School choice advocates gathered on Capitol Hill Tuesday to rally for educational options and celebrate three members of Congress that PublicSchoolOptions.org has named as Champions of School Choice.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.; Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind.; and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., were all awarded small trophies and recognized as Champions of School Choice.
"When you give parents options, when you give them a choice, kids have a better chance," Scott said. "No one loves their child like their parents, and the results are amazing." Scott praised the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarships program. Scott said the program has a graduation rate almost twice as high as the District's traditional public schools and spends only 40 percent per student as much as traditional public schools do.
Messer talked about expanding school choice opportunities for low-income families. "The truth is, in America, you already have school choice, if you can afford it," Messer said, referring to the ability of wealthy families to afford private school or live in an area with high-quality public schools. "The only real question is, as a country, what are we going to do for everybody else?"
Rokita was unable to attend the event. "I set out four years ago to fight for a commonsense education bill that took Washington out of the way and restored transparency, choice, and flexibility back to our schools," Rokita said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. "Every student deserves an effective teacher, an engaging classroom, and a quality education. [The Student Success Act] is a step in the right direction and I thank all of the parents and supporters that came to D.C. today to ensure their voices are heard."
PublicSchoolOptions.org President Tillie Elvrum spoke highly of Scott, Messer and Rokita. "They recognize that parents need options and they trust parents," Elvrum told the Examiner. "They know that nobody knows a child and what their academic needs are better than a parent." Elvrum said the three members of Congress listened to what the group had to say and responded by introducing legislation that supports schools.
Cherie Nielsen, a mother of three from Virginia, told the Examiner that she attended the rally to support more school choice options. Nielsen initially homeschooled her children, but then opted for a virtual school. She says Virginia doesn't have enough school choice options, so her kids were forced to attend public schools starting in the eighth grade.
Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, and Kevin Chavous, an active education reformer and attorney, also spoke at the event. "Money, zip codes and political will should no longer dictate the fundamental right, as parents, to choose what is best for our children," Kerwin said. "There are 52 million children still trapped in schools without a choice."
Chavous focused on the effect that parents were having in the school choice movement. "Parents are driving this revolution in education," Chavous said. "And you know why they're driving it? Because parents are sick and tired … of being sick and tired."
PublicSchoolOptions.org is a parent group with 60,000 advocates across the country.
Roughly 75 people attended the rally. Many proudly displayed "I Trust Parents" signs and stickers.
This article was updated on July 22 with a statement from Rokita.