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Showing posts with label Parental Choice in Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parental Choice in Education. Show all posts

Thursday, April 5, 2012

American Federation for Children Launches Parent Engagement Campaign

New website, video exposes groups that block reforms benefiting parents and children

The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—today launched a new campaign titled Parents Know Best aimed at engaging parents in the pursuit of better educational options for their children and helping defend them against increased attacks on their judgment from special interest leaders.

The Parents Know Best campaign encourages parents to take a stand against policymakers and interest groups who presume they are better equipped to make decisions about how and where children should be educated than are the families themselves. The campaign is launching with an eye-opening video chronicling a series of recent statements from special interest group leaders on why parents should have less of a role in choosing the best school for their child.

Many of the comments have gained national attention in recent weeks, including one in which Vincent Giordano, the executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, said in a television interview that “life’s not always fair” while discussing the plight of New Jersey students trapped in failing schools. The NJEA spent over $11 million last year opposing the Opportunity Scholarship Act—a plan to create a scholarship tax credit program for students in the state’s worst districts—and other reforms.

“We believe it is essential to support families in their journey toward figuring out the best educational option for their children, and to make sure that they are not bullied by special interests intent on maintaining the educational status quo,” said Kevin P. Chavous, a senior adviser to the American Federation for Children. The Parents Know Best campaign will also feature inspiring stories from parents who have exercised school choice, as well as provide informational resources to parents seeking better educational options for their children.

To find out more about the Parents Know Best campaign visit the website at

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Forstmann's Not So Little Idea

By Daniel Henninger

What is the single most frustrating issue in American politics? The deficit? Nah. Entitlement reform? A cakewalk. The Republican Party's presidential nominee? A day in the park. It's this: Reforming the nation's failing inner-city schools.
When in 1999 Ted Forstmann started the Children's Scholarship Fund with John Walton, he thought it was a good idea that might last about four years. The short version of the good idea was that CSF would raise private funds to give scholarships to inner-city students, whose parents also would contribute money toward tuition at a private school of their choice. The notion was that CSF would offer a helping hand until larger reforms emerged to repair an obviously failing public education system.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Teacher Caught on Video Brutally Beating a 13 Year Old

The brutal beating of a 13 year old student in a Texas charter school this week, will be used by some as an argument against charter schools. But charter schools that fail academically, or because they do not operate in accord with their charter and state law can be, and often are, closed. Likewise, private schools that do not satisfy parents are also closed by the power of consumer choice. Public schools are never closed for criminal abuse or outright failure.

The kind of abuse seen in the following video, and far more frequently, sexual abuse, is rampant in public school systems. When discovered, the perpetrators are quietly removed from the classroom and might be subject to a closed-door review by the local school board and the state board of education. Without ever making public any findings, they may suspend or terminate the teacher. That process in many states can take more than a decade.

This shocking video should not be seen as an argument against school choice, but as evidence that education dollars should, in justice, follow the child to the school a parent chooses. Those parents, not district and state bureaucrats, have a God-given responsibility to protect, nurture and direct the education of their children.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Brazilian Couple Receive Criminal Conviction for Homeschooling

As in the United States where private and parochial school students are unwelcome at the White House Easter Egg Roll, statists everywhere are driven to indoctrinate and control your children. Better that they should be ignorant and compliant slaves of the state, than able to think for themselves. This Brazilian verdict was issued despite these two boys passing law school entrace exams -- at ages 13 and 14.

From LifeSiteNews
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

espite the fact that his children passed difficult government imposed tests,
and even qualified for law school at the ages of 13 and 14, homeschooler Cleber Nunes and his wife Bernadeth have been slapped with fines equivalent to a total of $3,200 for refusing to submit their children to the Brazilian school system.

However, Nunes told (LSN) that he has no intention to pay the fine, although he says that he might have to spend 15-30 days in jail if he does not.

Although homeschooling is common in many countries, including the United States, and is associated with higher levels of academic achievement, it is completely prohibited in Brazil, the government of which has become increasingly intrusive in recent decades following the establishment of a socialist regime in the 1990s.

Since Nunes began to homeschool his two oldest children four years ago, his family has been subject to repeated threats of fines, imprisonment, and loss of custody. However, he has resisted steadfastly and his case has gained national attention.

The guilty verdict in the criminal case against Nunes, which follows two negative verdicts in a parallel civil case that ended over a year ago, was given despite the fact that David and Jonatas Nunes had passed a difficult set of tests imposed by the criminal court.

"They had asked the kids to do the tests to check their level of knowledge, and also psychological tests to check their mental health," Nunes told LifeSiteNews (LSN). "It seems that the only valid result they expected was the failure of the kids."

The tests imposed by the court on Nunes' children were so difficult that one of the teachers who had designed it reportedly admitted that she herself could not pass it. However, David and Jonatas Nunes both passed the exams by margins of five and eight percentage points.

Despite his sons' performance, however, the government has again ruled against Nunes, this time in criminal court, and ordered a fine. The total amount in fines owed by Nunes as a result of the decisions against him has mounted to over $3,200 in US dollars.

"If they impose tests it means that two possibilities should be considered. They could be suffering intellectual abandonment, or not," Nunes told LSN. "In other words, they were trying to prove they were victims. But they passed and they kept saying we were criminal."

Nunes says that despite his success, the judge ruled against him because of his style of home schooling, in which the children direct their own learning, with Nunes overseeing the process.

"The judge said we left the children to learn by themselves," said Nunes. "He recognized that they passed the university entrance examination and the tests, but said that it was by their own efforts," he added, calling that a "joke."

