Hard to believe it was 21 years ago this weekend that Forbes Magazine surprised me with a full-page article on the work we were doing at GEO Foundation in support of school choice. Those were fun times…and productive. I had more hair, too.
It was also 21 years ago that we stopped talking about school choice and started providing a choice–through charter schools. In August 2001, we opened our doors to our first students. In May this year, we will celebrate graduating more than 1,000 students from our schools, too. We’ve come a long way.
It’s fun to read the Forbes article and see how far the country has come since, too. Forbes reports in 2001, the nation had three states and two cities providing choice through vouchers. Today, according to EdChoice.org, there are 76 choice programs–tax credits, vouchers, ESAs in 32 states–serving 608,000 students. And, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there are 44 states operating with charter schools serving more than 3.4 million students.
School choice is definitely on the rise.
GEO Foundation originated in 1996 under the name of American Education Reform Foundation in my living room. In 1998, I started GEO and AERF is now the American Federation for Children. In 2001, GEO started our first charter school.
No matter what type of school, or choice you support, your support is appreciated and it is making a difference.
In our work, I’m encouraged by our own enrollment growth to 3,500 this year, student retention rates in our schools (80% or better year over year), our graduation rates (90% or better every year, beating the state average) and yes, the number of college credits, degrees and career certifications each of our high school graduates earn while in our high school (29 credits on average for our 2022 graduates). And, I’m encouraged by recent growth in “early colleges” across the country.
This all leads to more good news–alums graduating from college, getting jobs, buying their first cars, homes and starting a family of their own. In short, they are becoming productive members of society. And yes, I get to witness this every year. So much fun.
That’s what it’s like in the grassroots. That’s where policy becomes reality. Thanks for joining me on this journey. You matter.
Founder & President