National School Choice Week rally scheduled for Jan. 31Written by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In celebration of alternatives to conventional public school education, National School Choice Week (NSCW) will host a free reception and rally at the Valentine Theatre, 401 Adams St. in Downtown Toledo, from 9-10:15 a.m. Jan. 31.
“[The rally] is a public information event, a celebration and an information session for families who may want to learn more about sending their child to the school of their choice, including [traditional] public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, blended schools, private schools, online learning and home schooling,” said Andrew Campanella, NSCW president.
Ohio was the school choice movement’s “original pioneer,” Campanella said. “Ohio passed the Cleveland Scholarship Program and took it all the way to the Supreme Court to defend it. I think when your history as a state shows that you’re willing to take something to that level — protect and defend it — and you see that it works, people come on board. That’s why we see Democrats and Republicans working together to expand all sorts of programs. And that’s why we’re able to get all sectors of education together for an event like this.”
School choice movement supporters will gather to celebrate the variety of Ohio school choice options. In addition to Campanella, featured speakers will include:
- Rochelle Gould, a grandmother of three boys who each attend a different type of school — traditional brick-and-mortar public, charter and private.
- Ruthanne Johnson, a Toledo School for the Arts eighth-grader and founder of BeYou YouthEmpowerment, an anti-bullying organization she established in 2011.
- John Jones, the Greater Toledo Urban League’s former president and Ohio Council of Community Schools board member.
Johnson is an ardent believer that school choice is “a right of ours even though we’re not adults. We can make decisions on what we want to do with our life, even when we’re young.
“I think it’s important that if you want to go to a charter school like mine that you have the opportunity and as equal a chance as anyone else. I think you should get a quality education while doing what you love. It’s priceless. You can spend that time without worrying about getting bullied but focusing on your craft and focusing on your academics so you can go to a good college and have a good start in life.”
Not one size fits all
Kaleigh Frazier, communications director of School Choice Ohio, said she’s excited that the rally is “going to feature parents, students and school leaders from all different types of schools, which gets to the message of what we stand for at School Choice Ohio — ‘Education is not one size fits all.’
“And this program is going to highlight that and show what can happen when students are placed in a school that fits their needs and it allows them to thrive.”
Frazier says it is important for people who can’t attend the Jan. 31 rally to still research their children’s options.
“If a parent calls us from Toledo and says, ‘I’m interested in knowing my options,’ we can look at it from a scholarship perspective to see if the public school their child attends is not the right fit for them, is that public school or that child eligible for a scholarship from Ohio Council of Community Schools?
“There are several groups that have joined efforts at this event to serve as a resource for Ohio families. We would love to hear from families who can’t make it and talk to them about the options that are available to them.”
New to Ohio
Ann Riddle, executive director of Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund (NOSF), oversees a need-based scholarship foundation for K-8 private schools and home schooling. Riddle said her organization operates on the premise that “every parent should have a choice to do what’s best for their child as far as education.” This is NOSF’s 14th year of making scholarships available.
“For example, this year, the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship (JPSNS) is new to Ohio,” Riddle said. “That scholarship is giving parents who would have had only one option, other options. Now they can take their own little suitcase of funds and use it where they think it will be best for their child.
“I think many times parents — if they’re not necessarily in the loop — take for granted and assume the school at the corner is what’s best for their child because that’s where they went to school. That’s not always the case.”
Best for each child
The initial recipient of the JPSNS is Bridget Allen, the 6-year-old daughter of Amy Allen, an assistant professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Physical and Special Education at The University of Toledo’s Judith Herb College of Education, Health Science and Human Service.
“For me, I think the biggest reason [to attend the rally] is to fully understand what the school choice movement is,” Amy Allen said. “A lot of people have this misconception that it’s about good schools and bad schools. And that’s not really the case at all. It’s about different schools.
“I happen to live in an area where the public school is really good. But because of my child’s disability (Down syndrome), I liked the idea of having the opportunity to pick the school that I felt was best for her — not that the public school where she would go isn’t good. It’s just that there was a better place for her that would be able to meet her needs in a different way.
“So it’s not about what’s good and what’s bad. It’s about what is different and what is best for each individual child.”
The rally will also include student performances from an area glee club and band and a martial arts demonstration by Toledo Preparatory and Fitness Academy students.
“I would tell people, ‘If you can’t attend this event, start looking [at your options] now,” Campanella said. “If you’re looking for a new school for your child, start looking now and don’t wait until summer break because now is the time where the seats start filling up.”
Toledo is the eighth stop in a 14-city cross-country, train tour Campanella said is aimed at “galvanizing public support for enhanced educational options.”