by K. Braun
This Washington Post article highlights National School Choice Week (NSCW; January 22-28), advocating for school choice.* While NSCW events were coordinated across the country, the main events took place in Washington, DC. Organizers selected the capital due to its obvious political significance and also because the District of Columbia currently has “the nation’s only federally funded voucher program.” The specific confluence of circumstances as a new Republican administration begins in 2017 makes the timing of NSCW particularly advantageous for school choice supporters.
NSCW demonstrates large-scale, concerted advocacy efforts undertaken by groups to gain or retain a place on congressional members’ legislative agendas. As the House and Senate both now have a Republican majority, school choice advocates recognize an opportunity to make significant headway on favorable legislation. Event participants can encourage legislators to act, while NSCW lobbyists can work with legislators and their staffs to propose draft bill language to enact the changes that NSCW favors.
NSCW further focused legislators’ attention by building on existing media coverage of the confirmation process of Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s education secretary nominee. Participants will likely ask their senators to vote in favor of DeVos’ confirmation, as they view her as a school choice champion. (Her past actions have involved lobbying efforts to expand voucher programs and charter schools throughout the country.) Opponents of school choice likely gather at another time within their own issue-specific organizations and lobby senators just as forcefully against school choice.
Article: Brown, Emma. “DeVos receives praise at ‘National School Choice Week’ rally.” Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2017.
* The NSCW organizers define school choice as including all education types: “traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.” However, the article treats school choice as educational options other than public school. The article does not mention the group’s organization, but its website emphasizes that it is an “independent effort” involving partners such as chambers of commerce and schools (notably absent is mention of teachers’ groups or unions).