Growing Number of Americans Demand School Choice, Thousands of Rallies Planned

Democrats encouraged to embrace school choice

January 26, 2015

More than 11,000 rallies and events focusing on school choice are planned this week across the country, and Democrats have been encouraged to embrace this growing demand or face backlash from constituents in upcoming elections.

Parents and advocates of school choice are planning to make their voices heard this week as part of National School Choice Week, which runs through Jan. 31.

As part of SCW, events in the hundreds are planned in dozens of states. More than a thousand events focusing on school choice are scheduled in numerous states. In Florida, 1,455 events are scheduled; in California 1,014 events are planned, and Texas is expected to have 801 events.

The number of events this year for SCW has grown compared to the last few years, doubling in size from last year alone.

NSCW has several partners advocating for school choice and its expansion. The Institute for Justice senior attorney Bert Gall told the Washington Free Beacon by email, "School choice is on the rise like never before. There are now over 50 school-choice programs in 25 states that give parents both public and private school options, and about half of those programs have been enacted in just the past five years."

Gall said more programs will probably be created this year. He indicated the reason behind the rapid growth of school choice is that "state legislatures are increasingly heeding the demands of parents, many of whom are unsatisfied with the performance of their children’s assigned public schools and want other options."

"The increase in the number of programs that empower parents to select the schools—public or private—that are best for their kids is great news, and families across the country are celebrating it during this National School Choice Week," Gall said. He said the Institute for Justice has defended every major lawsuit filed against school choice programs by teachers’ unions and other opponents.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, another partner of NSCW, sent an email statement from president and CEO Nina Rees that said, "Year after year, individuals, families, schools, and education organizations unite to celebrate and demand choice. School Choice Week gives us an opportunity to tell the stories of those who fight to improve our education system every day and honor their efforts."

Rees said charter schools have served as a critical public education option for students for more than 20 years with more than 2.7 million students attending 6,500 charters schools across the country.

But many more students deserve a chance at a higher quality education.

"School Choice Week also reminds us that hundreds of thousands more children are still waiting for their chance to attend a high quality public charter school. The National Alliance will continue to advocate on their behalf," Rees said.

A new poll released ahead of SCW shows a majority of Americans— 69 percent—favors the concept of school choice. The poll, released by the American Federation for Children another partner of NSCW, also showed 63 percent support private school choice, 76 percent support public charter schools, and 65 percent believe choice and competition among schools improve education.

"The findings of this poll reflect what we saw in the 2014 midterms and what I am seeing in communities across the country–a demand from parents for more options in deciding how their children are educated," said Kevin Chavous, AFC’s executive counsel, in a statement.

Chavous, a Democrat, and former Washington, D.C., city councilman, urged his party to recognize the survey’s results.

"As the 2016 primary fights begin, education reform is certain to take center stage—especially as a number of Republican candidates tout their records supporting expanded parental choice. As educational choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, I urge the candidates in my party to recognize the shift in public opinion and embrace parental choice by putting the needs of students first."

Deborah Beck, president of Beck Research, the Democratic firm that conducted the poll, echoed Chavous’ comments.

"The poll clearly shows widespread support, among voters of both political parties as well as independents, for school choice. Any public official—or potential candidate for president—who ignores these numbers does so at their own peril," Beck said in a release.

Some rallies planned include a march on Montgomery, Ala., with more than 2,000 attendees expected on Wednesday. South Carolina’s rally on Tuesday is expected to be the state’s largest school choice rally ever, and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to attend.

Numerous Republicans have voiced their support for empowering parents in their children’s education as part of SCW, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who took to YouTube to express his support, and Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) who will host a national school choice forum in early February.

"I’ve got this burning ember in my heart to help every kid have a chance at a decent education," said House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) on Twitter Monday morning, linking to a video of his upbringing and his long-term fight for education. Boehner also tweeted on Sunday, "A good education is the great equalizer in America. @schoolchoicewk #scw #schoolchoice."

Unions, the NAACP and many left-leaning Democratic groups have opposed school choice. Several have filed suit against allowing parents the freedom of choice in education. The Free Beacon has reported on several fights, including those in Florida, Arizona, and Louisiana.

Published under: School Choice