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National School Choice Week marked at...

National School Choice Week marked at Mississippi Capitol

By: Anne Summerhays - January 25, 2023

National School Choice Week rally at the Mississippi Capitol on January 25, 2023. Photo by Anne Summerhays, Magnolia Tribune.

Throughout Mississippi, there will be 287 events and activities planned by schools, home school organizations, non-profits, parent groups, and educators to highlight the week.

National School Choice Week (NSCW) is a time each year when parents across the country are encouraged to research K-12 education options available for their children. Those options could include traditional public, charter, magnet, online, private, or home schooling.

Events celebrating the week will be held nationwide. In Mississippi, some 287 educational events and activities are planned by schools, homeschool organizations, parent groups, and educators.

On Wednesday, Empower Mississippi, in partnership with National School Choice, held a rally on the steps of the State Capitol for the first time since 2020.

Students from Jackson Academy, First Presbyterian Day School, Ambition Prep Charter School, Midtown Charter School and Harper Learning Academy participated in the program.  Eighth grader Kenny Street from Midtown Public Charter School spoke to those in attendance about his school and school leaders Stephanie Harper, founder of Harper Learning Academy, and DeArchie Scott, founder of Ambition Prep, shared their thoughts on the value of school choice in Mississippi.

Grant Callen, Founder and CEO of Empower Mississippi, said today’s event is about making sure every student has the freedom and the financial resources to be in a school that prepares them for life.

“The sad reality is the vast majority of Mississippi families do not have this option,” Callen said.

He explained that many years ago, political leaders decided to organize Mississippi’s school system around neighborhoods, assigning children to a school strictly based on where they live.

“You know, perhaps this would be understandable if all children were basically the same, all schools were mostly the same, and our communities were the same,” Callen said. “If it was simply a matter of delivering identical education to identical students in identical communities across the state, that might’ve made sense but thank God that is not the reality.”

Callen said the diversity and beauty of the differences of every Mississippian is what makes this state wonderful.

“We’re not all the same,” Callen continued. “So, it would make sense that we would have an education system that allows us to match students with a school that works for them.”

The Empower CEO said school choice is sweeping the nation and he knows it is coming to Mississippi too.

“Look around you kids,” Callen told the crowd. “You are the future of this state. Should we not make sure every Mississippi kid has the same opportunity to be prepared for life? So, to the policy makers that are here and inside this building I will say this: Thank you so much for what you have done, but we must do more. To every student, and parent, and teacher who showed up today: Thank you so much. Your voice has power because you speak from the heart. When you stand up for children and grandchildren, these lawmakers take notice and change is coming.”

Andrew Campanella, CEO of the National School Choice Awareness Foundation, said the reason NSCW is held every January is because this is the time of year where parents need to start looking at different schools if they want to make a change in advance of the next school year.

Campanella said the Foundation works with over 23,000 schools of all types across the U.S. He shared that throughout Mississippi, 99,294 students are enrolled in schools that participate in NSCW in Mississippi. Of all the schools in the state, 17.5% of all regular K-12 schools, including public and private schools, are participating in events this week.

“The biggest thing that I wish more would know is that this is really about letting families know about the options that are available to their kids and we encourage parents to consider the right learning environments for their children regardless of what type of option they end up choosing,” Campanella said.

He explained that one of the biggest misconceptions about school choice is that it is somehow anti-public school or it is somehow pitting one school against another.

“In our view, it’s pro-everything and anti-nothing because every community can and should have a variety of different education options to meet the unique needs, challenges, and interests of students,” Campanella said. “Just like there are different parks that people will go to for walking, or hiking, or running, or biking, there needs to be a variety of different schools that families can choose from for their kids because all kids are different and they all learn differently.”

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves marked the week with a proclamation.

“Every student deserves a quality education regardless of their zip code,” Reeves wrote on Facebook. “Let’s continue fighting to empower students and families to achieve the best education experience possible!”

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth.