Last month the Powered by Education team had the pleasure of attending the American Federation for Children National Policy Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana. Over the course of the summit we heard powerful stories, testimonies and speakers supporting parents and their right to choose a school for their children.

The Summit started with a powerful speech from Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Secretary DeVos spoke to how it is a right for parents to choose the school their kids attend for grades K-12. She said, “Empowering parents and students is the ONLY way to give kids an equal opportunity to a quality education.” She went on to say, “If you here nothing else I say tonight please hear this, education should NOT be a partisan issue…making sure all of our kids get a great education, how could that be a partisan issue.” Like Secretary DeVos said, a child’s education should not a partisan issue, it should be a moral one. We should be unified in the thought that students should be the students of the school choice debate.

Governor Jeb Bush was the keynote speaker on the second day of the summit. He stated, “…First, let’s start with the good news: parental choice is expanding! It is the great civil right issue of our time, I think, to make sure people have access to quality education and what better institution to make that decision then their very own parents.” Parents know their children better than anyone else. Governor Bush said that in a country FULL of choices, it’s mindboggling that this concept is so crazy to everyone. Why wouldn’t parents know their children best, after all they are the one’s raising them? Gov. Bush went on to say, “The simple fact is, that when you create a market place of school choices, and you have informed parents, and they can choose between public, private, parochial, charter, virtual, blended, and homeschool education, the children do better. It is the BEST recipe of success.” When parents exercise their right to choose what method is best for their child, according to Gov. Bush, “…All schools get better.” We could not agree more!

Sajan George was the last keynote speaker at the National Policy Summit. He is the creator and founder of Matchbook Learning. Matchbook Learning specializes in tailoring a student’s education to their specific education needs. Sajan talked about how important it is to meet a child where they are, instead of fitting them into the cookie cutter system we already have. He used this example: if a student is in 9th grade, but is on a 10th grade math level they should be working on the 10th grade math. That way, when the school year is over and they have mastered that course, they will be moved on to the next level. This would be instead of the student being in a 9th grade math course and not being challenged, because teachers just need to get them to the next grade. The same goes for a 9th grade student who’s on a 6th grade math level. They should be working on mastering 6th, 7th and 8th grade math, before they even look at 9th grade math. This goes against having a kid in a school system where teachers file them through just because the student needs to get to the 10th grade. The biggest point Sajan made during his speech was a student’s education should be based on mastery of subjects. To emphasize this he said, “We have a design problem in education. Schools need to fit the needs of students. Not the other way around.”

We were honored to be in attendance at this National Policy Summit. We learned a lot about school choice, and are excited for what we will be doing to help parents know what their options are, as it becomes more prevalent. If you’d like to listen first hand to the speakers and panels at the National Policy Summit visit AFC’s YouTube Page. Next year’s National Policy Summit will be in our nations’ capital, Washington, D.C. at The Mayflower Hotel Wednesday, May 2nd and Thursday, May 3rd.

“It shouldn’t matter WHERE a student learns, so long as they are actually learning…Education should measure actual mastery of subject matter, not how much time you spend in a seat or where that seat is. Education should reward outcomes, not inputs.” – Secretary of Ed. Betsy DeVos