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School Quality

Betsy DeVos Has a New Plan for School Choice and I Think It Could Work

Choice is more prevalent in our society today than ever before. We make dozens of choices daily that impact our lives as well as the lives of the people around us. Yet, over the past few years, the conversation around school choice has changed, in part due to who supports it and who does not. People have been fighting for education reform since the president was firing people on a reality show, but now, some hesitate in stepping up and fighting for families simply because President Trump is in favor of school choice. When I look back on my own educational journey and the people who were pivotal in fighting for me, I am thankful for their tenacity and grit to get the job done. My family and I didn’t care about party lines or who supported whom. We understood the importance of a good education and were willing to work with anyone who supported our ability to access it. I constantly struggled in my assigned public school. I felt alone and couldn’t wait for the bell to ring at 3:15 p.m. every afternoon. Although that particular school wasn’t a fit for me, it worked just fine for others. When it comes to schools of choice, it’s not about one against the other. It’s about giving students options if their current school is not working for them. I sometimes spend half an hour deliberating over what to watch on Netflix because there are so many options. What if we had that same opportunity for children and their educational journey? What if, instead of being concerned about the teachers’ unions bottom line, we were more concerned with a child’s ability to read, write, and compute at grade level? At the end of the day, the child must be our highest priority. There is such a strong sense of tribalism in politics today. People let partisanship drive their views and actions without considering the consequences. There are many different opinions on school choice, and many who oppose it. But there are also thousands of kids stuck in failing schools with no way out. When politics interfere with children accessing the best education possible, we not only rob those children of their full potential, we rob our future as a nation. https://twitter.com/SchoolChoiceNow/status/1010146917949505536 Last week U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, along with bill sponsors Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Bradley Byrne, unveiled a new initiative to expand school choice to all children in the country. Education Freedom Scholarships are first and foremost about children and their potential, not political party or agenda. Americans should care more about the countless lives that will change when given access to expanded educational opportunities than the current makeup of Congress or who occupies the oval office. As I think about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and what he accomplished in his life, I am reminded of the importance of empowering others regardless of race. He challenged people to come together at the table of brotherhood in order to achieve together what no one person can achieve on their own. It is our responsibility to carry out that vision. And it starts with finding what we have in common rather than that which separates us. Making sure every child has the opportunity to access a high-quality education that meets his or her individual needs should be something we can all get behind.
Walter Blanks Jr. is the Press Secretary for American Federation for Children (AFC) and a private school choice program beneficiary. From a young age, Walter recognized that many children are still stuck in underperforming schools and wanted to do something about it. Before joining AFC full-time, Walter was chosen for the first cohort of the American Federation for Children Future Leaders ...

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