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Showing posts with label School Choice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label School Choice. Show all posts

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Case for Educational Pluralism

Alternatives to the state-funded educational monopoly.

By Ashley Rogers Berner

Public education means different things in different countries. In the United States, it means government-funded and government-delivered schooling—schooling that is supposedly ideologically neutral but in fact reflects a progressive tradition strongly committed to beliefs and to an educational philosophy rejected by many Americans. Not surprisingly, we now fight a great deal about public education. Other democracies fight about education, too, but less divisively, because for them, “public education” means educational pluralism: government support for diverse institutions that reflect a wide variety of beliefs and commitments.

One hundred and fifty years ago, America’s elites, faced with waves of (mostly Catholic, ethnic, and poor) immigrants, concluded that only state-enforced uniformity could effectively make one people out of many. Once bitterly contested on grounds of religious liberty, this belief in the uniform common school, and its ability to create citizens out of disparate groups, is now so embedded in our consciousness that we cannot imagine public education otherwise. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

South Carolina Expands Charter School Options, Allows Single-Sex Charter Schools

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law Monday a bill expanding charter schools, calling it a big first step in improving education by expanding options for parents who don't want to send their children to traditional public schools.

The new law allows boys-only and girls-only charter schools and requires traditional schools to open their doors for students who want to do extracurricular activities not offered by their charter school. It also allows universities to sponsor their own schools.

State Education Superintendent Mick Zais called it his chief legislative priority.

"Charter schools are not a magic bullet, but they are a tremendous step in the way to providing a personalized and customized education for every student — not a standardized and uniform education for every student," Zais said at the ceremony at Greenville Technical Charter High School.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

South Carolina’s K-12 Online Programs Provide Viable Education Alternatives for the Future

By Estelle Shumann

For parents looking for alternatives to America’s public schooling system, the future has finally arrived in the form of public magnet and charter schools as well as innovations in online education. Online schooling, K-12 education in particular, holds out real possibilities for educational choices that are responsive to individual needs and schedules, can offer high quality education, flexible study plans, and student success. South Carolina students and parents have numerous programs to choose from, all of which are tuition free to residents through the State’s Charter School Program.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pennsylvania Bishop Slams Public Schools, Says Hitler and Mussolini Would ‘Love Our System’

By Christine Dhanagom

In the midst of a raging battle in Pennsylvania over school vouchers, Harrisburg Bishop Joseph McFadden had some tough words about the nation’s public school system.

“In totalitarian governments, they would love our system,” he told an ABC affiliate. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all those tried to establish - a monolith so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Alberta's Education System Offers Lesson in Competition

We posted an important address that David Cameron delivered to the Canadian Parliament last September.  One comment was particularly intriguing.  He stated that the Province of Alberta has the highest student achievement in the English-speaking world.  We weren't surprised because this blog has a disproportionate number of readers in the beautiful western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.  The following explains their remarkable success.

Alberta public schools have created all sorts of special programs.
By Tom Flanagan
When British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to the Canadian Parliament, he mentioned that Alberta schools routinely rank higher than those of any other English-speaking jurisdiction in international tests of educational competence. The fact is interesting in itself, but the reason behind it is even more interesting – that there is such a high degree of competition in Alberta’s educational sector. Of course, a degree of educational competition exists in other provinces, but Alberta has gone further by combining all forms of competition present in Canada with other innovations.

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.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Latest Crime Wave: Sending Your Child to a Better School

School districts hire special investigators to follow kids home in order to verify their true residences.

From The Wall Street Journal
By Michael Flaherty

In January, Ohioan Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years of probation, and 80 hours of community service for having her children attend schools outside her district. Gov. John Kasich reduced her sentence last month.

In case you needed further proof of the American education system's failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That's the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio's Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.

An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father's address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher's license she had been working on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Voucher Victory in Wisconsin

Expansion of Nation’s Oldest Urban Voucher Program Acclaimed by Nation’s Original Voucher Organization

With a stroke of a pen, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker yesterday signed a 2011-2012 state budget that dramatically expands the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to include tens of thousands of working class and middle income families. His signature also means that a brand new school choice program will be established in Racine County.

