It’s a powerful statement and one made by Walter Woodard at a School Choice Ohio event. It’s also a reminder that there are a lot of other children who we don’t know but need us to fight for them as well.
Many children struggle in schools that are ill equipped to serve their needs. Their “School Choice” options are only based upon the zip code in which they live. For children stuck in failing schools, this can have a negative effect on not only the quality of their education but their social and emotional well being as well.
In his testimony to the Ohio Senate Education Finance Subcommittee, Walter described his educational experience in an academically failing school as “complicated and unbearable.”
“I felt like no one truly understood what I was dealing with, and I had no one to go to with my problems. There were many times when I would come home from school with torn clothes, missing buttons and shoelaces and multiple bruises.”
His life changed in sixth grade when he qualified for the EdChoice Scholarship because he was in a failing school district. He then started school at Tree of Life Christian School. Walter credits this opportunity with changing his life and allowing him to succeed academically.
“There is no true way to describe how the EdChoice Scholarship has changed my life for the better, but what I can say is that without it I wouldn’t even be close to the young man that I have turned into.
I am not only testifying, but I’m also encouraging everyone to go into the schools and see exactly what it is we are fighting for and how this scholarship truly helps people. By doing this, it may encourage everyone to fight even harder for education for everyone.”
Ohio’s General Assembly recently passed legislation to fight for more kids like Walter. HB 483 will increase the funding of the Cleveland Scholarship Program (Vouchers) by 40%. And HB 487 allows students enrolled in a school serving any of the grades 9-12 with a poor graduation rate to become eligible for an EdChoice Scholarship. Previous language specified only buildings serving grades 10-12. This bill will allow more than 30 poor performing high schools to dodge eligibility.
While after hearing stories like Walter’s, it is sometimes hard to grasp how anyone can be opposed to allowing children to have educational opportunities. Sadly, special interest groups would like to see children be denied educational freedom. Teachers Unions were among those who filed suit in federal court in attempt to halt students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District from using vouchers to attend parochial schools.
11 of 12 studies on children who utilize vouchers found that all or some of those students achieve better educational outcomes. None of these studies found that students were worse off than those who remained in the public school.22 of 23 empirical studies on the impact school choice has on public education show the competition that choice provides actually improved public school performance.
“Despite decades of carping by skeptics, vouchers and school choice in any form are a win-win for children—whether they attend private school or remain in a public school affected by school choice,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “Competition works in all segments of our society, and it certainly helps children when they’re permitted to attend a school that fits their needs.”
While we are far from having complete educational freedom in Ohio, the movement in Ohio continues to make progress. And these victories add up. Each piece of new law that expands school choice is a victory for those children. Because there are a lot of children we haven’t met yet who need us to fight for them.