The 10th annual National School Choice Week (NSCW) was celebrated across the United States on January 26 through February 1, following on the heels of a survey that found overwhelming public support for school choice.
NSCW has grown every year, says Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, the nonprofit organization that established the yearly public awareness effort.
“We’ve grown from 150 events and activities back in 2011 to what we hope will be 50,000 events and activities this coming National School Choice Week,” Campanella told School Reform News.
About 69 percent of likely voters support the concept of school choice, including 41 percent who strongly support choice, according to a nationwide poll released on January 21 by the nonprofit American Federation for Children. Support for establishment of a federal tax-credit scholarship program was 78 percent among all likely voters, and 83 percent among minority voters.
Support for school choice identified in the AFC survey has increased significantly in the past two years, having reached 67 percent last year and 63 percent in 2018. The survey of 1,275 Americans likely to vote in the November 3, 2020 general election was conducted January 7 through 13 by Beck Research.
Insights from ‘Miss Virginia’
NSCW activities this year included in-school events, rallies at state capitols, and movie screenings of Miss Virginia, a film based on Virginia Walden Ford’s efforts to persuade Congress to establish a tax-funded voucher program in Washington, D.C.
In partnership with NSCW, The Heartland Institute, which publishes School Reform News, hosted a screening of Miss Virginia in Chicago, Illinois on January 31, which Ford attended. The film depicts Ford’s successful struggle to bring school choice to the students of Washington, D.C.
Ford built a formidable team of neighborhood parents to combat the status quo in Congress and the D.C. City Council. The film highlights how difficult it is to move legislation, or even to get a hearing, because most parents are not politically connected. Ford’s persistence paid off in the end, as President George W. Bush signed the DC School Choice Incentive Act of 2003 into law on January 23, 2004.
At the Heartland Institute screening, Ford answered questions and signed copies of her memoir, School Choice: A Legacy to Keep (Beauford Books,; 2019).
In the Q&A session, Ford discussed the persistence needed to implement school choice, how it takes an entire community working together to make real change happen, and aspects of her story that were changed in the movie to fit its running time. Screenings of Miss Virginia took place across the United States during the week.
Need for Options
NSCW highlights the need for more educational options, says Campanella, author of The School Choice Roadmap: 7 Steps to Finding the Right School for Your Child (Beaufort Books, 2020).
“When it comes to education, we need to have the same level and variety of choices that we do in every other aspect of our lives,” Campanella said. “School choice is simply a recognition of that: letting parents decide the right learning environment for their kids based on the instruction strategies that work for their children, based on what their kids are interested in, based on the environments that they learn the most in, based on places where parents think their kids will be safest, happiest, and most likely to succeed.”
Call for Federal Action
President Donald Trump highlighted school choice in his State of the Union Address on February 4.
“For too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools,” Trump said.
Trump called on Congress to support a U.S. Department of Education proposal to allow individuals and businesses to receive federal tax credits for donations to K-12 scholarship funds.
“Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school,” Trump said.
Lennie Jarratt ([email protected]) is director of the Center for Education Opportunities at The Heartland Institute.
Larry Sand, “Miss Virginia Makes the Grade,” The Heartland Institute, January 28, 2020: https://heartland.org/news-opinion/news/miss-virginia-makes-the-grade
Beck Research, “AFC’s Sixth Annual National School Choice Poll Results,” American Federation for Children, January 21, 2020: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/american-federation-for-children-sixth-annual-national-school-choice-poll-results