The budget had previously passed the Senate and House on June 17 by votes of 19-14 and 60-38, respectively.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Three Reasons Obama's Education Vision Fails

Nick Gillespie of the Reason Foundation provides 3 reasons why Obama's education vision fails:
President Barack Obama is making his bid to be "the education president." At the start of NBC's recent Education Nation summit in New York, Obama appeared on the Today Show and touted what he claimed were a wide-ranging set of reforms to improve America's K-12 schools.

Yet Obama's education vision deserves an F for at least three reasons:

1. Money Talks. Obama says that the educational system needs new ideas and more money. Despite a doubling in inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending since the early 1970s, student achievement is flat at best. But Obama is placing most of his bets on the money part. While he brags constantly about his Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for $4 billion to fund innovative programs, he's spent more than $80 billion in no-strings-attached stimulus funds to maintain the educational status quo.

2. Choice Cuts. Candidate Obama said that he'd try any reform idea regardless of ideology. Yet one of his first education-related moves after taking office was to aid his Senate mentor, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in killing a successful and popular D.C. voucher program that let low-income residents exercise the same choice Obama did in sending his daughters to private school.

3. The Unions Forever. The two largest teachers unions, The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, overwhelmingly supported Obama with their votes and their contributions. Some 95 percent of the groups' campaign contributions go to Democratic candidates and the NEA, spends more money on elections that Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Walmart, and the AFL-CIO combined. No wonder Obama's big talking point is that he wants to add 10,000 more teachers to public payrolls despite the fact that there are already more teachers per student than ever.

Reforming education may not be politically easy, but the solution is pretty simple: Give parents and students more ability to choose - and exit - schools. This works for every other sort of business and it works for higher education, too. There's no reason to think it wouldn't work for K-12 education.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

If Schools Were Like 'American Idol'...

Unless we measure success by how children perform, we'll have higher standards for pop stars than public schools.

From The Wall Street Journal
By Rupert Murdoch

Over the past few years, I have often complained about a hidebound culture that prevents many newspapers from responding to the challenges of new technology. There is, however, another hidebound American institution that is also finding it difficult to respond to new challenges: our big-city schools.

Today, for example, the United States is home to more than 2,000 dysfunctional high schools. They represent less than 15% of American high schools yet account for about half of our dropouts. When you break this down, you find that these institutions produce 81% of all Native American dropouts, 73% of all African-American dropouts, and 66% of all Hispanic dropouts.

At our grade schools, two-thirds of all eighth-graders score below proficient in math and reading. The average African-American or Latino 9-year-old is three grades behind in these subjects. Behind the grim statistics is the real story: lost opportunities, crushed dreams, and shattered lives. In plain English, we trap the children who need an education most in failure factories.

Last August, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that our students have "stagnated educationally." The College Board recently put this into global perspective when it reported that we've dropped from 1st to 12th place in the percentage of people between the ages of 25 to 34 who have a college degree. America is now in danger of producing a new generation that will be less educated than their parents.

Clearly it's not for any lack of money. Over the past three decades, we've nearly doubled spending on K-12 education in real terms. So President Obama was absolutely right to declare the other day that "we can't spend our way out of this problem." Which begs the question: How can we spend so much with so little to show for it?

The answer is that while the system is failing our children, it works very well for some adults. These adults include the leaders of the teachers unions. They include the politicians whom the unions reward with their cash and political support. They include the vast education bureaucracies. In business terms, we have a system that rewards the providers and punishes the customers.

Davis Guggenheim won an Academy Award for producing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." So you might think that the two of us don't have much in common. But his latest film on our public schools, "Waiting for 'Superman,'" brings home the way the status quo betrays our highest ideals and results in an almost criminal waste of human potential. On this issue, there is no light between us.

So how do we fix it? Clearly a big part of the answer is giving parents more choices for their kids. For choices to mean anything, however, parents also need transparency so they can make real comparisons.

The Los Angeles Times just gave us an excellent example of this kind of transparency when it published a database of about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers ranked by their effectiveness in raising student test scores. If you are a mom with a son or daughter in one of these classrooms, you know this information is vital. Unfortunately, it's the kind of information that seldom sees the light of day.

The reason is that the adults who are doing well by this system don't want it out there. The local teachers union, for example, blasted the Times for what it called "the height of journalistic irresponsibility" for bringing this material to the public. My view is that American schoolchildren need more such irresponsibility.

