The School Choice Team
By Maureen Blum
Sometimes we only hear about the quarterback, but it is important to recognize the whole team that runs the plays–both offense and defense–down the field in this long season, securing school choice for more than 4,000 children in Cleveland.
Hooray! Let’s hear it for the school choice team!
The game clock has been ticking for 10 long years and we are now at 4th and goal.
It has always been about the kids–not the lawyer, not the litigation, not the teacher’s union, not even the people claiming to be for the American way. It is about parents’–not the government’s or a union’s–freedom to choose the best available education for their kids. There has been a team in place–often behind the scenes from national headlines–supporting and fighting for the kids and for school choice.
In the huddle, we begin with the phenomenal Cleveland City Councilwoman Fannie Lewis, whose determination began the drive for a better education for her inner-city constituency living in the Hough neighborhood and expanded to a citywide effort on behalf of Cleveland children. It was the vision and fighting spirit of Councilwoman Lewis and her constituents that sparked the Ohio legislature to pass the Cleveland scholarship program and prompt former Governor George Voinovich to sign it into law. With that as the opening kickoff, the usual suspects were forced to try to stop the cohesive offensive front line of parents and local activists who were reinforced by school choice organizations nationwide.
IJ client Chris Suma has been a key player on the team. She has served as motivator to the team at large by rallying and organizing parents, and by speaking at community forums and rallies. She has become a national advocate for school choice and has broadcast her personal cause through the media. She has traveled to Columbus, Cincinnati, Florida and Washington, D.C., promoting the program and supporting the lawsuit.
Rosa-Linda Demore-Brown, executive director for Cleveland Parents for School Choice (CPFSC), has initiated a community communication liaison project within the Hough neighborhood and is expanding the network to keep parents up-to-date as the litigation proceeds. Working out of the Hough Community Council building, Rosa-Linda has expanded the team neighborhood outreach by organizing parent meetings, orchestrating a back-to-school pep rally, and maintaining a CPFSC booth at local events. Working together, Chris and Rosa-Linda have developed a communications tree outside of the Hough neighborhood to include both West Side and East Side Cleveland families.
Most recently Citizens for Educational Freedom (CEF), the oldest parent school choice organization in the country, rejuvenated the Cleveland team. Based in St. Louis, CEF organized a rally in Cleveland in support of the parents on the eve of the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending cert announcement. It served as a great motivator to launch the final drive to the High Court. CEF’s rally sparked a union counter-rally that was poorly attended and only fueled the excitement and determination of program supporters. Sister Renee Oliver, serving as CEF’s national secretary, is based in Cleveland. She has joined the team full-time with Rosa-Linda and Chris, and works primarily as a liaison for the Cleveland diocesan outreach.
After playing both offense and defense for so long, all of these players are part of our special teams working together to advance choice in Cleveland and nationwide, offering relief and moral support. Each organization and activist has added value to this combined effort bringing their unique resources and expertise to the game.
The final plays are now being called as we march to the end zone: the U.S. Supreme Court.
Maureen Blum is IJ’s director of outreach programs.