"They want to take control of them, of their minds"

Nunes says he has decided not to appeal the ruling, because Brazil's Supreme Court has already refused to hear the appeal of his civil case. Although he has paid his wife's fine to spare her jail time, he says he will not pay his own fine.

"The natural thing to do is appeal, but I don't trust the Brazilian judges," Nunes told LSN. "They already showed who they are and what they want. They are not interested in protecting our kids....They want to take control of them, of their minds, they want them out of their home."

Although he has refused to comply with the rulings against him, Nunes currently faces no more legal difficulties stemming from the homeschooling of David and Jonatas, because they are now beyond the age of mandatory schooling.

However, his daughter could soon be subject to compulsory schooling in Brazil. She will soon turn four, the age at which compulsory schooling begins in Brazil.

Contact Information:

Cleber Nunes (he speaks English) can be contacted at:

To contact the Brazilian Embassy:

Embassy of Brazil in the USA
3006 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC
Phone: (202) 238-2700
Fax: (202) 238-2827

Embassy of Brazil in Canada
450 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6M8
Phone: (613) 237-1090 or (613) 755-5160
Fax: (613) 237-6144

Embassies of Brazil to other Nations:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Taxpayers Fund Abortions but not School Vouchers

From OneNewsNow
By Dr. Paul Kengor

In my last article, a somber remembrance of Roe v. Wade, I called attention to something that shocked readers: I noted that the Obama administration and Democratic Congress "rejected funding for school vouchers for poor children in Washington, DC, but supported funding for abortions for the mothers of those children."

The contrast is breathtaking, but true. It's another jolt to traditionally minded voters — especially pro-life Democrats and independents — who voted for "change" on November 4, 2008, and are now absorbing the change they authorized. In this case, the change stands in stark contrast to previous administrations and Congresses that prohibited federal funds to finance abortions in the District of Columbia. It veers well beyond liberals' assurance that abortion merely be "safe, legal, and rare."

If you didn't hear about this until now, don't be surprised. Over 300,000 pro-lifers marched in Washington last month without notice by the mainstream media. So, I'd like to take a moment to explain what happened:

Last summer, in July 2009, the overwhelmingly Democratic House of Representatives narrowly passed (by a vote of 219-208) a bill permitting the DC government to use locally raised tax revenues to provide abortions, reversing a long-standing prohibition.

Almost all Republicans voted against the bill. They were joined by some (but not enough) Democrats. Unfortunately, because of how Americans voted on November 4, 2008, the extreme left has such a massive majority in Congress that legislators who think taxpayers shouldn't pay for abortions couldn't stop the measure from being passed. Worse, because Americans — who, in recent polls, describe themselves as more pro-life and more conservative than ever — voted for the most radical abortion-rights advocate in the history of the presidency, the bill had full backing from the White House.

And so, the change in favor of abortion funding came via a $768 million DC Financial Services Appropriations bill that — here's the kicker — also included termination of school vouchers for poor children in Washington, DC, forcing those children out of private schools and back into public schools they fled.

Most Americans didn't notice any of this, given that the mainstream media that serves as educator-in-chief didn't dare highlight the story. Two sources that did notice, however, are worth quoting:

One is Rep. Joe Pitts, the Pennsylvania congressman who is a stalwart champion for the unborn. Pitts told me: "It's shameful that Congress has decided to use taxpayer dollars to fund the destruction of life in our nation's capital but has denied funding for a successful scholarship program that allows poor children a chance at a decent education. The juxtaposition in policies could not be more disturbing."

More disturbed than Pitts was Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who was fit to be tied: "Following the lead of President Barack Obama," said Donohue, "the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow the District of Columbia to fund abortions. Also following Obama's wishes, the same bill affirmed the...congressional decision to end school vouchers there."

"Here's what it comes down to," summed up Donohue. Poor pregnant women living in Washington, DC, "will be told that if they decide to abort their baby, the government will pay for it. But if they persist in bringing their baby to term, the government will not help them to avoid the same lousy public schools that Barack and Michelle shunned for Sasha and Malia." Donohue denounced the action as "cruel."

No doubt, it's an outrage. Of course, it's also predictable. By and large, liberals oppose school vouchers but support legalized abortion. In that sense, this is nothing new.

What is new, however, is this sudden aggressive push by today's "progressives" for taxpayers to fund abortions. This is the culmination of a progressive death march begun a century ago by Planned Parenthood founder and racial eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who preached extraction of "human weeds" from the gene pool in order to advance "race improvement" (her words). Today's progressive heirs have taken Sanger's torch and lit up the barn.

And thus, we now have — in no less than the nation's capital — a poster-child for that grim progressive worldview. It's a child who doesn't get aid to go to a private school — even as his mother pays school taxes — but whose mother gets aid to abort the child's sibling.

We're not only losing our conscience as a nation; we're losing our mind.

I know the response I'll get from Democrats: furious emails, enraged at me. That's sad. I'm simply reporting what happened. I didn't vote for any of this. I plead with them: If you're angry, write to the people in your party who are responsible. Only you can stop this madness. Clean your own house.

Friday, January 29, 2010

British Journalist Asks 'Can I Claim Asylum in the US?'

From The Telegraph
By Ed West

A German family have been granted asylum in the United States because their children were being forced to learn a curriculum that was “against Christian values”, according to German paper The Local.

A US court has granted asylum to an evangelical Christian family who fled Germany because they were not allowed to homeschool their children.

An immigration judge in Nashville, Tennessee ruled that parents Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, and their five children, are free to stay in the US, where they have been since 2008, news agency AP reported late on Tuesday.

