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This Is School Choice Week

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

January 24 through 30, is National School Choice Week and there are 206 events planned this week in order to increase awareness of school choices and call for further expansion of those choices in Alabama.

The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) said in a statement: “School choice is continuing to expand in Alabama and our efforts are being recognized nationally. After passing our state’s first public charter school legislation just last year, we’re already ranked 2nd in the country. Here’s what the folks with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools had to say about our law:

“State leaders carefully examined the lessons learned over 25 years of evolving charter school policy in other states and applied those lessons when crafting their new law. As a result, the State’s charter school law includes strong accountability, growth, and funding provisions. We expect big things when Alabama launches its first charter public schools in the fall of 2017.””

The events in Alabama, which are independently planned and independently funded, include everything from information sessions and open houses at schools to rallies, policy discussions, and movie screenings organized by community groups. On Tuesday, January 26, 4,000 supporters are expected tol rally for school choice at the capitol.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has officially proclaimed January 24-30, 2016, as “School Choice Week” in Alabama. Governor Bentley joins thirty other governors and 230 mayors and county leaders nationwide in issuing proclamations.

President of School Choice Week in Alabama Andrew Campanella said, “We are grateful for Governor Bentley’s support for School Choice Week in Alabama. The growth in enthusiasm surrounding National School Choice Week demonstrates that Americans in communities across the country recognize, more than ever before, the importance of ensuring that all children have the opportunity to learn and to pursue their own American dreams. When school choice abounds, our children and our communities all see the benefit.”

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Organizers say that National School Choice Week is an independent public awareness effort designed to shine a positive spotlight on effective education options for every child.

Campanella said, “Alabama families enjoy more K-12 education choices for their children than they have in the past. National School Choice Week will shine a positive spotlight on these options so that more parents can learn about the opportunities available for their kids, in time for the 2016-2017 school year. The Week will also provide Alabamans with an opportunity to speak out in favor of even greater educational choices for kids.”

For decades Alabama parents were trapped in the school that their children were assigned to by the state. The powerful Alabama Education Association (AEA) steadfastly opposed vouchers or charter schools. That resistance cracked in 2013 when the Republican controlled legislature passed that Alabama Accountability Act which allows students zoned to Alabama’s worst schools to apply for scholarships to attend another public school or a private school. The scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) are funded by allowing taxpayers to opt a portion of their education tax dollars to be diverted to the SGOs. The collapse of the AEA following the ousting of Executive Secretary Henry Mabry opened the school choice door even further. The newly elected Republican Super Majority passed Alabama’s first Charter School law. Beginning in 2017 school boards will be allowed to open charter schools without all the regulations and rules pertaining to traditional public schools. Charters will be able to compete for students across district lines like private schools do.

Critics of school choice claim that the new options are designed to weaken traditional public schools and the once powerful teacher unions. They question the educational benefits of giving parents more options in where their children go to school.

 

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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