School Choice Week 2017 in Alabama Features Testimonials and a Challenge

Photos by Robert Fouts – online at

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama’s National School Choice Week celebration was held indoors for the first time in Montgomery on Friday, and while the venue protected a lot of toes and fingers from a chilling wind, it still allowed school choice energy to flow from students, parents, teachers, and event organizers.

National School Choice Week 2017 is observed in January each year. Alabama’s Friday event was attended by more than 1,000 people in the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center.

Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary called for continued support for the growing public school choice movement that is educating the next generation of valuable employees and leaders of Alabama businesses.

Canary said children are the business CEOs of the future.

“Businesses cannot just sit on the sidelines,” Canary said. “We’re the largest consumer of products of the education system.”

The BCA is a supporter of school choice that allows parents to determine their children’s education futures without having to move their residences. “Education is the single most important equalizer and everybody here deserves the very best education that we can help you get,” Canary said.

Alabama has two school choice programs – the 2013 tax credit law for parents of modest incomes and the education scholarship program that allows taxpayers to donate to nonprofit scholarship granting organizations in exchange for tax credits. They were designed to help students escape failing schools.

One of those students is Nick West, a freshman computer science major at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

West said he is from a single-parent household of five children. Because of the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund and his mother’s insistence on a good education, West said he was able to attend a private school and graduate from McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile. He got a scholarship to UAH.

“School choice has been a major part of my life,” West said.

Senate President Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the sponsor of the 2015 School Choice and Opportunity Act that creates a process for local school boards to start up to 10 new or conversion public charter schools, encouraged involvement.

“Educating our children is the most important thing we can do for the future of our country,” Marsh said. The first public charter schools are expected this fall.

Friday’s rally included the Tuskegee University Drum Line, cheerleaders, student songs, and encouragement from Dr. Chad Mathis, chairman of the Alabama Federation of Children that promotes education choice by creating, protecting, and expanding educational opportunities in Alabama.

“Nearly 4,000 families are receiving scholarships,” Dr. Mathis said. “But I don’t think our work is done. We have to fight for every child no matter their Zip Code. Share the story of school choice.”

Photos by Robert Fouts – online at