Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Thursday, April 27, 2017

MCPP Reports

Chavous tells Liberty Luncheon: Focus on Students; School Choice Helps Everyone

February 13, 2017

Chavous tells Liberty Luncheon: Focus on Students; School Choice Helps Everyone

Many portray school choice as a conservative or Republican position. But as Kevin Chavous made clear at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy's recent Liberty Luncheon during School Choice Week, school choice crosses ideologies and crosses partisan politics. School choice is an issue that concerns parents for their children and should concern us all for the future of our country.

Chavous served as an education advisor on President Barack Obama's first presidential campaign; he is the former chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and founder of Democrats for Education Reform.

On the other hand, he served as co-chairman of the American Federation for Children with Betsy Devos, U.S. Secretary of Education in the Trump Administration.

Chavous formerly served as a city councilman for Washington, D.C. where he helped shepherd in school choice reforms. Today, nearly half of all DC public school students attend a charter school.

He shared some troubling statistics that he says keeps him up at night.

  • Every 42 seconds a child drops out of school in America
  • 48% of America's public schools are either failing or under-performing
  • Of those children who are graduating not even 47% of them are college or career ready
  • We were once the top in education in the world; today we rank 35th in math, 18th in science and 15th in reading
  • 82% of our national prison population consists of high school dropouts

  • Watch Here

    Chavous says the solution isn't just about money,  "We spent, with Race to the Top, $7 billion on innovation to deal with the most underperforming schools in the country. And we did not move the needle one bit." He uses his experience leading the DC Council Education Committee as an example.

    Watch Here

    Chavous noted the DC schools had more money coming in than ever before, but more students were leaving. Meanwhile, charter schools were beginning to emerge as an alternative.

    "So I've got $300 million new dollars to educate 10,000 fewer kids and the outputs went down. I said this isn't about money. This is about more than money," Chavous said.  During that same period when DC outputs went down, when they got more money to educate fewer kids, the charter school test scores were going up. And the kids and the parents were thriving.

    Chavous said when schools fail, parents look for an alternative.

    Watch Here

    "Everyone has a 3 to 5 year plan to fix things and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," he said,  "But if you're a parent with a child, you can't wait for that 3 to 5 year plan to kick-in for your kid to get an education."

    The advancement of charter schools and education scholarships did not hurt the children left behind. Chavous said that those students who remained in traditional DC public schools also saw improvements.

    Watch Here

    Now, enrollment in DC traditional public schools and DC charter schools are both increasing after years of losing students. And the traditional and charter schools are working together to collaborate on best practices and to determine where each can best serve the students of DC.

    Chavous closed his speech with the example of the Lindsay School District in central California. The superintendent brought the community together to address a failing school district in which every year the valedictorian needed remedial classes. Through innovation and by changing the education norms; the students are learning and succeeding.

    Watch Here

    Chavous told the Liberty Luncheon audience we must shift our focus from schools to students and create a sense of urgency to return the American dream to the next generation of children.

    You can watch the full presentation by Kevin Chavous here.

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