Occasionally we hear the leaders of the teachers unions say they too support reform. But Michelle Rhee, the chancellor fighting to reform D.C. public schools, made a telling point recently during a televised exchange with the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten. Ms. Rhee was talking about the union's decision to slap her with a class-action grievance after she dismissed more than 200 bad teachers. "The bottom line," said Ms. Rhee, "is that if these people are ineffective, and if, as President Weingarten says, nobody wants ineffective teachers in the classroom, then you can't fight us every step of the way when we're moving in that direction."

We all know that good schools begin with good teachers. We also know there are many heroic teachers. Unfortunately, our system is set up to protect bad teachers rather than reward good teachers.

In the existing system, we have incentives for almost everything unrelated to performance (seniority, tenure, etc.) and zero incentive for adapting new technologies that could help learning inside and outside the classroom. On top of it all, we have chancellors, superintendents and principals who can't hire and fire based on performance.

We have tougher standards on "American Idol." And so long as we refuse to measure success by what our children are learning, we're going to have higher performance standards for pop stars than for public schools.

We all know the economic returns on a good education. That's true for societies as well as individuals. According to one study by McKinsey, if we had closed the gap in educational performance between ourselves and nations such as Finland and Korea, our GDP would have been as much as 16% higher in 2008. Imagine that kind of gain compounded over time, and you begin to appreciate why other nations are putting such a premium on their school systems.

The flip side is that there are also huge economic downsides for a society that consigns millions of its population to the margins of prosperity. When we allow the children of other people to fail or leave school without an education, they do not disappear. They become adults who cannot provide for themselves. And guess what? The costs will be borne by our children.

Many years ago, the great teacher and union leader Albert Shanker put it this way. "As long as there are no consequences if kids or adults don't perform, as long as the discussion is not about education and student outcomes, then we're playing a game as to who has the power."

It's time we stop playing power games—and begin ensuring that every boy and girl who enters a public school leaves with the same shot at the American Dream we insist on for our own sons and daughters.

Mr. Murdoch is chairman and CEO of News Corporation, which owns The Wall Street Journal. This article is adapted from his remarks this week to the Media Institute in Washington, D.C.

Friday, September 10, 2010

South Carolina's Newest RINO?

We remain hopeful that Mrs. Haley will restore to her platform support for a parent's right to seek out the best school for his or her child, regardless of who happens to manage it. If Mrs. Haley can readily compromise what were touted as core principles, on what issue can she be trusted?

Mrs. Haley rode a strong tide of resentment toward RINO, establishment Republicans; if she is now going to act like one, we see little reason to cast a vote in this race. As Margaret Thatcher pointed out, "Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."

South Carolina Gov Race: What’s Haley Thinking on School Choice?
From Cato Institute Blog
By Adam Schaeffer

Nikki Haley promises to be a star governor if–most likely when–she’s elected this fall by South Carolina voters. Word is she’s a committed fiscal conservative, and her background is steeped in a successful family business, not large corporations, so she should have an intuitive grasp of what makes our economy grow.

And Haley has a long, solid record of supporting school choice through education tax credits in South Carolina. As recently as August 19th, Haley was reported as saying, “like Sanford, she would veto a bill to expand public education options unless it included help with private tuition. She agreed with Sanford that it must be all or nothing, saying otherwise the Legislature won’t return to the debate.”

Now that’s the stuff.

But Haley has recently put out some concerning and confusing statements on school choice. “Haley said approving private-school choice, which would provide tax credits or vouchers to pay private-school tuition, was not a priority. ‘That is not my focus; my focus is the school funding formula,’ Haley said.”

Changing the funding formula is all well and good. It might save some money. But it will NOT improve education in South Carolina. Education tax credits will improve performance and save much more than any public school reform. School choice should be Haley’s only education issue.

Why is she backing away all of a sudden? Sure, the primary is over, but Haley is leading comfortably in the polls. Education tax credits pull down serious majority support across nearly every single demographic in South Carolina. White voters, black voters, old and young, Republicans and even Democrats. This is a great issue. And backtracking on a signature issue could tarnish her fresh, reformer image.

Most important, school choice is the right policy. Haley always seemed to have a deep understanding that only an education tax credit program can substantively improve education in South Carolina.

