.
“Mr. Christie wants universal vouchers for K-12 schools,” says the Journal. ‘In the city of Newark, [Christie says] we spend $36,000 per pupil. In Asbury Park, we spend $40,000 per pupil, for really bad results. Why not take that money and give that money to each individual family, in a controlled account that they can spend on education, and send their kid wherever they want?’
Schooling is a state and local function, but Mr. Christie says a president can use the bully pulpit and put strings on federal funds.”
On the campaign trail, Ron DeSantis has touted Florida’s focus on "education and the fundamental role that parents play in the education of their own children." As Governor, he signed a Parents Bill of Rights, which helped expand school choice.
Tim Scott has served as chair of the Senate School Choice Caucus. On a recent stop in Iowa, Scott said, “A $7,500 or so scholarship per student is going to produce for generations of Iowans who are equipped with the most important tool to transform their lives."
Earlier this year in Iowa, Nikki Haley said, “We would not have problems in education if we put education back where it needs to be, in the hands of the parents. We have to have school choice all over this country.”
Vivek Ramaswamy believes that the U.S. Department of Education should be abolished. He said he would “use the [money] from shutting down the Dept of Education to fund school choice so kids aren’t held captive by the zip code that they’re born into.”
Mike Pence is another one who agrees with Ramaswamy on closing the U.S. Department of Education says, “The very simple answer would be to block-grant the budget of the federal department of education back to the states… allow states to use those resources to expand educational choice for families.”
And what the public thinks…
It’s not like people from either party think either traditional schooling or the federal government is doing such a great job.
Take this survey conducted by Education Next in 2022, which found that just 22% of the public rates America’s K–12 schools above a C grade. When the survey results are broken down by political affiliation, 25% of Democrats rate US schools above a C, and just 17% of Republicans do.
A similar political divide can be seen in support for school choice policies. Forty-nine percent of the general public say they support school choice. For Republicans, support swells to 60%; for Democrats, it falls to 41%.
According to the Pew Center, “About six-in-ten Democrats (62%) have a favorable opinion of the U.S. Department of Education, while a similar share of Republicans (65%) see it negatively, according to a March 2023 survey by the Center. Democrats and Republicans were more divided over the Department of Education than most of the other 15 federal departments and agencies the Center asked about.”
Remembering Pete Ruppert
In his book Limitless, Pete’s personality, drive and passion for education speak not only through self-effacing stories but through the tried and true lessons he shares and through his favorite quotes and writings. As I watched and listened to the incredible tributes paid to him by his family during his memorial service earlier this month, I was struck by how much of who he was, exemplified by those quotes.
One that many of us know but few of us live is Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena”:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Pete Ruppert died suddenly earlier this month. He was only 59. The founder of Fusion Schools and leader of National Heritage Academies with the irreplaceable JC Huizenga, Pete was a passionate advocate for education who threw himself into the ring to make the changes needed to ensure it reached millions more. He mentored, coached and counseled hundreds, and most importantly, was a friend. One of the chapters in Limitless begins: “A critical step toward achieving your dreams is envisioning the kind of future you want.” And it’s this advice he helped students to follow, and that we all should follow when it comes to how we are doing school.
I love that this quote frames his book’s close:
“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” — Lewis Carroll
With gratitude for having known you, and with sadness that you’re gone — goodbye and Godspeed, Pete.
And to all you reading, get in the Arena if you’re not there already.
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