Why We Must Win This Battle For Choice

Bert L. Holt<BR>Director Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program

June 3, 1998

Good afternoon to the esteemed leadership of the clergy, Ohio General Assembly, Judiciary State Board of Education, HOPE Academies and the OHIO ROUNDTABLE.

I propose to you today throughout urban America poor, trapped, struggling parents/guardians without school choice are continually experiencing educational disenfranchisement. As a result, their education inequalities are perpetrating racial, economic, social and political unevenness. It is well documented that urban public education in this country perpetuates ignorance and maintains an unforgivable caste system based on race and class. The chains of mis-education, no education, and dysfunctional education must be cut asunder. It is the paramount reason why we must win this battle for choice.

Today, approximately 3,000 Cleveland parents/guardians have severed the shackles of no choice and demonstrated they know how to apply, select, enroll and be involved in their child’s schooling. The direct result of this is children are achieving academically and otherwise. In Cleveland, parent/guardians participating in the pilot plan have helped chart the future and establish the benchmarks for school choice. Our choice parents have a stake and an option in selecting programs that enhance the academic quality of their children’s education. They appreciate the greater “safety” to be found at a choice school. Of equal importance is parents/guardians want standards of moral values and social behavior instilled in their children.

The following is a letter I received from one of our scholarship/voucher parents:

“April 12, 1997

Dear Mrs. Holt:

I am writing you in response [to] your letter received Friday, April 11, 1997, regarding the support meeting of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program. I regret that I cannot attend the meeting (due to my work schedule), however, I would like you to know that I support this program 100%. If it had not been for this program my child would not have been given the opportunity to attend a private school and thus, a chance at a better education. As a parent, who is the sole supporter of her family, any opportunity given to better myself and/or my children is an opportunity that I will take.

Education for minority and low-income children is starting to become slim and none in terms of adequate schools, teachers, and safety. Even though my daughter is only in Kindergarten she is one of the few children who is at the top of her class. She has a joy in learning. She often tells [me] of the specialized attention her teacher (Miss Susan Frank) gives her. I’m not saying that I don’t support Cleveland Public Schools because I do. I voted for the levy to pass which meant a sizable increase in my property taxes, but the children are worth every penny. I encourage you and your staff and also those who serve on the Ohio House Education Committee to continue to strongly support this program.

I am a single mother with 1 daughter and twin sons. I sacrifice whatever I can for them. I’m sure any parent who loves their children would. If this letter, which currently serves as my single voice in supporting the freedom of education for our children, can make a difference, then use me in any way that is needed. Our children are killing one another, physically and mentally. Primarily because they have no direction, no place to go for guidance, stability, or just to even talk to someone that even cares. These children are the angels of our future and I support anyone and anything to make that future bigger, better, and brighter. I say YES!



Jacquelyn Hale”

Please understand that this battle for choice is a cause triumphant in intensity and overwhelming in importance. It is indeed evolving and producing revolutionary results. Cleveland parents are taking responsibility for themselves and their children.

This is a drinking gourd handed down to me by my grandmother. It is a reminder to me that freedom is never given, but must be wrought from the sweat of conviction and determination. In their flight from the tyranny of slavery, this gourd was a symbol of safety, choice. When hung over the well it signified that sanctuary was available. If turned face down it warned that the oppressors were at hand and there was no safety, no choice.

Ultimately, choice is the unique emancipating educational opportunity for the urban parent in Cleveland and across this nation.

In Psalms 89, Verse 16, it states “Let thy work be manifest to thy servants and thy glorious power to their children.” I say, woe be unto those who take legal action against parents who want the same opportunity they have, and that is to choose the school where they want their child to be educated.

Let us go forward with strength and conviction to attain excellence in education for all children through the empowerment of parental choice.