FILE - School choice week

Dozens of parents, students, educators and supporters of charter schools attended a rally during the Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta this week.

The minority-led group wanted to bring attention to freedom of education and more school choice options.

“My children! My choice,” the crowd yelled.

Georgia has 110 charter schools with 86,549 students. More than 15,000 students are on waiting lists, according to the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Many of the local attendees said they want more charter schools in the state. They marched to the sounds of drums and trumpets from a local school band and held signs that echoed their agenda.“Parents' Voices Matter,” read one sign. 

The event was led by Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools. The organization has been going from state to state to show support for charter schools. Georgia Democratic State Rep. Valencia Stovall was among the group who attended the Freedom for Charter Schools at the Tyler Perry Studios.

“Quality free education should be provided to every child regardless of race, zip code, gender or financial status,” Stovall said. “Parents, who are the first teachers, should have the right to choose the best schools for their children, and charter schools are one of many options.”

Stovall serves on Georgia’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Economic Development & Tourism, Education committee. 

Strovall and the other attendees of the rally reflect the growing support for charter schools across the U.S.

A recent poll found that 89 percent of African-American Democratic voters nationwide support expanding school choice options.

Based on a sample of 1,721 likely voters in the 2020 election and an oversample of 1,227 likely Democratic voters, a Benenson Strategy Group conducted poll concluded that 81 percent of Democratic primary voters, regardless of race, also back school choice.

A poll released Wednesday by Education Reform Now Advocacy and Public Policy Polling found that 83 percent of African-American voters polled in Atlanta want more choices within the public school system, including public charter schools.

Charter schools in Georgia are located in areas where they are needed the most and offer an alternative to traditional schools, Strovall said. According to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Georgia charter school students, on average, scored higher than public school students in math and reading. African-American charter school students averaged 15 points higher than their district peers.

Strovall represents an area where about 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. She believes more access to educational choices could help improve the quality of life for some.

“Georgia and the entire country must do a better job with providing equitable funding and access to resources for charter schools,” Stovall said. “This is one of many options that will move the needle of poverty due to lack of education.”

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.