Archives for category: Vouchers

Max Brantley, a fearless blogger in Arkansas (and former editor of the Arkansas Times), wrote an analysis of the Arkansas State Board of Education’s decision to takeover the Little Rock School Board. “The Billionaires Boys Club and its allies at the chamber of commerce won a hard-won and well-orchestrated battle,” he wrote.

 

Look who is on the state board:

 

The votes for takeover included Diane Zook, wife of Randy Zook, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and aunt of Gary Newton, who heads several organizations financed by the Walton Family Foundation and advocates establishment of charter schools. Others included Vicki Saviers of Little Rock, who’s served on the board of the pro-charter-school Arkansans for Education Reform, a lobby financed by the Waltons and other wealthy Arkansans. She also helped found the eStem charter school in Little Rock, another beneficiary of Walton money. Another takeover vote was Kim Davis of Fayetteville, director of external relations for the Northwest Arkansas Council, a private development group whose key backers are the Walton Family Foundation, Sam’s Club and Tyson Foods. The other vote for takeover, besides Ledbetter, was Toyce Newton of Crossett, who heads Phoenix Youth and Family Services. She has served on the Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, which has been partnering with the Walton Family Foundation on an education improvement project. Saviers is on the Rockefeller Foundation board as well. The Rockefeller Foundation is a financial contributor to Newton’s nonprofit.

 

You know what will happen next, right? You remember that Carrie Walton Penner told Forbes that her vision for “fixing” education in America was charter schools, vouchers, and a free market in schooling.

 

 

I was invited to write an article for the New York Daily News reviewing Governor Cuomo’s recently announced “opportunity agenda” for education.

 

Here is what I wrote.

 

The Daily News published other articles praising the Governor’s plans for toughening teacher evaluations, adding more charters, and introducing voucher legislation. Given the limitation of 800 words, I was unable to write about the noxious effects of vouchers, which have succeeded nowhere.

 

It is an agenda that will subject the state’s children to more testing, more test prep, and less of everything that they enjoy about school.

 

It is an agenda that will ignores expert opinion about the harmful effects of judging teachers by the test scores of their students.

 

It is an agenda that is innately hostile to public education.

 

 

Politico reports that school choice advocates are flocking to Capitol Hill in hopes of getting federal legislation to promote vouchers. The irony of vouchers is that they have been on state ballots many times but have never won popular approval. Most recently, they were turned down in Florida by a decisive majority, although that didn’t stop the state legislature from pushing vouchers wherever they could get them past the courts. When the Utah legislature passed the nation’s most sweeping voucher bill in 2007, giving vouchers to all students to attend a private or religious school, voters rejected the plan by a 60%+ margin in November 2007. Voucher advocates who paid for the campaign to pass them (led by the CEO of overstock.com) said that the voters were stupid and had failed an I.Q. test.

 

Nonetheless, expect the Republican Congress to come up with school choice legislation. Will President Obama sign it?

 

Politico writes:

 

SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK HITS THE HILL: School choice advocates will pack serious star power this morning on Capitol Hill at a gathering celebrating National School Choice Week. House Majority Leader John Boehner is on tap to give the keynote address and Reps. Steve Scalise, John Kline, Todd Rokita and Virginia Foxx as well as Sens.Tim Scott and Ted Cruz are slated to attend. A parent of a D.C. voucher recipient is also scheduled to speak, and organizers expect more than 250 attendees. The event starts at 8:50 a.m ET at the Cannon House Office Building, Room 345.

 

- Indiana Rep. Luke Messer, who was recently elected to a position in House leadership, is continuing his push on school choice: He’s scheduled to be master of ceremonies at today’s event and is also reintroducing a school choice proposal he put out last year. Vouchers might not fit into the “political reality” of the push to reauthorize No Child Left Behind this year, Messer said Tuesday, but he emphasized that he’s in it for the long haul and that “every idea has its time.” More from Maggie Severns: http://politico.pro/1v0ERc2.

 

Chester Finn, one of the nation’s leading conservative thinkers and president emeritus of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote an article in the New York Daily News saluting Andrew Cuomo for his forceful advocacy of charters and, especially, vouchers.

Since Néw York’s constitution has an amendment barring any public payment for tuition at religious schools, Cuomo calls it a tax-credit scholarship program. Republicans usually use the euphemism “opportunity scholarships.” But no one is fooled. The goal in New York and elsewhere is to subsidize the tuition of students at religious schools.