The parents, who came from the state of Baden-Württemberg, allege they were persecuted for their faith and defiance of Germany’s compulsory school attendance since those who do not comply face fines and jail time.

According to Uwe Romeike, his family was fined the equivalent of some $10,000 over two years, but could not afford to make payments after their court appeals failed.

“I think it’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught,” Romeike told AP, later adding that German curriculum was increasingly “against Christian values.”

The other day I asked if parents who did not toe the New Labour political line could take their children out of “Citizenship” classes, but I didn’t realise I might be able to flee Europe altogether.

In Britain, meanwhile, the Government is trying to make homeschooling even harder, supposedly because homeschooled children could be abused more, but in reality, I suspect, because many of the parents are religious.

Homeschooling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, nor is Evangelical Christianity for that matter, but allowing parents to decide their children’s education is a mark of a free society. And many parents of young children, and not even just religious ones, feel rightfully uncomfortable about schools trying to force the state’s morality on their kids, and not just in the arena of sex.

Marc Young, editor of the Local, says the Romeikes have made a “mockery” of US asylum policy, but the decision is entirely in line with American tradition. The Puritans left East Anglia for New England not because they feared death or imprisonment but because under James I, Englishmen were expected to follow a narrow Anglican worldview. Conservatives in western Europe feel the same way today.

Now where can I apply for asylum to the US?

Ed West is a journalist and social commentator who specializes in politics, religion and low culture.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senators Launch Bipartisan Effort to Save D.C. School Choice

Senator Lieberman Introduces Bill Preserving D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Cosponsors Include Diane Feinstein and Robert Byrd

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) today unveiled a bipartisan reauthorization bill for the D.C. school voucher program.

Lieberman, along with Susan Collins (R-ME) and four other senators, introduced legislation this morning to reauthorize and strengthen the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) for five years. This move provides continued hope for thousands of low-income families in the District of Columbia who seek equal access to a quality education.

"This is not a liberal program or a conservative program, but a program that puts children first," Lieberman said. "And I am proud to say that it's working."

Under Senator Lieberman’s bill, the program would be preserved and strengthened significantly. The Lieberman bill would increase scholarship amounts to $9,000 for K-8 students and $11,000 for high school students—indexing the scholarship amounts to inflation. While these amounts remain significantly below the amounts for the D.C. Public Schools, they provide the necessary increases to account for inflation over the past five years.

The bill would also:

--Give scholarship priority to siblings of students who currently participate in the program
--Require participating schools to have a valid certificate of occupancy
--Require teachers of core subject matters to have bachelor’s degrees
--Require an Institute of Education Sciences annual evaluation of the program
--Require students to take nationally norm-referenced tests

To date, the program has allowed low-income children to receive up to $7,500 in scholarships to attend the private schools of their parent’s choice. Since its inception in 2004, the program has served more than 3,000 residents—primarily extremely low-income children. More than 8,000 families have applied for scholarships, demonstrating overwhelming demand.

The school choice initiative in the nation’s capital has been bolstered by more than five rigorous studies demonstrating positive student achievement outcomes and parental support. The OSP is supported by a majority of the D.C. City Council and has the backing of nearly three quarters of D.C. residents—according to a poll released this week.

In May, a similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH). Mr. Boehner is a longtime champion of the scholarship program and has spearheaded efforts in the House to preserve the program for low-income District families.

“Today’s action is a strong step in the right direction for low-income D.C. families,” said Kevin Chavous, the former D.C. City Councilman who is leading the fight to save the OSP. “We are pleased to see a strong, bipartisan effort to provide continued opportunity and hope to D.C. children through the extension and strengthening of the OSP.

Chavous added that efforts remain underway to save the educational futures of the so-called “D.C. 216”—a group of students who had their 2009-10 scholarship offerings revoked by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year. He applauded Senators Lieberman and Collins, as well as 12 other Senators, who had previously written to Secretary Duncan expressing support for these children to enter the program.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From Our Mail: School Choice Comes to Indiana

In South Carolina approximately half of all students who enter high school, graduate. Let us hope that Indiana's example, and that of other states, might eventually persuade South Carolina legislators to free students held hostage to schools that do not work and will not change.

From: Andrew Campanella, The Alliance for School Choice

Re: School Choice Breakthrough in Indiana

I am happy to report some great news tonight. As of this evening, Indiana has passed a private school choice program.

This evening, the Indiana General Assembly passed a corporate and individual scholarship tax credit program, providing hope and opportunity to thousands of Hoosier state children. Governor Mitch Daniels signed the program into law just after 8 p.m. tonight.

The $2.5 million corporate and individual scholarship tax credit program was included in the state’s budget. This new program rewards generous companies and individuals who donate money to nonprofit organizations that help low-income children attend private schools. In return for their donations, the individuals and/or corporations receive a 50 percent tax credit.

My coworker, Lori Drummer—who is our director of state projects—had this to say:

"In an incredibly challenging year for school choice, the passage of this program provides clear and convincing evidence that the people of Indiana want and need school choice now more than ever,” she said. “We congratulate School Choice Indiana and a host of other state and national allies who were instrumental in this victory.”

Indiana is now the 11th state to offer private school choice program. There are 18 programs available, currently serving 171,000 children.

In other important news today, Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri signed the Ocean State’s budget—effectively protecting the state’s $1 million corporate scholarship tax credit program. This program had come under heavy fire this year, but thanks to the hard work of the folks at Rhode Island Scholarship Advocates and other local groups—educational opportunities for hundreds of children were saved.

School choice is on the march, Daniel! Despite one of the most difficult climates for school choice we've faced in years, local allies this year may very well have protected every single student scholarship in existence right now, and even created more.

