From the Daily Caller
Demand for school choice has never been higher, as new, high-quality opportunities are being offered in the area most traditional public schools have struggled with most: career and technical education for high school students.
Vouchers, scholarship tax credits and Education Savings Accounts served more than 300,000 children last school year and the numbers are on the rise. Thirty-nine private school choice programs have been enacted nationwide and legislators passed private school choice legislation in 16 states in 2013.
Parents are voicing and voting for increased access to private education through choice programs, for good reason.
According to data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), private school students are twice as likely to receive a bachelor’s degree as public school students; in turn, private school students are more likely to land higher-paying jobs within more successful professions.
The Cristo Rey Network of Catholic schools exemplifies a successful private model. Network schools combine a college-preparatory curriculum with a financially innovative and empowering work study model, providing students with real-world professional experience and connections to employers. In 2014, 100 percent of students who graduated were accepted into college, and 90 percent enrolled.
The schools, exclusively serving underprivileged students, defy statistics linking minorities and students in poverty to low graduation rates, while enhancing local communities, increasing economic activity, neighborhood stability and growth, employment and city tax bases.
A smart business model (40-60 percent of the schools operating budgets are covered by its work study program), Cristo Rey schools still depend on additional revenue to offer students an average $1,000 tuition; an amount far below market rates and below the average student cost of $13,000.
Choice programs bolster opportunities for students and school success.
“Financial modeling shows that while our traditional Cristo Rey funding approach works, it works more effectively with vouchers and tax credits,” said Brenda Morris, director of advancement for the Network.
In the 2012-2013 school year, students at five Cristo Rey schools received tuition assistance from choice programs; in 2013-2014 schools in seven cities benefitted, providing thousands of students with the extra assistance they needed to attend a Cristo Rey school.
In many big cities, the dropout rate exceeds 50 percent; cities that support education options like Cristo Rey are working to ensure those rates decrease.
Funding the freedom to choose benefits the entire education landscape, fostering options that can innovate and experiment outside the confines of public school rules and regulations. Cristo Rey is one such model. Choice programs in Ohio, Indiana and Arizona have translated dollars into real and effective education experiences for students and account for the highest number of Cristo Rey Network scholarships.
A new school opened this fall in the Silicon Valley and is breaking the mold, combining the Network’s elements of success, a Catholic base, college-preparatory curriculum and work-study program, with an innovative blended learning model. Over the course of the summer, incoming students were required to complete several weeks of math and professional training. Utilizing a highly successful virtual interface, students jumped grade levels in math, proving the potential for better personalized learning in a subject Americans currently come up short in.
School choice markets are top priority for Cristo Rey’s growth; schools are currently in development in Baton Rouge, Tampa and Phoenix, a notable location as Arizona leads the country in financial support for school choice. Additional markets of interest include Charlotte, Richmond and Oklahoma City.
New schools, Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit opened this fall and will receive tax credits and Cristo Rey Jesuit Milwaukee will open in fall 2015 with access to vouchers.
Federal funding supports choice, but is limited. State leaders determine the availability and breadth of school choice programs, limiting or expanding the accessibility of education alternatives for parents who aren’t satisfied with their traditional public school.
This legislative session, voters should not forget to recognize candidates’ education platforms, which will affect the next generation of scholars and professionals.
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