With Liberty and Justice for All
And how to make that happen….
A day after the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, despite the arctic freeze and travel challenges, we paid a visit to Valiant Cross Academy - winner of the 2023 Yass Prize - and were greeted by five valiant gentle-men who represent the school’s more than 200 young men of color, the creme de la creme of Montgomery, Alabama. They are students who come from great adversity but are being coached for greatness. And it shows.
It was our first STOP on the Roadshow for Opportunity, the Yass Prize team and I, including some of our amazing alum, finalists for the Prize and close colleagues and friends of Valiant’s co-founder and Head of School Anthony Brock. We had Pastor Josh Robertson there (who was taking notes on how we could put a school like that in every city!), Kyle Smitley from Detroit Achievement, Keith Brooks from the National Fellowship for Black and Latino Male Educators, Odyssey Charter’s Elias Pappas and Cristo Rey President & CEO Kelby Woodard.
Just down the street from the Capitol, Valiant Cross is a beacon of hope for young people everywhere. That’s why Governor Kay Ivey was there and echoed the sentiment of the entire civic community supporting the work of this school by saying,
“We need more Valiant Cross Academies. That will happen when we give parents the freedom to choose the best learning path for their child.”
That’s right. Every child deserves that opportunity. All of them. That’s justice.
It’s About Liberty, too.
Every year, EdChoice gathers the most comprehensive data on where kids go to school and it’s clear that as more liberty is afforded to parents to drive their children’s education, more are taking advantage of new ways to do just that. Here’s a snapshot from their report.
On a national level:
Almost 2% of students are utilizing an educational choice program, which is almost DOUBLE in four years!
However, states like Florida have as many as 12% of students utilizing choice programs, something Edreform.com’s Parent Power Index will soon illuminate.
6.8% attend private school by other means.
74.6% attend a traditional public school (and this does NOT include students who go across district lines or who move to a district of choice by buying a house).
4.9% attend a magnet school.
6.6% attend a charter school.
4.7% are homeschooled.
It wasn’t too long ago that union leaders would argue that 90% of students attended public schools so that’s where we should put our effort.
In reality, it shouldn’t be that we put our effort in one sector over another, but wherever and however parents choose to educate their children.
Charter Growth in More Detail
Check out charter blogger Jed Wallace’s report on charter growth. It’s music to my ears after a near desert for a few years.
Part of the growth is owing to Covid and the fact that charters were quicker and more effective at opening and even educating students during Covid. Part of it is new and expanded laws. Advocates are finally stepping back out in front to push for laws that ensure growth, after nearly a decade of actually working to enact weak laws with more regulations.
When charter advocates are bold, and stop acting like they have to be nice to everyone, or negotiate their very existence, when they don’t rely on one single voice or group to guide their policy deliberations, it’s not only healthy but it instills confidence in lawmakers.
There is still a lot of work to be done. States like Alabama and Georgia have commissions that might as well be appendages of the public school system. They operate in a vacuum and slow growth, deterring people from stepping up to start and open new schools. Most big states are responsible for the increased numbers. But innovative public schools should be available to all and more citizens should be able to start them. Look at the last National Charter School Ranking and Scorecard for more on that and stay tuned for the latest coming soon!
Also a close read of this oldie but goodie is in order if you want to know why charter growth gets stymied from within its own movement.
I’m Going to the Mothers Rally, How ‘Bout You?
I’m so excited to see old and meet new friends at tomorrow’s Mothers Rally at the Lincoln Monument, put on by the Black Mother’s Forum, and including both moms who advocate for policy, and those who advocate by choosing to send their kids to schools other than those to which they are assigned.
It’s a brilliant concept, actually. Knowing we have but a few comparable precious years to educate our kids, we’d want them to have the best, right? And parents having the liberty to choose what they believe can actually teach them what they need to know to be successful in life.
The Mothers Rally is among the more than 27,000 events being organized this week for “National School Choice Week.” They are in every community, and coming from every kind of organization and school, in every sector, owing to the great work of Andrew Campanella and his team. Follow edreform on X.
Did you hear the big news?
The Yass Prize application portal for 2024 is now open! This application launch comes two months earlier than in prior years! The application deadline is April 18th, but here’s a little secret—the earlier the application, the earlier the consideration. All applicants - no matter the outcome - are invited into our growing community of alumni edupreneurs who continue to surprise us by the many ways they collaborate across state lines, support and uplift each other’s work. Want to learn more? Drop into informal office hours beginning Thursday, January 25th from 1:00-1:30 pm EST on zoom (no registration required).
Let’s get this party started! - Jeanne
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