Window of Opportunity
While the number of low-income and working-class Black children benefitting from high-quality educational options is unacceptably small as a percentage of the population, recent legislative victories and the success of strong choice programs indicate an encouraging shift in popular opinion surrounding parental choice and education reform:
- In the 2009-10 school year, more than 179,000 children benefitted from school voucher and scholarship tax credit programs across the country, and over the past five years, student enrollment in such programs has grown by more than 75 percent.
- In 2010, Florida was home to the largest parental choice rally in the nation’s history. More than 5,500 parents, students, and educators marched to Tallahassee to urge legislators to strengthen and expand the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program for low-income families. The bill passed both houses with overwhelming bipartisan support.
- In the 2010-11 school year, 98 charter school campuses enrolled 45 percent of the District of Columbia’s schoolchildren, graduating on average 84 percent of their students, with many schools’ graduation rates approaching 100 percent.
- In April 2011, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to low-income families in Washington, DC to allow their children to attend private schools with federal money. More than 10,000 low-income families have applied to participate in the program since its inception.
- The amount of dedicated funding available for school voucher and scholarship tax credit programs nationwide has more than doubled over the past five years, approaching $700 million in the 2010-11 school year.
- More than half of the parental choice programs enacted over the past five years were either passed by Democratic legislatures or signed by Democratic governors.
The release of David Guggenheim’s documentary “Waiting for Superman” in 2010 cast the need for bold education reform in an even broader light. Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, the film attracted the attention and support of such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. With “Superman” as a compelling point of reference, these powerful advocates are heightening public awareness of the fundamental inequity of our current educational system and generating support for reforms that afford all children a path to success.