It is wonderful to see the leaders of the Parent Revolution receive this recognition in the Wall Street Journal. I have admired their work from afar, and I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel last year with the group’s founder, Ben Austin. They have done amazing work organizing low-income parents and giving voice to their desire for more educational opportunities.
Here’s my wish: that Parent Revolution would advocate for true empowerment for these parents. Families should have the right not just to reconstitute the schools to which their children are assigned. They should be empowered to choose whatever school will best serve their children. It might be a charter school, it might be a magnet school, but it also might be a faith-based school. What we have learned in Florida and other states is that there is a vast inventory of private, mostly faith-based schools in urban areas with high concentrations of low-income families. In Jacksonville, for example, there are only about a dozen charter schools, and not all of them serve low-income children. However, there are more than 100 private schools in that city serving low-income students on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.
One of these schools, The Potter’s House Christian Academy, has a graduation rate at more than 90 percent. More than 300 of the school’s 600 students attend on the scholarship program. What if you were a low-income parent with a child doing poorly in his assigned public school? What would you rather have, the ability to force change at that one public school or a passport to leave and select the best school available?
The clergy in Florida has indeed recognized that educational opportunity is a matter of social justice. There have emerged two official coalitions of Florida ministers, one African American and one Hispanic, demanding full parental choice for low income families. They both strongly support the tax credit scholarship program.
In Florida, the clergy is not only recognizing that low-income parents need all options on the table for their children, they are in many cases providing that option. My own hope is that the Parent Revolution will expand its amazing work to demand full empowerment for low-income families.