Thank you for everything you do to support educational freedom!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

School Reforms on the Brink

The empire strikes back in Milwaukee and NYC.

From The Wall Street Journal

The education establishment and its political allies employ multiple methods to keep kids trapped in rotten schools. One tactic is to use control of school boards to prevent or limit the creation of charter schools. Another is to smother existing voucher programs with rules and red tape. Real world examples are currently playing out in Milwaukee and New York City.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program provides vouchers for some 20,000 low-income, mostly minority children to attend private schools. Because the 20-year-old program polls above 60% with voters, and even higher among minorities, killing it outright would be unpopular. Instead, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle wants to reduce funding and pass "reforms" designed to regulate the program to death. The goal is to discourage private schools from enrolling voucher students and thus force kids to return to unionized public schools.

To that end, Democrats in the state legislature voted last week to cut per-pupil payments to private schools by $165 while increasing public school spending by $400 per student. Taxpayer support for students in the program is only $6,607 per student to begin with, which is less that half of the $13,468 for students in Milwaukee public schools.

Those funding cuts would be accompanied by mandates of dubious academic benefit. One regulation would require schools that have already been accredited to meet additional accreditation requirements. Another would force schools to offer expensive bilingual programs that suck up scarce resources and are spurned by most immigrant parents who want their children taught in English.

The irony is that satisfaction and enrollment at Milwaukee public schools has steadily declined despite these very policies that choice opponents want to impose on successful private schools. A recent evaluation of the Milwaukee choice program found that its high school graduation rate was 85%, compared to 58% for students in the city's public schools. Between 1994 and 2008, the voucher program saved taxpayers more than $180 million. Yet opponents insist these schools need additional regulations to make them more like the public schools that cost more and produce inferior results.

Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in a battle royal with the teachers union and state politicians who want to strip him of mayoral control of the schools. Since 2002, the Mayor has been able to hire and fire the schools chancellor and appoint a majority on the city's Board of Education.

Academic results argue strongly for continuing the policy, which expires June 30 unless state lawmakers renew it. According to the latest test scores, 82% of children in grades three through eight scored at or above grade level on this year's standardized tests, up from 74% last year and 57% three years ago. Mayoral control has also eased the expansion of charter schools, many of which are performing better than the district schools. In Harlem, where 19 of the 23 elementary and intermediate public schools are failing, all of the third graders at the Harlem Success Academy passed the most recent state math exam and 95% passed the English exam.

Before 2002 New York had fewer than 20 charter schools because the United Federation of Teachers, the dominant local union, blocked their growth. Thanks to mayoral control, there will be more than 100 charter schools in New York next year, which is one reason that the teachers union doesn't want the policy to continue. The great moral outrage of our time is the way the public schools establishment puts its interests ahead of children, trying to kill every school choice program whatever its success. Genuine reformers should be shouting from the rooftops.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

SC Treasurer: School Choice Makes Financial Sense

By Converse Chellis

My goal as state treasurer is to safeguard our state's financial future and work toward making South Carolina a better place to live, raise a family and do business. Part of a better future for all South Carolinians is the recruitment of higher paying jobs into our state. To accomplish this, we will need a better educated workforce. But, we must offer more educational choices for South Carolina families to ensure this happens.

My children were fortunate in that they were able to make a choice of which school they wanted to attend. Our daughter chose to finish her education in a private school and my son elected to continue his education in the public school system. Our family chose the best path for each of our children.

Education is crucial to a better future for our citizens. We must find innovative approaches that enable parents to choose what is best for their children. The clock is ticking and our economy is in freefall.

The South Carolina Educational Opportunity Act creates a path for thousands of South Carolina children to earn an education that helps them to break the cycle of poverty plaguing so many of our families.

The bill, S. 520, sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of state senators, creates a tax credit for parents who send their children to private schools. The tax credit will go to those who home school their children and individuals and businesses who donate to student scholarship organizations.

An analysis by the former director of the South Carolina Department of Revenue, Burnet Maybank III, shows that the legislation will save taxpayers $5.4 million dollars in the first year. That number could be much higher depending upon how many students opt for private schools if the bill becomes law. He estimates 3,790 children would take advantage of the credits – a figure from a 2005 Board of Economic Advisors analysis of similar legislation.

The main reason it would benefit the state is that the tax credit is limited to $2,433.50, which is 50 percent of the General Fund average per pupil allocation for the state. So for every credit granted, the state saves $4,867 that it would otherwise have to send to the school district. Maybank estimates the home school credit and scholarship component would cost the state about $3.7 million; but that is more than offset by the savings generated by the tax credit part of the bill. Millions more will be saved by local school districts that will continue to receive all the locally raised taxes despite having fewer children to educate.

While the numbers are compelling, the moral imperative for passing the bill is even stronger. Of the projected 690,363 students in public school, 73,772 are attending schools rated as failing. Some 67,000 of that group are at or under 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

And even for those students fortunate enough to attend the best public schools in the state, they still lag far behind their peers in other states. The most recent American Legislative Exchange Council “Report Card on American Education” ranks South Carolina 42nd of the 50 states across a broad swath of measures, including a state average graduation rate of 52.8 percent. That's 17 percentage points below the national average.

We need to give our students options. As a state, we've already endorsed school choice at the higher education level through HOPE, LIFE and Palmetto Fellows Scholarships. Those scholarships allow students to use state money to attend their choice of public or private universities. But we can never expect to increase the number of students qualified to attend college if we do not first give them the right start in their education careers.

