Duncan Kirkwood graduated from Alabama State University with a degree Public Relations 2008. There, he served as Student Body President. Duncan is an proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity Inc. and is currently the senior human resources officer for Army National Guard Unit the 145 HHD Chemical Battalion 2010.
Duncan worked as Chief of Staff for Montgomery Alabama City Council 2009-2012 where he worked to write laws for the city, planned community events and spoke and presented on behalf of the city pro-temp on a regular basis. This position is where he began his life of community organizing.
In addition, Duncan organized education community conversations with Montgomery Education Foundations “Believe It” Campaign 2010. He worked diligently to make sure that the community was involved in the process of advocating to the county school board about changes that needed to be made.
His list of leadership roles does not end there. Duncan served as a Field coordinator for Students First 2013-2014 in Alabama. There, he built strong relationships with state legislators and parents from all over the state. He also organized trips to the capitol to give parents a voice in advocating for education reform in Alabama.
He spoke in 35 cities to over 40,000 supporters for the American Israel Public Affairs committee.
And he led a volunteer trip of 8 Christians to Israel 2008
We had a great conversation with this native of Buffalo, New York who is now the Executive Director for the Alabama Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). Here’s how it went:
What is BAEO?
The mission of the Black Alliance for Educational Options is to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies that empower low-income and working-class Black families.
Alabama is one of the last ranking states in education. In what ways can BAEO change that?
BAEO is working to ensure the success of the scholarship program created by the Alabama Accountability Act and to pass a charter school in during the next legislative session. By passing parent choice policies we will allow low income and working class families to have access to high quality education, as opposed to being trapped in schools that are not serving their children. There is power in choice, and people who have the means make choices for their children all the time, they can pay for private, they can move to a better public school system, or home school. The people without those means are trapped in whatever school they are zoned for, and the failing schools across the state are disproportionately located in black communities.
The Alabama Accountability Act was passed in 2013. What does it detail?
The AAA created a scholarship program that allowed Scholarship Granting Organizations to raise up to 25 million dollars to give to low income families. The only requirement to receive the scholarship is to meet the income guidelines. The income limit for the Alabama Opportunities Scholarship Fund run parallel to the free and reduced lunch limits. I.e. If someone meets the income limit to qualify for free and reduced lunch, than they also meet the requirements for the scholarship. The awards are $5000 for a k-5 student, $6500 from middle school student, and $8000 for a high school student. Also, for those who make more than the state guidelines they can receive a tax credit for up to $3500 if they take their child out of a failing public school and place them into a private school.
You work with business leaders in the community? Why is that important?
It is important that we keep the business community up to date on the education reform issues here in our state. They are the leaders in our communities and they often serve low income and working class families, so having the information about the scholarship program is vital. Furthermore, they will be an important part of the coalition of community members to help pass a charter law in Alabama.
How many scholarships have been awarded this year?
Over 10,000 applications have been submitted to the Alabama Opportunities Scholarship Fund (AOSF), and so far over 2500 have been awarded. AOSF and BAEO project that somewhere between 3000 and 4000 scholarships will be awarded for this academic school year.
How can the community get involved?
They can 1. Contact BAEO and join our fight to pass a charter school law that will allow more options for low income and working class families. 2. Spread the word about the scholarship program (all someone has to do to qualify is be low income). 3. Visit our website for more information, follow us on twitter @BAMABAEO or like us on FB at Alabama BAEO, or just call me for more info 334-440-0390.