BCA and BEA Involved in School Choice Week Coalition

The Business Education Alliance of Alabama is part of the coalition that planned the National School Choice Week that is coming to Alabama Wednesday morning with a march from downtown Montgomery to a rally at the Capitol.

The rally will feature thousands of parents and educators and State House leaders.

Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary said school choice is a significant component in BCA’s 2015 state legislative agenda.

“We continue working to enact legislation that allows for parental options and choice in education,” he said. “Our end goal is to increase the percentage of students graduating from high school with a background that solidly prepares them for more education or workforce training.

“School choice gives an option to parents to provide their children with the best education opportunity to meet their needs,” Canary said.

The BCA and the Business Education Alliance of Alabama are members of the coalition presenting Wednesday’s event that is one of 10,000 school choice-focused events scheduled nationwide in recognition of National School Choice Week, an annual January event.

The goal is to inform communities and families in choosing an educational environment that best suits the individual needs of their children.

In addition to the BCA and BEA, the event’s planning coalition includes the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, Alabama Federation for Children, Alabama BAEO, Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools, Alabama Policy Institute, StudentsFirst Alabama, National School Choice Week, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

The march is to begin at 9 a.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel at 120 Madison Ave. Participants will travel up Dexter Avenue and begin the rally at 10 a.m. on the Capitol steps.

Scheduled speakers include Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston; House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn; Kevin Chavous, Executive Counsel American Federation for Children; Dr. Howard Fuller, Board Chair and a Founder of Black Alliance for Educational Options; Priscilla Yother, public school principal, Etowah County, Eura Brown Elementary; Gunn School student De’Antay Curry; parent Dalphne Wilson of Montgomery; Pell City Bible Methodist Christian School student Seth White; and, Dr. Levon Levon Parker, principal, Birmingham, Central Park Christian School.

Giving parents more choices encourages new types of schools, particularly ones that focus on training students in the social and technical skills that they need to succeed in college and that employers increasingly demand.  

Not every child learns the same way, and families should be involved in selecting the best plan for their individual student.

School choice focuses on creating the most effective education system by allowing parents more freedom over their students’ schooling options.  

Ryan Cantrell, state director for the American Federation for Children, said he expects close to 2,000 participants at the rally.

“Basically, our goal is to let legislators know that parents support school choice for children,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said the rally will celebrate the benefits of the Alabama Accountability Act, which allows students zoned in a failing school district to transfer somewhere else through a state income tax credit to the parents. The law was first put into practice in 2013.

“It was the first law to say they had a choice,” Cantrell said. “A lot of the kids that have benefited have been low-income families and hadn’t had an option besides the school they were zoned for.”

Sonya DiCarlo of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund in a statement said the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund is honored to be part of a movement that is changing lives and saving generations.

“Parents across the state are knocking down our doors to apply for scholarships that will open the doors to educational opportunity,” she said. “It’s time to celebrate something that has never before been available in the state of Alabama, choice in education.”

National School Choice Week is a non-partisan, non-political focus on different education option for students, including public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools and homeschooling.

-Dana Beyerle