School Choice: Helping children get the education they deserve

Hundreds fill the State House to rally for educational options for students

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PROVIDENCE — Hundreds of school leaders and families of all faiths who filled the state house during National School Choice Day were all in agreement — that each child deserves a quality education and every parent should have the freedom to choose which school is best for their child.

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During a reception held on Thursday, Jan. 28, many rallied to show their support for School Choice and the opportunity to select the most effective K-12 education environments for their children.

Students from local Catholic and private schools performed musical arrangements throughout the afternoon while parents and students wore yellow scarfs and held signs that read, “School Choice Means Hope!”

The Keynote Speaker for the event was Kevin Chavous, founding board member and executive counsel for the American Federation of Children, a noted author and national education reform leader. Chavous shared that school choice options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, online learning, private schools and homeschooling. During National School Choice Week, millions of Americans celebrate these effective education options for children.

“By any means necessary, give me all of those options so we can educate our kids,” he said. “When you have the options you have the power over the educational approach. That’s what our country should be about.”

The best thing about school choice, he said, is that it addresses the sense of urgency that many parents are facing today.

“Parents need help now. They don’t need this to be fixed five years from now when their kids have finished their education, or may have dropped out, they need it now so the kids can get the education they deserve. They can succeed if we give them the right choices. There’s no greater responsibility that we should hold dear to our hearts.”

Chavous said he was very impressed with the turnout of the event and added that there is no doubt that the movement will continue to grow.

“There was amazing energy all over the state capital and it is clear that the school choice movement is here to stay in Rhode Island,” he said. “I would urge Rhode Island parents and activists to stay the course and keep spreading the message.”

Sheila Konis Feeny, Rhode Island Families for School Choice Director, was thrilled to see so many people present to support school choice.

“The event was everything we hoped it would be” she said. “Mr. Kevin P. Chavous, spread the clear message that every parent has the right to choose the best education for their child. That is our mission at Rhode Island Families for School Choice.”

Edward Bastia, business administrator of schools for the diocese, said that since the coalition known as Rhode Island Families for School Choice assumed the orchestration of this annual event four years ago, it has grown every year — and this year was the largest attendance ever. More than 30 school exhibits were displayed around the State House and he believes that 400 people were in attendance from start to finish.

“There is a very dedicated group of parents who come together for two hours every month to work on this initiative, and to work on orchestrating this large advocacy event at the State House,” Bastia explained. “The premise of the initiative is that the time has come for all citizens to recognize that parents really want options. They want to choose the best educational opportunity for their kids. For too long, students have been relegated to attend only their local schools, regardless of all considerations, only based on their street address. Our dedicated parents recognize that this has to change. It is time to expand parental choice in education in Rhode Island.”

The first order of business, Bastia explained, would be to expand the existing corporate tax credit program for education from $1.5 million to $5 million. This program allows certain corporations to participate in a lucrative tax credit in exchange for making a contribution to a scholarship granting organization.

“This program is good for business and good for families,” he said.

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