On the latest episode of Giving Ventures, host and DonorsTrust Vice President Peter Lipsett talks with three education experts working to expand school choice and help those starting microschools. His guests include Don and Ashley Soifer, CEO and chief innovation officer, respectively, of the National Microschooling Center; Denisha Allen, founder of Black Minds Matter; and Jenny Clark, founder of Love Your School.
Micro-School Parents Stopped ‘Waiting for Government to Solve All Their Problems’
Parents are leaving traditional classrooms in their rear-view mirror after government-mandated school closures nationwide precipitated dramatic learning loss in children grades K-12. Where are parents turning to? They’re turning to communities like the Las Vegas-based National Microschooling Center.
“These are millions of American families that have stopped just being patient waiting for government to solve all their problems and took their control back of their children’s educational learning trajectories and decided to launch micro-schools on their own and what they’re doing is incredible,” says Don.
The National Microschooling Center is a nonprofit membership organization that supports and cultivates micro-school leaders throughout the country, including twice-monthly meetings, while also advancing policies that encourage and uplift the more than 1 million families micro-schooling their children.
“It’s a low annual fee of $100 and that gives every staff member at your microschool access to the membership platform and those funds—we never want to use the $100 fee as any of our operating cost … so, we earmark those funds to go back to the state where the member has signed up,” says Ashley.
Black Minds Matter Founder on Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship: ‘It Changed My Life’
Denisha Allen, founder of Black Minds Matter, understands first-hand the power of education freedom. She went from an at-risk environment with her biological family to living with her godmother and attending a new school with a better retention and matriculation rate.
“I’ve benefitted from a tax-credit scholarship in Florida from sixth to twelfth grade, and it changed my life. I went from making Ds and Fs—believing I would become a high-school dropout or a teen parent—to making As and Bs,” she says.
After a stint at the Department of Education under then-Secretary Betsy DeVos, Allen drafted an op-ed, titled “Black Minds Matter,” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Out of that op-ed, “Black Minds Matter,” the nonprofit, was born.
Black Minds Matter brings awareness to inequities in the education system, encourages education freedom—including the proliferation of microscools and universal-choice programs like vouchers, ESAs—and serves as a resource for African American education innovators.
Jenny Clark: Every Child Deserves Option of Empowerment Scholarship
Jenny Clark, founder of Love Your School, likewise understands the benefits of universal-choice programs and the life-changing impact education freedom has on a child’s future. In fact, it’s the reason she created “Love Your School,” a finalist for the $250,000 Gregor G. Peterson Prize.
“We started because I struggled myself to navigate the special-education-evaluation system in my state, and I felt like a really capable mom and I still really struggled, says Clark, a mother of five, two of whom battle dyslexia. “At the end of that process, I found out about Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program.”
Love Your School is an Arizona-based nonprofit that helps parents and guardians in the state navigate the education-freedom options available to them—whether that means exploring tuition tax-credit options, education savings accounts and area micro-schools fast growing in popularity nationwide, among other things.
Clark and her team hope to expand to three more states in the coming years because they’ve seen first-hand the need to serve as a navigator for parents endeavoring to connect their children with the right learning environment.
“We want to be in those other states that are either passing ESAs or that need that on-the-ground parent support to just educate them about ESAs and help them kind of see what they are missing in other states,” says Clark.
Open a Giving Account and Support Micro-Schools
Interested in supporting one of the above-mentioned microschools or a nonprofit that advocates for education savings accounts? Consider opening a giving account with DonorsTrust. This way, you can give to one of these groups in a strategic, secure, tax-advantaged way.