Other states are ahead of us in giving their disadvantaged students an opportunity for a quality education. Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania are among those that have taken the leap. Since a similar law passed in Pennsylvania in 2001, more than 3,600 companies have given more than $360 million to support scholarships and innovative public school programs in that state.

Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia, which projects it will award 3,300 scholarships next year to low income K-8th grade students and receives about 40 percent of its money through the tax credit program, has tracked its students.

Ninety-five percent of them graduate high school on time and 90 percent are going on to college. This is a phenomenal record given that its students are chosen by lottery, all are low-income, and that the graduation rate in Philadelphia public schools is 50 percent.

That is the record we can build in South Carolina with the Educational Opportunity Act. Failing to pass it will cost the state millions. But for the 73,772 students trapped in failing schools, it means a life sentence of poverty. In a time when we cannot afford to throw money at failing programs, this is one example where saving the state money will also significantly enhance lives.

Converse Chellis is the South Carolina state treasurer. For more information, go to

Monday, April 6, 2009

Democrats and Poor Kids

From Review and Outlook
The Wall Street Journal

Sitting on evidence of voucher success, and the battle of New York.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan did a public service last week when he visited New York City and spoke up for charter schools and mayoral control of education. That was the reformer talking. The status quo Mr. Duncan was on display last month when he let Congress kill a District of Columbia voucher program even as he was sitting on evidence of its success.

In New York City with its 1.1 million students, mayoral control has resulted in better test scores and graduation rates, while expanding charter schools, which means more and better education choices for low-income families. But mayoral control expires in June unless state lawmakers renew it, and the United Federation of Teachers is working with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to weaken or kill it.

President Obama's stimulus is sending some $100 billion to the nation's school districts. What will he demand in return? The state budget passed by the New York legislature last week freezes funding for charters but increases it by more that $400 million for other public schools. Perhaps a visit to a charter school in Harlem would help Mr. Obama honor his reform pledge. "I'm looking at the data here in front of me," Mr. Duncan told the New York Post. "Graduation rates are up. Test scores are up. Teacher salaries are up. Social promotion was eliminated. Dramatically increasing parental choice. That's real progress."

Mr. Duncan's help in New York is in stark contrast to his department's decision to sit on a performance review of the D.C. voucher program while Congress debated its future in March. The latest annual evaluation was finally released Friday, and it shows measurable academic gains. The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides $7,500 vouchers to 1,700 low-income families in D.C. to send their children to private schools. Ninety-nine percent of the children are black or Hispanic, and there are more than four applicants for each scholarship.

The 2008 report demonstrated progress among certain subgroups of children but not everyone. This year's report shows statistically significant academic gains for the entire voucher-receiving population. Children attending private schools with the aid of the scholarships are reading nearly a half-grade ahead of their peers who did not receive vouchers. Voucher recipients are doing no better in math but they're doing no worse. Which means that no voucher participant is in worse academic shape than before, and many students are much better off.

"There are transition difficulties, a culture shock upon entering a school where you're expected to pay attention, learn, do homework," says Jay Greene, an education scholar at the Manhattan Institute. "But these results fit a pattern that we've seen in other evaluations of vouchers. Benefits compound over time."

It's bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months.

Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.

Opponents of school choice for poor children have long claimed they'd support vouchers if there was evidence that they work. While running for President last year, Mr. Obama told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that if he saw more proof that they were successful, he would "not allow my predisposition to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn . . . You do what works for the kids." Except, apparently, when what works is opposed by unions.

Mr. Duncan's office spurned our repeated calls and emails asking what and when he and his aides knew about these results. We do know the Administration prohibited anyone involved with the evaluation from discussing it publicly. You'd think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program. A reasonable conclusion is that Mr. Duncan's department didn't want proof of voucher success to interfere with Senator Dick Durbin's campaign to kill vouchers at the behest of the teachers unions.

The decision to let 1,700 poor kids get tossed from private schools is a moral disgrace. It also exposes the ugly politics that lies beneath union and liberal efforts across the country to undermine mayoral control, charter schools, vouchers or any reform that threatens their monopoly over public education dollars and jobs. The Sheldon Silver-Dick Durbin Democrats aren't worried that school choice doesn't work. They're worried that it does, and if Messrs. Obama and Duncan want to succeed as reformers they need to say so consistently.

Monday, March 16, 2009

DC Opportunity Scholarship Kids Appeal to Obama

The Obama administration faces quite a dilemma. Does it side with Democrats in Congress who are doing the bidding of self-serving teacher unions, and force poor, inner-city, minority students back into failing schools? Or will it allow students, some of whom are in class with Obama's own daughters, to continue in the schools their parents have chosen?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

School Choice Can Free Education

From The Bluegrass Institute
By John Garen

Gov. Steve Beshear outlined in his inaugural address a sampling of Kentucky’s economic problems. He urged leaders to “take bold steps” to resolve them.
I agree with the governor. Kentucky faces serious issues that require bold action. And I’m going to suggest a bold step for our state that I hope lawmakers take seriously.

I am not alone, and I think the time is right: Let’s have serious education reform that brings market-based incentives into the province of primary and secondary education by creating charter schools and voucher systems.

Before you say they won’t work, remember that these kind of free-market ideas work everywhere else.

We rely heavily on market incentives for so many goods and services. Yet, we rely so little on them in education. We utilize the free market with everything from food, housing and clothing to the frivolous Magic 8-Ball and Whoopee Cushion.

Market incentives drive the mundane – paper towels and flashlight batteries – and the intangible – music, art and film, which touch deep emotional chords. Market-driven goods range from the simple to the sophisticated, such as automobiles, jet engines, digital cameras and complex legal cases.

