If you’re looking for evergreen stories to cover for National School Choice Week, look no further – Watchdog.org education reporter Mary Tillotson has put together a great guide to writing a killer school choice story.
**Before you begin, make sure to check out the Friedman Foundation’s school choice map to find out what the options are in your state.
Here are six great story ideas to get you started:
1) Profile students or families who’ve benefited from school choice. (example)
To find a student, call your state’s SPN group or school choice group. American Federation for Children is not very responsive at the national level, but their state affiliates are great (Louisiana, Tennessee, and some others, but not every state). School Choice Wisconsin, School Choice Indiana, School Choice Ohio are good organizations. The Friedman Foundation can also connect you.
2) Profile a school that’s awesome and survives/works only because of choice. (example)
There are lots of high performing urban charter schools, and some private schools that take kids on scholarship. We’re talking about taking kids with the most disadvantages (poverty, difficult family situations, etc.) and getting them into college. Same deal, call your local SPN or school choice organization, or call your local charter school association. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is also a good place to find schools — they’re pretty responsive.
3) Profile a teacher who has been bullied by the union (example) or who has benefited from school choice.
When there are more places to work, teachers have better negotiating power and can work in better environments. I thought the story I linked here was pretty boring, but it got tons of hits and pickups. For sources, contact the Association of American Educators (Alix Freeze is the contact; she’s pretty responsive). If you’re in the right state, call Larry Sand at the California Teachers Empowerment Network or the Mackinac (Michigan) Center, or the Nevada SPN group. They’ve all done a lot in this department. Your Right to Work groups would probably be good, too.
4) Recap the school choice situation in your state.
Usually, there’s a school choice law passed (which is a process, as you know from all the legislation you’ve followed), then the teachers union (and sometimes ACLU or Americans United for Separation of Church and State) sues to try to get it overturned, and the Institute for Justice intervenes on behalf of parents, and then it bounces through the courts until it gets to the state supreme court. Tennessee, Douglas County Colorado, and Florida would be especially great places for this, though I think Will Patrick has already been killing it in Florida.
5) Let people know how to get involved in school choice.
I did a story a while back about why some programs are bursting at the seams and other programs don’t have as many participants. Turns out school choice programs are extremely popular if parents know about them, but sometimes the establishment doesn’t want people to know about them. So write up a thing that’s “if you want to get a voucher in Indiana, here’s who’s eligible, here’s who to call, etc.” Call the sources I listed in #1 and #2.
6) Break down the cost.
School choice opponents regularly freak out about school choice programs allegedly draining public schools of money. If you want to do this story, shoot me an email and I’ll tell you exactly why this is stupid and where you can look to prove it. School choice programs always (if not, very very close to always) save the state money. Florida is a great example because the program is booming and there’s been quite a bit of research done on it, but this could be a good story anywhere.
7) How does school choice affect things like racial integration, poor kids’ academic performance, arrest records, jail time, etc?
Answer: it’s very good. Check out the work of Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas.