Author Archive | Denisha Merriweather

It’s about the child, not the system: Jeb Bush, podcastED

Jeb Bush and Denisha Merriweather screenshot

Denisha Merriweather interviews former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on school choice, parent empowerment and the politics of education.

When it comes to politics, I’m not alone. Many members of my generation don’t align with either major political party. Our views don’t always fit the traditional left-right mold. But we also aren’t tied to the status quo. We are willing to break from tradition to make a difference.

Our willingness to embrace change is one cause for optimism that Jeb Bush said he found in this crazy political season. In a new interview, we talked about education politics, the importance of creating new educational options, and what politicians might learn if they spent more time in the classroom.

The former Florida governor says that on the campaign trail, he saw a backlash against some aspects of education reform. The solution, he said, is to use a bottom-up approach that puts more power in the hands of parents by giving them more choices and better information.

“If you start with the premise that this about educating children, and families are the most important political jurisdiction for their child – to be nerdy about it – the money would follow the child, not the school system,” he said.redefinED-podcast-logo1

One promising way to do that, he said, is to give parents education savings accounts, which will allow them to send their children to public schools or private schools, or to teach their children at home, or hire tutors and therapists, or even (my favorite) save for college. Continue Reading →

A school choice graduate goes to Washington

As a school choice graduate turned education advocate, I’ve shared my experience with legislators before, but never in the halls of Congress. That changed last month, when I had the honor of traveling to Washington to tell the story of my academic turnaround.

Denisha Merriweather testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee during a hearing on school choice.

Denisha Merriweather testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee during a hearing on school choice.

At the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill, I gave a piece of myself to the 30 members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce who had set a hearing to discuss school choice.

Just a couple months after passing the Every Student Succeeds Act, federal lawmakers are exploring the prospect of creating more options for students across the country. As Chairman John Kline noted in his introduction, “The committee has worked to improve K-12 education and has been guided by the belief that every child, regardless of where they come from or how much money their parents make, should receive an excellent education.”

Kline encouraged his colleagues to ask how they can support efforts in state capitols and local school districts to help more children receive the education they deserve. One member, Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina, asked what I think is the crucial question: “How much work would have to be done to truly give all students and their families choice?”

Many members of the committee didn’t doubt that students needed options, and if they had criticisms of school choice, they focused on the importance of holding charter and private schools accountable.

I was listening for someone to outline a vision. How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?

In 1990, Milwaukee enacted its pioneering school choice program. Now, 22 states offer some variation of private school choice, and more could soon join the ranks. Meanwhile, Congress is preparing to decide the future of another program, the one it controls directly: The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Continue Reading →