Congress and the Obama administration seem to want to ignore the issue of school choice and let the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program die of neglect. But across the nation, school choice is on the march and isn’t going away any time soon.
Last week, the Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate passed a voucher bill for Chicago. And last Wednesday, in the largest rally for school choice in the nation’s history, more than 5,500 students and parents, as well as supporters from across political lines and an all-star team of speakers, gathered in Florida’s capitol city to voice support for the expansion of the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship. Participants traveled on buses from several cities throughout the state to champion the measure.
Over the past decade, Florida has implemented a variety of school reform strategies, including a tax credit for businesses that contribute scholarship money for low-income children. After implementing a suite of education reforms, academic achievement for Florida’s children has increased, especially among minority students, despite the relatively stagnant student scores nationwide.
The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveal that Florida’s special needs students now outpace their peers nationwide in reading. African American fourth graders outpace or tie the statewide average of all students in eight states, and Hispanic students outpace or tie the statewide average of all students in 31 states in reading.
Speaking at the rally, Rep. James Bush of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (the civil rights group created by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) stated:
I say to you today that the Tax Credit Scholarship program is one of the keys we use to …reach some of those children who go to bed hungry at night. It is one way we show that an empty pocketbook doesn’t have to mean an empty bookshelf – that all our learning tools need to be on the table for all our children.
I am here today as a messenger of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and I am here to proudly proclaim that the organization created by Dr. King believes that a scholarship for low-income children is one way to break the cycle and close the gap.