The free-market system works pretty well. But somehow lawmakers resist using it in primary and secondary education policies. Given the considerable dissatisfaction with public schools, it’s high time to consider alternatives.

First, free and competitive markets create a great incentive system. An important basis for markets involves voluntary exchange. In order to profit, the seller must provide something that someone else wants. This forces the seller to provide something valuable.

Second, the free market creates competition. Not only must sellers provide something
valuable, its quality must match or exceed the competition. Sellers that provide better products draw customers. Sellers that improve efficiency increase profits.

These mechanisms disappear when government provides goods and services – the case with public education. Public schools get customers “assigned” to them based on a neighborhood. As a result, competition disappears. Yes, a family can choose schools by moving to a different neighborhood – a cumbersome and expensive way to create competition, thus limiting it.

Also, public schools automatically get money they need to operate from state and local governments. This eliminates the need to satisfy the customers – parents with students in a school. And it adds more reasons to please the political “masters” who control the money. All of this reduces the need for efficient spending, since the same number of students attend the school, regardless of the school’s policies or performance.

Bringing market-type incentives into public education does not necessarily translate into a lack of government support for schools. For example, government gives money to families to buy food in a foo-stamp program, even though they shop exclusively at privately operated stores.

One way to do this in education is by creating a charter-school policy. Here’s how charter schools can improve public education:

• Charter schools are privately run schools “chartered” by school districts and can enroll any student who wants to attend. The public’s money for the student gets credited to the school. So, parents dissatisfied with their child’s school can apply for a student’s admission to a charter school.

• The public schools must compete with the charter schools, and incentives to satisfy families and students enrolled in the public schools emerge – more bang for the buck.

A full-fledged voucher system represents an even bigger step toward market-based education incentives. Vouchers work this way:

• Parents get money, a “voucher,” for each of their children, and parents can spend the voucher at a school they choose. Parents can use the voucher at public or private schools.

• Parents can “top off” a voucher, meaning they can add their money to the voucher if they want to send a student to a more expensive school. For example, a school that charges tuition of $10,000 per year becomes affordable even to families of modest means with an $8,000 voucher.

• This education system operates no differently than the aforementioned food-stamps program.

Do not equate charters and vouchers with wild, untried schemes dreamt up by cranks.

They work in many places throughout the United States. Nationwide, charter schools have become increasingly common and now account for 1.8 percent of enrollment – but not in Kentucky.

The state tried to move to the forefront of education reform with the passage of Kentucky Education Reform Act 1990. But 18 years later, you cannot find Kentucky on the education-reform radar.

Moving to a system with market incentives ingrained in our educational system presents significant challenges, including implementation and transition issues, along with considerable political resistance and others. But overcoming these hurdles offers the best chance for an effective primary and secondary schooling system.

Let’s take this bold step.

John Garen is department chair and Gatton Endowed Professor of Economics at the University of Kentucky, and an adjunct scholar with the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. A version of this article appeared in Business Lexington.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

School Choice? Yes: New Studies Show All Students’ Scores Rise

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By David Pusey

For cynics who do not believe school vouchers help students who remain in public schools or those who transfer to another public or private school of their choice, solid new evidence is emerging that will make believers out of the biggest skeptics.

Two new studies find school choice is indeed a tide that lifts all boats in educating all students. Just as Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winner and founder of the modern school choice movement, suggested 50 years ago, evidence now shows that competition helps all students, even those who remain in public schools.

A July 2008 study by David Card of the University of California-Berkley shows that competition in Ontario, Canada, led to higher achievement for all students. Pupils in Ontario may attend a public school or a Catholic school. The taxpayer-funded voucher is equivalent no matter whether a parent chooses a public or private school. Card and his research colleagues found that students who stayed in their assigned public schools performed better on standardized exams of reading, writing, and math under this school choice model. The positive effects on student achievement were largest where there was more choice. Since choice is restricted to public schools or Catholic schools in Ontario, one wonders if student achievement would increase even more significantly if options were made available beyond Catholic schools.

A second 2008 study, this one by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, analyzed two phases of the Milwaukee voucher program and showed student achievement increased with the availability of school choice.

When the Milwaukee program was initially launched between 1990 and 1996, there were never more than 1,500 students using a voucher. That’s because the state forbade children from using the scholarship to attend a religious school, and the voucher amount was very small.

After Wisconsin court rulings declaring vouchers constitutional, changes were made to the program. Milwaukee pupils were then allotted a $4,900 voucher and could apply that to a secular or religious school of their parents’ choice. That enabled more families to participate in the program.

The New York Fed study found no effects of vouchers — positive or negative — on any students when the Milwaukee voucher program did not provide much competition or choice. However, once students were given larger voucher amounts, once students could choose from a variety of schools, and once public schools actually faced competition, then students using the vouchers and students who remained in public school both earned higher test scores. This study confirms a 2003 study on this topic by Stanford University economist Caroline Hoxby.

These new studies show that if you care about the students who remain in public schools, then more choice and more competition are what will improve their academic outcomes.

The point of these research papers is clear. If we are to be successful with vouchers in Georgia, we must not create a half-hearted program. Specifically, the data show that true competition will compel all schools to improve. A successful program would provide a substantial scholarship and have few restrictions where parents could use the voucher.

Some opinion writers and defenders of the status quo cite no academic benefits of school choice plans. However, a careful read of the evidence shows that while limited choice and limited competition may have no benefits, more competition does lead to academic gains for all students. It is telling that detractors of choice cannot find a single study that finds school choice harms a single student.

