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Group seeks school options

Numerous county analysis reports have named Dallas County as one of the poorest counties in the state, with low academic achievement scores and high unemployment, teenage pregnancy and high school dropout rates. One educational advocacy group plans to change dismal facts through a new, innovative program.

The Black Alliance for Educational Options, or Baeo, is a Washington-based cooperative that seeks to educate and inform the public about parent choice initiatives concerning various educational opportunities and empower black parents to exercise choice in determining options for their child’s education.

Supporting such educational options as charter schools, homeschooling, innovation in traditional public schools, privately financed scholarships and vouchers, public-private partnerships, afterschool programs and virtual online learning, for the past decade baeo has helped public schools across the country develop a charter law in education, resulting in increased scholastic achievement.

Alabama Baeo outreach coordinator Marilyn Taylor said the mission of baeo is to increase access to high quality educational options for low-income and working class black children.

“We act as a voice, a representation to families that may not know where to go to get information about charter schools and education reform,” Taylor said. “A lot of times people have questions and may not know answers; this is a black organization founded by blacks to strengthen low-income children. We’re for all children when it comes to education.”

With Alabama ranking 48th in the nation concerning student achievement and a 61.4 percent high school graduation rate according to statistics, baeo senior advisor for strategic alliances Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. said the facts are a national issue, not just an Alabama one, and parents should have an option to choose.

“I see education as a civil rights issue,” Chavis said. “The resolution of how to get a better education for black children has to be done state by state because state law determines the public school system. That’s why we’re starting first at the Alabama Legislature, to making sure a good bill is introduced and making sure a good bill is passed.

“When it comes to charter schools we want to make sure Alabama steps forward and not backwards … it is about having equal access to the best quality education,” Chavis said. “Everybody doesn’t end up going to a charter school … we want to make sure our parents and our children have the best option in our public school system.”

Taylor and Chavis gave a presentation about baeo on Thursday inside the Hank Sanders Technology Center. More forums, Chavis said, are planned for the future.

For more information or to become a member, visit www.baeo.org.
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