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Witness Credits School Choice with Ending Her Family’s Cycle of Poverty

            
          Denisha Merriweather, graduate student at the University of South Florida, testifies before members of the
House Committee on Education and the Workforce
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing on the role school choice plays in empowering parents and expanding educational opportunity for children. Members learned how states and communities are increasing the quality and quantity of innovative school options, and discussed how federal policies can support these efforts.

“This committee’s work to improve K-12 education has always been guided by the belief that every child – regardless of where they come from or how much money their parents make – should receive an excellent education,” said Chairman Kline. “By empowering parents to do what’s best for their child, school choice has been an instrumental part of that effort.”

Denisha Merriweather – a current graduate student at the University of South Florida and a recipient of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship – shared the personal opportunities she has enjoyed thanks to school choice in her home state. Because of Florida’s school choice options, her godmother was able to enroll Dinesha in a school that could deliver a quality education.

“The cycle of poverty is ending in my family, thanks to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship,” said Merriweather, who was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, and will be the first to receive a Master’s degree. “I have seen the power of a tailored education demonstrated in my own life, and I’d love to see it carried through future generations,” she continued.

Other witnesses reaffirmed how school choice advances opportunities for all students regardless of background or circumstances. As American Enterprise Institute resident fellow and former state superintendent Gerard Robinson said, “One of the great accomplishments of school choice is that it has been able to serve students from all races and backgrounds that might not otherwise have the ability to choose their school.”

After noting examples in the recently-enacted Every Student Succeeds Act that expand school choice, Chairman Kline added, “Education leaders in state capitals and local school districts are the real reason why the promise of school choice has touched the lives of so many parents and children.” That sentiment was reflected in the testimonies of other witnesses.

Rob Bryan, a North Carolina state representative and former teacher, described how the Opportunity Scholarship program he helped establish through the state legislature “now provides roughly 6,000 low-income students (and families) a scholarship to go to the school of their choice.” Emphasizing the law’s positive impact on North Carolina, he explained how the Opportunity Scholarship not only improves outcomes for students, but also saves money for the state and its school districts. “I think this is good policy for North Carolina and the rest of the country,” said Rep. Bryan.

When asked how Congress can support the expansion of these educational opportunities, Robinson made several recommendations, including continuing to promote high-quality charter schools and reforms in the Every Student Succeeds Act that would encourage high-performing schools to enroll harder-to-serve students.

“In all its forms, school choice has provided real hope to moms, dads, and children across the country,” said Chairman Kline. “I encourage my colleagues to ask how we can support these efforts and help more children receive the education they deserve.”

To learn more about this hearing, visit edworkforce.house.gov.

 

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