All Georgia public school students would benefit from students who use a voucher to attend a private school. The threat of losing customers — students and their parents — would motivate public schools to take better care of their remaining patrons.

David Pusey is an education specialist with the Center for an Educated Georgia.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Vatican Official Defends Rights of Parents to Educational Choice

From LifeSiteNews
By Hilary White

An “inclusive” education means that which respects the rights of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children, a Vatican Cardinal told the U.N.’s International Conference on Education last week.

Citing the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva, said, “Educators should remain aware that they carry out their service in cooperation with parents, who are the first 'educational agency' and have the priority right and duty to educate their children. This convergence of efforts is an evident application of the basic principle of subsidiarity.”

The concept of subsidiarity in Catholic social teaching means that the needs of the individual are best served by the stratum of society closest to him, starting with the family. Catholic teaching holds that it is the purpose of the state to safeguard the family and the family’s rights. This doctrine is directly opposed to the high-level statist concepts of social theory that are currently at the fore in the UN and European Union, where governments are creating increasingly tightly regulated social conditions.

Tomasi’s assertion on the rights of parents is directly opposed by some European countries, most notably Germany, which retains a Nazi-era law forbidding homeschooling. In recent years, parents who have chosen to shield their children from the heavily secularised, and sexualised, state education have been hounded in the courts and had their children seized by the state.

Archbishop Tomasi also criticized the emphasis on “efficiency” in education and in society in general, saying that the global financial crisis is a “concrete lesson” in what happens when a society subordinates the needs of the individual to utilitarian ideals.

"‘Inclusion’ works through the promotion of a society that respects the dignity of every human person and goes beyond criteria of efficiency.”

“Only the person that conceives relations with others beyond criteria of productivity and control can value reality in a balanced perspective and assume appropriate responsibility.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Sidwell Choice

The Obama family leads by example

From The Wall Street Journal

Michelle and Barack Obama have settled on a Washington, D.C., school for their daughters, and you will not be surprised to learn it is not a public institution. Malia, age 10, and seven-year-old Sasha will attend the Sidwell Friends School, the private academy that educates the children of much of Washington's elite.

[Review & Outlook] AP

Vice President-elect Joe Biden's grandchildren attend Sidwell -- as did Chelsea Clinton -- where tuition is close to $30,000 a year. The Obama girls have been students at the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where tuition runs above $21,000. "A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now."

Note the word "selected," as in made a choice. The Obamas are fortunate to have the means to send their daughters to private school, and no one begrudges them that choice given that Washington's public schools are among the worst in America.

Most D.C. parents would also love to be able to choose a better school for their child, but they lack the financial means to do so. The Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program each year offers up to $7,500 to some 1,900 kids to attend private schools, but Democrats in Congress want to kill it. Average family income for kids in the voucher program is about $22,000.

Mr. Obama says he opposes such vouchers, because "although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom." The example of his own children refutes that: The current system offers plenty of choice to kids "at the top" while abandoning those at the bottom.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

School Choice for the Obama's

When Barack Hussein Obama addressed the National Education Association to spell out his plans "to invest" more of your money in public education, Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association proclaimed that Obama "gets it."

But when it comes to putting his children where his mouth and your money is, Obama is not willing to trust his own reforms and proposed massive increases in federal spending. Public schools may be fine for the "little people," but the Obama's will do what all the other liberal hypocrites in Congress do, find private schools for their children. Sure, they will placate those that the education establishment really serves -- teachers and administrators -- bu
t they will not risk the lives of their two girls on the chance that massive increases in funding might accomplish what they have never accomplished before.

And those unable to get out like the Obama's? Did you really expect change you could believe in?

The New York Post has the story about Washington, DC's newest private school family:


By Jennifer Fermino

Future Mom-in-Chief Michelle Obama flew into DC ahead of her husband yesterday on a reconnaissance mission to scope out private schools for her two daughters.

She headed first to the tony Georgetown Day School, an ultra-progressive prep school where students and their teachers are on a first-name basis.

"She's so tall. Oh, my gosh," said an awed eighth-grader, Ellie Lasater-Guttmann. "And she's prettier in person."

If Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, are enrolled at Georgetown Day, Michelle will bump into plenty of friends at Parent Association meetings.

The school, which is pre-K through 12th grade, is brimming with the offspring of several key Obama aides, and a rumored future attorney general, Eric Holder, is a trustee.

The Obamas are widely believed to be deciding among three schools - and the contest has Washington's prep-school parents riveted.

The other two contenders are Sidwell Friends and Maret.

"There's a frenzy going on in terms of speculation. It makes me want to vomit," one Maret parent told The Atlantic.

At a private dinner party several weeks ago, Beth Dozoretz, a major Democratic Party donor, handed Mrs. Obama a handwritten note from her daughter, a fourth-grader at Sidwell, pushing her school, the magazine reported.

The youngster wrote about how much she loved her school, which counts Chelsea Clinton and Tricia Nixon as alumnae.

After Georgetown, Michelle headed to Sidwell, a liberal Quaker school that many consider the front-runner in the heated Race for the Schoolhouse.

Joe Biden's youngest son goes there, and it has got the Secret Service drill down pat from the relatively recent Chelsea days.

But the candidate who won the White House on a platform of change might find the school too Clintonesque.

Many of Bubba and Hillary's close pals - including Mark Penn and Mandy Grunwald - send their kids there.

Still to be visited is Maret, a college-prep school with an emphasis on sports.

The president-elect's senior foreign-policy adviser, Susan Rice, sends her kids there.

The DC public schools made an unsuccessful push for Chelsea Clinton back in 1992, but it seems unlikely the Obama girls will end up in a city school. The last presidential child to attend public schools was Amy Carter.

