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On Elections, the Impact of New Hampshire, and the Importance of Education

by Jeanne Allen, Founder & President Emeritus

As the American people are digesting the results of the 2016 New Hampshire primary, and the news media are acting like the contest for president is over, a reminder of how Democracy in America works in is order.

Over 150 years ago, de Tocqueville called the four-year cycle of presidential elections a “revolution… in the name of the law,” writing:

“Long before the appointed day arrives, the election becomes the greatest, and one might say the only, affair occupying men’s minds… As the election draws near, intrigues grow more active and agitation is more lively and widespread. The citizens divide up into several camps… The whole nation gets into a feverish state…”

Wait, you mean that this isn’t the first year people wanted to send a message? The reality is that – thankfully, for the cause of education – the New Hampshire primary is just the beginning. Democracy matters, and for the media and the pundits to begin to declare winners and losers long before November is an assault on what we stand for: knowledge and the cause of opportunity for all Americans.

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Those of us engaged in education know that knowledge matters. In the spirit of knowledge (as well as improving the institutions that help many arrive at such knowledge, namely schools), here are a few American government basics for the voters (and a candidate or two?) of what this Democracy in America that de Tocqueville reported is all about:

1. Many people feel disenfranchised, lacking basic education, work, housing and support. “If ever freedom is lost in America,” de Tocqueville cautioned, “that will be due to the … majority driving minorities to desperation…” But our common sense, he predicted, would most

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Choice Internationally

Today, we celebrate education options internationally, and organizations like Bridge International Academies working to ensure every child has a chance to experience a quality education, regardless of their family’s income.

There are nearly 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day around the world, and Bridge International Academies recognizes that just like in the U.S., a huge gap exists between the education offered and the needs of the population in these communities.

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Bridge International Academies currently serves approximately 100,000 families in Africa, and is expanding soon to Asia. They offer access to low-cost, high-quality private schools, charging fees that are 70% lower than any other private schools in local communities. They work to provide both intellectual and social education for their students, along with preparing them for the 21st century.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done for Josephine Meweni Nyakundi, a Bridge International Academies student in Ongata Rongai in Kajiado Country, just outside of Nairobi, Africa. She dreams of being a neurosurgeon one day so that she can help the people in her community, as its sorely lacking in its supply of qualified doctors. Thanks to Bridge International Academies’ scholarship program, which works to support its top-performing pupils by helping them to complete secondary school in the U.S., she’s closer to realizing her dream.

“With determination, courage, support and assertiveness …you can achieve your dreams, no matter how big they are and despite your current circumstance,” says Josephine of her beloved school.

The scholarships are a testament to the support and dedication of Bridge Academies’ teachers, academy managers and an incredible achievement for the pupils. These children only want to better their lives and the lives of the people around them, and having the choice to attend a school that offers

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National Lawmakers Championing Choice

Today, we celebrate national lawmakers like Rep. Luke Messer and Sen. Tim Scott who understand the importance of creating education opportunities for children, especially those who need it most.

They are champions of DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which has proven powerful in improving education for low-income children in the nation’s capital for over a decade. The average annual income for families who receive opportunity scholarships is less than $22,000, and approximately 98 percent of DCOSP students live in zoned neighborhood schools designated as in need of improvement. More than 90 percent of DCOSP participants graduate from their schools of choice – a much higher rate than DC’s traditional public schools (by at least 30 percent!) – and 88 percent go on to enroll in two or four year higher education institutions.

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More than 16,000 families have applied to the program since its inception. Data reveals that parents are both highly satisfied with their school of choice as well as the progress their children are making.

However, despite efforts to reauthorize the program in October 2015, the DCOSP was left out of the FY 2016 Omnibus Bill, creating uncertainty for these students most in need of educational attainment and options.

Take action here to ask Congress to make sure the DCOSP continues to be a vital lifeline for students.

This is one of a series of posts highlighting numerous diverse opportunities from towns to nations for National School Choice Week 2016.

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