From the desk of Darrell Allison:
Today I write to inform you that Wednesday, February 28, 2018 will be my last official day as the president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. I have held this position since July 5, 2005, and I’m so grateful to God for the extraordinary journey He set me on approximately 13 years ago. 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.
As I’ve often stated, I am proud that our organization played an integral role in securing multiple school choice victories in North Carolina: eliminating the cap on public charter schools in 2011; passing our first private school choice measure, Children with Disabilities Grant, that same year; passing the Opportunity Scholarship Program in 2013; and last year, becoming just the sixth state in the nation to pass an Education Savings Account for special needs children. I am proudest, however, of how we went about this important work. We built diverse coalitions and reached across the political aisle as much as possible to achieve these historic school choice milestones.
This work could not have been achieved without the strong leadership of many of our Republican allies, including Senate President Phil Berger, former Speaker Thom Tillis, Speaker Tim Moore, and former Representative Paul “Skip” Stam, as well as Senator Chad Barefoot and Senator Michael Lee. But the story doesn’t stop there. Many would imply that these measures were highly partisan but that is simply not the case. Consider that the public charter school bill garnered 97% of the entire General Assembly’s support and Governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat, signed it into law. Our first private school choice bill was supported unanimously by Republicans—but 64% of Democrats voted for it as well. Our subsequent private school choice measures also had Democratic sponsors. We made history again nearly one year ago, during Black History Month, by having eight African American Democrats stand shoulder to shoulder in support of all parental school choice options in the Tar Heel State.
Moreover, this work that we do has, always, been carried out in a way that though we know there are some who strongly disagrees with our position, we don’t have to respond and act disagreeably. In fact, we’ve found that when we strongly held our ground and strongly defended our position as agreeable as possible, we’ve been able to influence others who once strongly opposed our efforts to our side.
No one individual can or should take credit for the significant K-12 education reform work accomplished in North Carolina, especially not me. We’ve done it together—Black, White, Hispanic, Democrat, and Republican. How do I know that we got it right? I know when I look at the beautiful mosaic of families from all walks of life that are benefiting from this work we do in this great state. Currently, nearly 325,000 North Carolina children are educated outside the traditional public school system. That represents 325,000 individual and unique stories showcasing the myriad reasons why their families chose that path.
But as I’ve stated many times before, we must also support our traditional public schools that educate nearly 1.5 million students in North Carolina. Such a view is in my own self-interest as well, as my two beautiful daughters are educated in the public school system. Their mother and I believe that traditional public schools meet the needs of our children best at this time. And that, my friend, accentuates the real power of parental school choice.
Beginning March 1, I will serve as the National Director for State Teams and Political Strategy for the American Federation for Children (AFC). Before I close, I want to share with you how I came to the decision to accept this new role. About a month ago, I was presented with an opportunity to join this national organization, enabling me to build on the great work we’ve accomplished here in the Tar Heel State. After much discussion, prayer, and reflection, I decided that I would humbly take on this new opportunity. 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 in this ideal, but there’s still much more work still to do. 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.
I am also fortunate to take on this national work while still remaining a North Carolina resident, which is very important to me personally. Moreover, professionally, I’m grateful that I will be able to continue to serve as a UNC Board of Governor working collaboratively with other members and leaders to help find ways to make our great UNC System even greater for the next generation.
Although my time as head of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina is coming to an end, I cannot express enough how proud I am of the current leadership we have at the helm to continue this important work. Mr. Brian Jodice has agreed to step up as the interim president while our board conducts a national search for the new president. I am confident that I leave this organization in very strong and capable hands, and I’m excited about the future. Once “the little-engine-that-could,” Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina has grown into an organization with more than 80,000 supporters that impacts the lives of children in nearly all of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
I want to end by extending my heartfelt thanks to you. It has been an honor and a privilege to engage in this important work with you. The selfless efforts of this team and of so many others, like you, have benefited thousands of children and families across the sta
te of North Carolina. Truly, the real joy for me has been the opportunity to watch, witness, and celebrate in their happiness—the happiness that comes from seeing hopes and dreams, once deferred, ultimately fulfilled. That is the goal of the work that we do.