The fourth annual "National School Choice Week" launched on Sunday, bringing students, parents, activists, and lawmakers across the country together to advance educational opportunities for children.
Students from Newark Prep Charter School in New Jersey rang the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, kicking off a week that will feature over 5,500 events to highlight programs that are expanding school choice.
"Today's students are tomorrow's leaders—in business, in our communities, and in our schools," said Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week. "When the students from Newark Prep ring the bell at the NYSE, it will serve as a reminder to every adult in this country that we must work harder than ever before to prepare every single child for the challenges and opportunities in their lives and in their careers, whether they go on to run major corporations, lead our cities and states or our country, or work on our farms or in our small businesses."
The Franklin Center launched an "Amplify Choice" website as a resource for Americans to find events in their area. The website provides updates from social media, and tools for communities to hold their own events.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio) penned an op-ed in honor of the awareness campaign, citing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program as an example of successful school choice programs.
Boehner cited a study by the Heritage Foundation that found students receiving scholarships were reading 3.1 months ahead of other students.
"In America, a good education is the great equalizer, something that gives our children the chance to fulfill their potential no matter how they fared in the lottery of life," he said. "That’s why the more we can do to empower parents to pick and choose the schools that best meet their kids’ needs, the better."
"It’s one way for us to live up to our billing as the ‘Land of Opportunity,’" Boehner said.
Thirty-five events will be held in the nation’s capital, including a rally held by the American Federation of Children and 17 other organizations.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) will team up with former WNBA star Lisa Leslie on Wednesday to promote school choice at Friendship Chamberlain Elementary, a public charter school in Washington, D.C.
"We should do everything in our power to help children receive the very best education possible and that’s why I support educational choice," Leslie said in an announcement for the event. "No matter your race, no matter your income, no matter your ZIP code, every child should have every opportunity to attend a quality school of their parents’ choice."
There will be 175 events in Louisiana, the state the Obama administration is suing over their school voucher program. Roundtable discussions, school fairs, open houses, rallies, community meetings, and documentary screenings will be held across the state.
The week will also feature a "whistle stop" train tour, hitting 14 cities and covering 3,800 miles between Newark and San Francisco to advocate the "transformational benefits of educational choice."
"Still too many students are forced to attend schools that don’t address their needs, or worse, aren’t safe," Cantor said. "At a time when the school choice movement faces threats from proponents of the status quo, fighting for education opportunity is more important than ever."
Organizers for the national public awareness campaign said the events are nonpartisan, and promote a variety of educational options. Events that highlight traditional public schools, charter, magnet, and private institutions, online learning, and homeschooling will be held through Saturday, Feb. 1.