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, April 16, 2010

The Cartel: The True Nature of Teacher Unions

From The Heritage Foundation
By Sarah Torre

The problem of continual academic mediocrity that plagues America’s public school system can be laid at the door of union monopolies. That’s the message of The Cartel, a new documentary that will show this Sunday at 12 pm at the Washington, D.C. Independent Film Festival. The film documents the abuses of power exercised by teacher unions, specifically in the state of New Jersey, and the adverse effects such control can have on student achievement and parents’ fight for school choice.

The movie shows scenes of school buildings with new facades and million-dollar football fields juxtaposed with statistics of failing high schools and abysmal reading proficiency scores across the state. New Jersey is known for its extravagant education funding, currently spending over $350,000 per classroom in some of the state’s worst performing school districts. Why should a state with one of the highest public education budgets in the country boast meager academic achievement?

The inability of school districts to fire poorly performing teachers because of union tenure rules, coupled with an expensive and excessive administrative bureaucracy demanded by the same union, leads to an inefficient use of state funds and an ineffective education system. Similarly, when families and communities move to implement voucher programs, teacher unions cry foul, claiming such programs would supposedly drain money from already struggling public schools. What is the motivation for keeping bad teachers in classrooms, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on renovation projects, and denying families the power of school choice?

As a principal who was fired for his request to take action against teachers watching pornography while in school, states in the movie:

You keep quiet if you want this high-paying position; or you take a stance and you’re going to lose your job. And they’ll put your name in the newspaper, which means you’ll never be employed again. Because they play dirty, because there’s so much money involved.

While the movie investigates the power of teachers unions in New Jersey and demonstrates the negative impact such tactics can have on students, the film’s producer, Bob Bowdon, is quick to show support for teachers who care about educating their students:

Those good teachers deserve our respect. Wanting lousy teachers out of the classroom doesn’t mean you’re against all teachers. A point so obvious, I can hardly believe it needs to be made. This absurd idea that you have got to support every teacher, or else you hate all teachers, has been an effective myth put forward by the union for years.

The effects of teachers’ unions on school district governance and student performance is necessary to understanding many of the problems public schools around the country continue to face. Be sure to visit The Cartel website for screenings in the D.C. area and around the country.

Sarah Torre currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation.

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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dramatic Standoff at U.S. Department of Education as Six D.C. School Voucher Backers Block Doorway-Demand Obama Action on School Choice

In a dramatic act of civil disobedience today, six national education leaders blocked the main entrance of the U.S. Department of Education in an effort to protect the endangered Washington, D.C. school voucher program. The protesters refused to leave the premises for nearly an hour, leading to a standoff with police. Apparently on orders from federal officials, no arrests were made.

The individuals blocking entrance to the building were: former Democratic D.C. Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, longtime D.C. education activist and executive director of DC Parents for School Choice Virginia Walden Ford, the Rev. Anthony Motley, Black Alliance for Educational (BAEO) Board Chair Dr. Howard Fuller, BAEO President Gerard Robinson, and education reform leader Darrell Allison.

The protesters-who sought to block the entrance of the Department because "the President and the Secretary have blocked low-income parents from accessing the schools of their parents` choice"-were cheered on by 50 families and supporters.

Hailed by reformers across the country, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program serves 1,700 low-income, mostly African American, students in Washington, D.C. Two hundred and sixteen students who were offered scholarships last year had them revoked by Secretary Duncan in the Spring, leaving parents in the lurch.

"Two weeks ago, it became painfully clear that the Obama administration was not going to allow 216 previously accepted children to enroll in schools of their choice through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP)," Chavous said. "As much as I support our President and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, this action reeks with hypocrisy. As a result, we decided to engage in an act of civil disobedience. For years, many of us in the education reform movement have
been saying that the right to a quality education is the social justice and civil rights issue of our time. I believe that we need to match that rhetoric with direct action."

"President Obama and Secretary Duncan must stop ducking this issue and answer immediately why it makes sense to deprive low-income kids of the opportunity to go to better schools. As a product himself of private school scholarships, the president`s actions are bizarre and misguided," said Walden Ford. "The bottom line is that it is morally wrong to block low-income children from attending great schools, and this Administration knows it."

"I am proud to stand in solidarity with low-income D.C. parents and their children who are being disenfranchised by this Administration`s failure to fully support the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program," said Dr. Fuller. "If the President and Secretary Duncan want to keep their promise of `funding what works, regardless of ideology,` it`s time to walk the talk and stand up for a program that gives low income students in D.C. a way to seek a viable educational future."

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.