Saturday, July 26, 2008

Students, families rally on issues of school choice

By: Jennifer Daddario Staff Reporter, JewishNews

“Education is a key component to bringing back Cleveland,” says Josh Mandel.
The crowd that gathered on a hot spring day had a clear message to shout: “Don’t take away my school.”Parents, children, teachers and administrators gathered May 24 at Citizens’ Academy near University Circle for a “Save Our Schools” rally in support of school choice in Ohio and a budget bill that will keep it available.
Earlier this year Gov. Ted Strickland in his budget proposed a moratorium on new charter schools. The Ohio House budget, which passed unanimously, rejected the moratorium and put the funding back into the budget. The Senate is currently hearing the bill and will consider the issue.The rally was in support of the school choice budget bill. Speakers, including state Rep. Josh Mandel (R- Lyndhurst) and House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Dayton), urged like-minded parents and children to contact their state senators.Four miles away from Citizens’ Academy, another rally was being held n this one in support of Strickland’s moratorium.
Amanda Breckner supported her charter school in Akron at the rally.
The Cleveland Municipal School District organized the rally, Chief of Staff Pamela Smith says. Chief Executive Officer Eugene Sanders “wanted to be certain we had a rally in support of the governor’s budget,” she explains. Sanders and Smith took part in the rally along with students, teachers and administrators.“We wanted to send a strong signal to our governor and state representatives that we support Strickland’s strong commitment to public education,” Smith added. The rally participants praised Strickland’s stance on charter schools because it “puts public education as a priority,” Smith says.Cleveland Municipal School District believes it can offer choice within the school district, Smith explains. “We have five new schools of choice opening in fall,” she says. “And 120 schools provide different opportunities for students.”Perry White, founder of Citizens’ Academy, hosted the “Save Our Schools” rally and told the crowd, “We are here because we all believe in school choice. We know in our hearts that students and parents have a right to make choices on where to go to school.”To the cheers of the crowd, White added, “Competition is the American way and keeps us on our toes. Students need the education that we provide, and they cannot take that away.”
The rally was the fourth of five rallies across Ohio sponsored by the group “My School, My Choice.”Although the House of Representatives passed the bill to keep charter schools open for their 100,000 students, Husted explained that “the work is not done.”He challenged parents and students to make the trip to Columbus to tell their stories to politicians who oppose charter schools and the voucher program. “Collectively you are very powerful,” he said. “If you don’t fight for yourselves, no one else will.”Mandel echoed Husted’s sentiments and explained that he believes in school choice because “education is a key component to bringing back the Cleveland area, Northeast Ohio, and Ohio as a state.”
He added that during his campaigning days, he heard from parents afraid to send their children to schools such as Glenville. “It rings loud that the decision should be in the hands of Mom and Dad, not a politician or bureaucrat,” he told the cheering crowd.A Citizens’ Academy student, a parent, and a charter school graduate also spoke.Timothy Roberts, whose son has been at Citizens’ Academy for five years, explained that he could see the change the charter school made for his son. “My child’s attitude toward the learning process has changed for the better, and there is no going back,” he insisted.Amanda Renish, a 2003 graduate from Life Skills Center of Elyria, a charter school, told the crowd that “school choice changed my life.” In danger of not graduating from her public high school, she decided to attend Life Skills Center and turned her education around. As a result of a school organization she formed, she was offered a full college scholarship and is now a student at Lorain Community College.
“If I did not have school choice,” she related, “I would not have graduated and not have gone to college.”

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