School choice is much more than a policy issue or a political football. For millions of students and their families, it’s a gateway to a better future. This was abundantly clear at the Amplify School Choice Conference, hosted by the Franklin Center earlier this month.
Over 50 bloggers and citizen journalists joined us in Denver to learn from the city’s success with school choice and to take those ideas back to their communities across the country.
“I have a long list of potential topics for investigation and reporting thanks to the information presented at the conference,” said Tom Balek, who blogs at Rockin’ on the Right Side. “The conference also helped to shape my advocacy.”
On day one of the conference, attendees heard from a variety of speakers including Pamela Benigno and Ross Izard of the Independence Institute and political figures like State Rep. Angela Williams and State Sen. Kevin Lundberg.
In the afternoon, they were treated to informative talks from Ben Scafidi, a leading school choice economist with EdChoice and Kennesaw State University, and Tim Keller, one of America’s foremost school choice litigators with the Institute for Justice.
“The selection of speakers was great,” said Jim Shaw of Third Base Politics in Ohio.
That evening at the Amplify School Choice Gala, Franklin Center’s president Nicole Neily addressed the audience, and EdChoice president Robert Enlow gave the keynote address.
The informative lectures and panel discussions gave everyone in attendance a unique opportunity to learn about many facets of education policy and how to apply that knowledge to their future reporting on the topic.
“The information was invaluable, a once in a lifetime experience,” explained D.C.-based blogger Mark Lerner. “I feel so fortunate to have been selected to attend.”
To end the conference, attendees visited two of the most innovative charter schools in the nation, STRIVE Prep and the Denver School of Science and Technology, to see school choice in action.
They heard from Chris Gibbons, founder and CEO of STRIVE Prep, and Bill Kurtz, founder and CEO of the Denver School of Science and Technology.
Both schools serve diverse communities throughout Denver, and they do so in close cooperation with the Denver school district, which has helped them find suitable facilities for their schools. This is often a problem for charter schools in other cities, but not in Denver.
STRIVE and DSST are both expanding quickly, but without lowering their high standards for students. In fact, the Denver School of Science and Technology expects to soon serve 25 percent of Denver students in grades 6-12 while maintaining its 100 percent college acceptance rate.
Our attendees were excited to return home and bring the school choice message to their local audiences with their newfound knowledge and strategies. As they continue writing about school choice, you can find their work at AmplifySchoolChoice.com.
“Thank you for your efforts in blitzing the nation with stories about the value of school choice,” California Political Review’s Stephen Frank said. “It takes a massive information drill to get the attention of the public: this conference gave bloggers and writers from all over the country the tools they needed.”
Josh Kaib, Franklin Center’s Outreach Manager, was the organizer and emcee of Amplify School Choice.