16 November 2013

Wrap Up: the Milwaukee School Choice Conference

To be frank, I didn't anticipate much coming from attending the Western Conservative Summit this summer.  Of course, there were a few interesting speakers and I got to see many friends (which, to be fair, I get to do often anyways), but those events don't do much besides give fleeting enjoyment.  I did, however, meet a gal from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, and we got to chatting about school board races.  Not long after that, I got an email from another gal at the Franklin Center.  After chatting back and forth for a bit, she asked if I would be interested in attending a conference on school choice in Milwaukee--and, bonus, it turns out my husband can come with as an attendee as well.  It's always fascinating to me how seemingly insignificant events line up perfectly for something much, much bigger.

Matt has spent a lot of time writing about school choice in Colorado from the perspective of the courts.  I spent some time as the Executive Director of the Colorado HEARTH Fund in 2007 and 2008, promoting all school choice (particularly homeschooling).  School choice has always been a subject very near and dear to this homeschooled girls' heart.

The conference wrapped up last Saturday, and I'm still processing all the things I learned.  First, I really must say that the caliber of folks in attendance was top-notch (I particularly enjoyed meeting Alice and Maggie) and it was very cool to be a part of that group.

Of particular note for me were the tours of Hope Christian School and Bruce-Guadalupe Community School--the former catering to a largely African-American community, and the later a largely Hispanic community.  I was so impressed when talking to the coach at Hope who had some great insight into the incredible work they are doing in one of the poorest cities in the nation with an astronomically high incarceration rate for young African American males (1 in 8).  I was also very intrigued to discover that Bruce-Guadalupe is a monolingual school--teaching is in English so that students who come in only speaking Spanish leave bilingual, and to learn that it often helps the parents who only speak Spanish to learn English as well.  There is some truly amazing work going on in those two schools, where kids actually come first.  What a concept!  

My favorite session was a tie between Derrell Bradford's lunch talk (which you can watch here, filmed at another event) and Bob Bowden and Kyle Olson's panel discussion on using emotion and investigative journalism to advance school choice.

Even better than the tours and the sessions was dinner on Saturday night with a few fellow conference attendees and Bob Bowdon.  If you don't know who Bob Bowdon is, take a minute to get familiar and read the link above.  The Onion afficianados may find him familiar as well.  Ah, recognize him now?  Yes.  He is, of most note, the director of The Cartel--which is a must see if you haven't yet.  Clearly, it was a fantastic, fun dinner with the best bacon I've ever eaten.

The networking is always the best part of these events.  Hearing about what is going on in other states and spreading the word about the great results we had on 5 November in Colorado's election made it so worthwhile.  

In case you missed it, reform candidates had overwhelming success in Colorado, sweeping in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Denver County and taking many spots in unlikely places like Adams County.  The Thompson Valley School Board, predominantly in Larimer County, increased their reform member numbers--although one seat is still in limbo (and looks good for the reformers).

Another perk of attending was anticipating the publication of More than Scores from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.  What a phenomenal read.  

I'm looking forward to National School Choice Week from 26 January-1 February (yes, I have my yellow scarf!).  In the mean time, watch for more school choice posts as I process everything I learned.  Since we're getting back into serious campaign season (not that this last election wasn't serious), look for more posts on all things campaign-related, including an updated Caucus Training page and the 2014 edition of the RIGHT Republicans Initiative come Assembly and Primary time.  This blog can't be all snark and commentary on corruption in the Colorado GOP, right?

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