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Innovative Educational Options Show Power of School Choice

Innovative Educational Options Show Power of School Choice

The public school system works well for many students, but not all of them. Still, school choice programs are the subject of many misconceptions, thanks largely to the agenda of school choice opponents. While school choice programs can allow families to select a religious school for their children’s education, school choice is so much more than that.

School choice allows innovative educators to create an education specifically customized to their students’ needs. Many times, without these innovative educational options, students would be left behind in the public school system, without the chance to reach academic or social fulfillment. The stories of these schools, Build UP in Birmingham, Alabama, Fugees Academy Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, and Kuumba Preparatory School for the Arts in Washington D.C., help illustrate how school choice empowers children who need an educational option that meets their needs, where they are.

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Build UP

Build UP is the nation’s first and only early-college workforce development high school. It provides low-income youth with career-ready skills through paid apprenticeships with industry-aligned secondary and postsecondary academic coursework, leading them to become educated, credentialed, and empowered civic leaders, professionals, homeowners and landlords.

​Over the course of six years (following the 8th grade), students participate in a full-time program that takes the place of high school and college. They spend half of their time in an academic setting-gaining knowledge that is directly applicable to their paid apprenticeships in the real estate and construction sectors. Additionally, Build UP apprentices work together to rehab blighted, abandoned homes into like-new duplexes. During the course of their six-year program, students earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree in their chosen field.

Build UP's flagship site is located in Birmingham, Alabama's, Ensley neighborhood, and is expanding to Titusville, another high-need Birmingham community. Build UP ultimately plans for its model to scale nationally. To learn more about Build UP, click here.

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Fugees Academy

The Fugees Academy has a unique goal, to educate refugee children in an environment that understands their unique challenges. These children are left behind in a traditional public school system. They come to the United States after being forced to flee their home countries. Most have lived through traumatic experiences and have spent time in refugee camps, where education is neither a priority nor an option.

Lacking the support and guidance they need to succeed in traditional public schools, these refugee children drop out of school and never learn English, develop fundamental academic skills, or identify themselves as a valuable part of American society. Fugees Academy has campuses in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, Columbus, Ohio, and with expansion schools in planning, with plans of a nationwide expansion of their school model.

To learn more about Fugees Academy, click here.

Kuumba Preparatory School for the Arts

Kuumba Preparatory School of the Arts is an African-centered private school located in SE Washington D.C. Kuumba offers a year-round non-traditional program in an intimate setting for academics, culture, and the arts.

KPSA’s goal is to assist children in developing their character and artistic talent through holistic education. Our objective is to reach the whole child by helping them develop in the areas of theatre, music, dance, poetry, and song. We use the arts to stimulate learning.

To learn more about Kuumba, click here.

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Brief in Support of Maine School Choice Case

For many small Maine towns, it doesn’t make financial sense to run a high school. That's why Maine created a program that gives families money to pay tuition at either another public high school or a private school--except those that are religious. This restriction seriously limits the educational options that Maine families in rural communities can choose for their children. An IJ petition pending before the US Supreme Court asks the Court to find Maine's ban unconstitutional. Build UP and Kuumba Prep, though not religious, have signed onto a brief asking the Court to take up the case. They did so out of their beliefs and experience that different students learn differently and have different needs. More access to school choice programs will ensure children have access to an education that meets their needs.

To read their brief, click here. And to learn more about the case, click here.

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