Education

NC school choice leader joins Betsy DeVos-founded group that promotes vouchers

Darrell Allison, center, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina greets families and supporters in this 2015 file photo as they celebrate the news that the N.C. Supreme Court has declared school voucher programs to be constitutional. Allison is leaving the group Feb. 28, 2018 to take a leadership position with the American Federation For Children.
Darrell Allison, center, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina greets families and supporters in this 2015 file photo as they celebrate the news that the N.C. Supreme Court has declared school voucher programs to be constitutional. Allison is leaving the group Feb. 28, 2018 to take a leadership position with the American Federation For Children. cseward@newsobserver.com

One of the leaders in North Carolina’s school choice movement is changing jobs to take a leadership position in a national school choice advocacy group.

Darrell Allison, president of Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina, is leaving the organization on Feb. 28 to become national director for state teams and political strategy at the American Federation For Children. AFC, a group once led by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, works around the country to expand school choice programs such as private school vouchers, charter schools and virtual schools.

In a statement released Thursday, Allison said he’s taking the new job “to potentially build on the great work we’ve accomplished here in the Tar Heel State and duplicate efforts in other states.”

“AFC has been leading the way nationally to make parental school choice a reality in many states through policy and political support of candidates who stand firm on the ideals of educational choice, but there’s still much more work still to do,” Allison said in the statement. “While almost 500,000 children in the U.S. now attend private school by way of a state-sponsored scholarship, thousands more are in desperate need of better educational options.”

Allison has led Parents For Educational Freedom since the group was formed in 2005 to advocate for increased school choice options. The group achieved more success when Republicans took control of the state legislature after the 2010 elections.

Lawmakers eliminated the state’s cap on the number of charter schools, resulting in enrollment more than doubling to reach 100,000 students this school year. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are exempt from some of the rules that traditional public schools must follow.

Legislators also created three new programs allowing taxpayer funds to be used to help pay for students to attend private schools.

“When I joined PEFNC as president on July 5, 2005, you could have knocked me over with a feather had you told me then that North Carolina would be where it is today – one of the leading states in the nation in K-12 education reform,” Allison said in the statement. “During the past 13 plus years, our diverse school-choice coalition – Black, White, Hispanic, Democrat, and Republican – has achieved numerous victories for parental school choice. I am honored and humbled that, since 2011, you’d be hard pressed to find another state that has implemented more new education reform programs than North Carolina.”

Brian Jodice, the group’s executive vice president, will serve as interim president until a successor to Allison is named.

Allison will still live in North Carolina, where he’ll remain a member of the UNC Board of Governors.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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