Malia and Sasha are currently enrolled in the rigorous University of Chicago Laboratory School, which boasts of concentrating on character development as much as its curriculum.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama and Vouchers

From the National Center for Policy Analysis

According to public opinion polls, 65 percent of adult African-Americans and 63 percent of adult Hispanics favor the use of school vouchers, and more than half of minority adults give higher marks to their local police than their public schools. Yet, the number of minority students that are quitting the education system is staggering, says the National Journal.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics:

  • In 2006 nearly 11 percent of African-American students between the ages of 16 and 24 dropped out of school -- almost double the rate for white students.
  • The dropout rate among Hispanics was 22 percent.
  • Higher dropout rates also mean higher unemployment: in 2006, more than half of all African-American dropouts and more than one-third of Hispanic dropouts were not in the labor force.

The fundamental problem with the voucher debate is that it is always seen as an either/or proposition. For Republicans, it is the panacea to all the education woes; for Democrats, it is something that will destroy public education. So what does the future hold for them now with President-elect Obama?

Obama argues that voucher-based initiatives fund mostly faith-based schools, violating separation of church and state. But faith-based institutions may participate in voucher programs as a result of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, in which the Supreme Court ruled that students may study at any private or public school as long as aid is awarded directly to the parent or guardian and not the school.

Some critics argue that voucher programs drain funding that could be used to reform and improve public schools. But others counter that under voucher programs state aid allotted to public schools would move with the student regardless of whether he or she attends a public or private school. It's really no different than any other change of school; you want the money to follow the child, says the Journal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Say It Isn't So, Barack

By Matt Wingard

Presidential candidate Barack Obama promises voters that he is a different kind of politician. There hasn’t been much proof of that yet, but Obama did hint early on that education reform might be the issue where voters actually would see "Change."

It would have been a perfect fit for Obama. As an African-American, he would know better than most whites just how poorly America’s inner-city school districts perform. The national dropout rate for African-Americans is 45 percent.

In addition, African-Americans (Obama’s strongest constituency) support school choice at a rate higher than any other ethnic group. A recent Harvard poll showed 67% of blacks support school choice for low-income students and 52% support vouchers for all children in failing public schools.

One would think that Obama, as an African-American, has some room to break from the education special interest groups on this issue. It would be hard for white liberals who support the status quo to criticize a black presidential candidate championing the right of every black child in America to get a decent education. The statistics and the emotional rhetoric would appear to provide candidate Obama a great deal of political cover.

So imagine the disappointment in the African-American community in Washington, D.C. when Barack Obama recently refused to stand up for their voucher program as Congress threatened to end it. Nineteen hundred students and their families were facing the prospect of having to leave the schools where they were succeeding and being forced to return to one of the worst performing inner-city school districts in the country.

Public pressure from many African-American leaders has saved the program for one more year (although with reduced funding), but Barack Obama was not one of those who stood up. Bear in mind that the primary fight with Hillary Clinton was over, and Obama was free to take positions that might upset those on the political Left.

In fact, he put out a statement opposing the program. According to ABC News (June 16, 2008):

On the same day that he was extolling the need to shake up the "status quo" in education, Obama also defended his opposition to school vouchers.

"We don’t have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools," Obama said… .

"But what I don’t want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the public schools," he said. "That’s going to make things
worse, and we’re going to lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so important to building this country."
Barack Obama’s "commitment" to public schools might seem sincere if it weren’t for the fact that his two daughters attend a very exclusive private school, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where elementary tuition is $17-20,000 per child per year.

On the issue of educational choice, Obama is a hypocrite and, as it turns out, not a very different kind of politician at all.

Matt Wingard is Director of the School Choice Project at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poll Shows Most Oklahomans Don’t Prefer Public Schools

From The Tulsa Beacon

Results from a new public opinion survey taken in Oklahoma in late April indicate that more than 4 of 5 voters - 83 percent - would send their children to private, charter or virtual schools or educate their children in a home school setting. The survey was released today by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, along with eight other co-sponsors.

The survey touched on such issues as tax-credit scholarships, public school funding, and school choice. The results of the poll - the first of its kind conducted in the state - indicate divided public opinion on the quality of Oklahoma’s public school system. Forty-one percent rated the public schools as poor or fair, while 40 percent indicated the schools were good or excellent. Nineteen percent were undecided.

According to Paul DiPerna, director of the Friedman Foundation’s School Choice Survey in the State, “Oklahoma’s K-12 system does not fulfill parents’ schooling preferences. If tuition were portable to both public and private schools, it seems as though families and students would sort and match themselves across school types much differently than is allowed in the current system.”

The survey results indicate majority support for tax credits for both businesses and individuals who contribute money to nonprofit organizations which distribute private school scholarships. Fifty-four percent of those polled support tax credits for businesses, while 57 percent support tax credits for individuals. A larger majority, 58 percent, supported legislation creating a tax-credit scholarship system for students in low performing schools.

This past session the Oklahoma legislature failed to pass a bill that would create tax incentives for businesses that donated to private school scholarships. The measure passed the Oklahoma Senate but failed to make it past the Republican controlled House.

The scientifically representative poll of 1,200 likely Oklahoma voters was conducted April 25-27 by Strategic Vision, an Atlanta-based public affairs agency whose polls have been used by Newsweek, Time Magazine, BBC, ABC News, and USA Today among others. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In addition to the Friedman Foundation and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, other sponsors of the poll include the Department of Catholic Education-Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma, American Legislative Exchange Council, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Center for Education Reform, Connections Academy, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, and the National Catholic Educational Association.