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“This School Afforded Me the Opportunity to Be a ‘D’ Passing Student”

• J. Alex Kelly

“This school afforded me the opportunity to be a ‘D’ passing student.”

De’Antay Curry from Birmingham went on to say “I stayed in this school for two years, and I was told that I was doing better than most.” Thankfully, De’Antay was not proud of the results, despite his teachers suggesting he should be, and he now attends a high school that better meets his needs.

De’Antay is a recipient of a scholarship from the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, a scholarship financing organization for the state’s tax credit scholarship program, the Alabama Accountability Act. When he spoke last week at a Kelly1National School Choice Week rally on the lawn of Alabama’s capitol in Montgomery, De’Antay told a crowd of about 3,000 onlookers that he just wants the opportunity to be college and career ready, an opportunity to be prepared for life’s challenges and expectations, and an opportunity to be a good husband and father. That sounds like a reasonable request.

Unfortunately, not every classroom and not every school has the expectations for life that De’Antay does, and not every classroom can meet the needs of every child in that classroom. De’Antay told the 2,200 students in the crowd what many of them already knew, “Many students are being robbed of their opportunities to be great.” Fortunately, as Dr. Howard Fuller (@HowardLFuller) noted, these students “are leading the way for change in Alabama.”

In 2013, Alabama decided to “Put Kids First.” The State Legislature adopted the Alabama Accountability Act, creating two different tax credit programs that allow low-income students from failing schools to attend the public or private school of their choice. At the rally, Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (@SenatorDelMarsh) told the audience that “thanks to the Alabama Accountability Act more than 4,000 young people have an opportunity they never had before.”

Marsh and House Speaker Mike Hubbard (@SpeakerHubbard) also told the crowd that 2015 will be the year Alabama finally enacts a charter school law. Today, Alabama is one of eight states without a charter law. Hubbard sent a strong signal to all Alabama policymakers when he stated that his “number one priority is to ensure the education of Alabama’s children.”

Kelly2While walking amongst the tail end of this march for the “Freedom and Dignity” of all students in Alabama, we came upon a monument to the history of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March, which ended in front of the Alabama state capitol nearly 50 years ago.

At the rally, Mr. Ibrahim Lee, a public school principal of Bellingrath Middle in Montgomery, proclaimed that “We are at a pinnacle point in our nation’s history in the efforts to prioritize our supports towards the mission of educating our students.” The evidence was also clear that we were at a pinnacle place in the history to come for school choice issues in the United States.

Lee also said, “…I believe that we are too powerful a nation, too bright a people, and too blessed a generation to provide our students anything less than the best.” The pragmatic side of me says, I suppose we will see how true that is as we still await a decision from the Alabama Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Alabama Accountability Act.

Yet, what the plain eye could see is that at the nation’s largest National School Choice Week rally those 2,200 students stood in defiance of those policies and people who would rob them of opportunity. They stood for the future of “freedom and dignity” for all Alabama students. Clearly, the hearts, minds and futures of Alabama’s children will speak louder and longer than court decisions.

The day’s moderator and school choice champion, Kevin Chavous (@kevinpchavous), stressed that “This country can’t sustain itself knowing that every kid is not getting a quality education.” These 2,200 children were proof that Alabama’s families demand more than the opportunity for a “D.” They demand the opportunity to succeed.

About the author

J. Alex Kelly