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What If You Threw a Convention Event and No One Came?

That's what happened Sunday afternoon in St. Paul, to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which had planned a high-tech civics forum to give local students and others an opportunity to discuss education redesign, among other election-related issues.

The event, which was to have been held on the eve of the Republican National Convention at the Higher Ground Academy Charter School, a preK-12 school in St. Paul, was canceled after only a handful of people showed up.

Brooks Garber, the federal policy director for the National Alliance, said he thought the poor attendance was due at least in part to the Minnesota State Fair, which wraps up tomorrow and was held just a few miles away from the school. He said that a similar event held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention in Denver last week drew somewhere between 30 and 60 people. The alliance is co-sponsoring similar forums in coming months in each city holding a presidential debate.

The other co-sponsors for the events, dubbed the Outburst! Tour, were the University of Denver's Center for African American Policy and the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University in Washington.

Still, Campaign K-12 was able to interview two would-be participants, both of whom blog for HipHopRepublican.com, which is also covering the convention.They were asked whether they thought the issue of school choice could help the GOP's efforts to reach out to African Americans.

Richard Ivory of the Center for Urban Community Services, a New York City social-services agency, said that even though many urban black parents support school choice, such as charter schools, they still won't vote for Republicans, in part because many live in heavily Democratic areas. He said that Republicans needs to do a better job of making it clear that their party favors "empowering parents."

"Parents want more control over how their children learn," Ivory said. "But they don't necessarily know how to go about doing that."

Lenny McAllister, an information technology consultant from North Carolina, said that Republicans need to do a better job, both in African American communities and nationwide, of linking their "market-based" education solutions, such as expanding charter schools, to other issues, including crime and the economy.

--Alyson Klein and Mark Walsh

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