Finn writes:

“Cuomo is, to the best of my knowledge, the first Democratic governor ever to propose a program of private-school choice for kids and families in his state. Others (in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arizona, maybe elsewhere) have tolerated this sort of thing when it originated outside of their offices, but this is the first time a state’s Democratic chief exec has taken the lead.”

What Checker Finn does not mention is that voters have never approved public support for vouchers in any state.

FYI, I was a trustee of the Fordham Institute for many years and a very close friend of Checker Finn. We even wrote books together. But I never agreed with him about vouchers, nor in his contempt for unions, nor in his fervent advocacy of anything that weakens public education. Maybe we differed because I graduated from public school, and he graduated from Exeter.

The Néw Yorker has a long article about Jeb Bush’s passionate interest in reforming public education by high-stakes testing, report cards, and privatization. Since his own children attend private schools, they are not affected by his grand redesign of public education.

To boil down his approach, regular public schools get loaded down with mandates and regulations. Charter schools are free of mandates and regulations, and many are run for profit. As public schools are squeezed by the competition with charters, they get larger classes and fewer programs. Meanwhile, Bush’s friends and allies get very rich.

It is a thorough story about Jeb Bush’s mission to turn public education into an industry.. One conclusion: If he were elected President, it would be the end of public education as we have known it for more than 150 years.

In what seems to be a trend, the new Lt-Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, has assembled a committee of 55 leaders of business and industry to advise him on state policies, including education. There do not appear to be any educators on the panel. Lt-Gov-elect Patrick is a strong proponent of vouchers.

 

Last month, the Governor of Nevada created a committee of business leaders to advise him on education policy without appointing any educators to join it.

 

It seems to be a well-established principle in today’s “reform” climate that business leaders and politicians are experts about education, and there is no reason to ask educators to have any say in state or federal policy.

I have had many exchanges with “reformers” who denied that they wanted to destroy public education and replace it with a privatized system. No, they insisted, competition will be good for the public schools. Charters and vouchers will improve public schools. I disagreed because I had heard many of their allies speak truthfully about their desire to privatize the public spending on education, behind closed doors, back when I was with them.

Now we know that competition doesn’t improve public schools. It takes money away from public schools. It weakens them.

But what do “reformers” want? Let them tell you. Jeanne Allen, who founded the Center for Education Reform after working for the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation in D.C., has advocated for charters and vouchers for more than two decades. In a few weeks, she will offer a seminar at the Center called “The Decline and Fall of the U.S. Education System – The Development of a Movement.”

That’s the goal of reform. Weakening and privatizing public education.

Mercedes Schneider here recounts the sad story of Louisiana’s voucher program.

Vouchers were piloted in Néw Orleans, then made available to students across the state in 2012-13. Governor Bobby Jindal and State Commissioner of Education John White foresaw a revolutionary change with tens of thousands of public school students fleeing their “failing” schools to enroll in private and religious schools, where they would enjoy a first-rate education.

But it didn’t happen. The original plan was to divert funding from the state’s minimum foundation funding for public schools, but the courts said the plan was unconstitutional. Then it turned out that the school offering the largest number of vouchers was a small church school without a curriculum or certified teachers. Within a year, it was disqualified for mishandling public money.

The biggest problems, however, were the lack of demand for vouchers by students and the many private schools that did not want voucher students. Less than 10% of students in schools rated D or F asked for a voucher: Not exactly a stampede for the exits.

Added to that was the lackluster performance of students in voucher schools, which was below the state average.

Now John White is offering additional incentives (money) to induce more private schools to accept vouchers.

Sad. No transformation. No flight from public schools. A bust.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post reported on Jeb Bush’s foundation and his use of it to advance his political goals and the financial interests. It’s a great story. Read it.

If Jeb Bush should run for President, this article bears re-reading.

Bush spoke at a rightwing policy conference in Michigan, where he “trashed” public schools.

“MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Jeb Bush praised charter schools and slammed traditional public schools and teachers unions in a speech here Wednesday, saying that public education “dumbs down standards to make adults look better,” a phrase often used by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“We must expand [school] choice,” said Bush, delivering a keynote speech at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in northern Michigan. “Our governance model includes over 13,000 government-run monopolies run by unions.”

“Since he left office, the former Florida governor has become an evangelist for a certain strand of education reform; through his $19 million Foundation for Excellence in Education, he advocates for online education, grading schools based on test scores and forcing students to repeat grades if they don’t pass standardized exams.”

Bush is also an ardent fan of vouchers.

In his speech, he praised Michigan’s charter sector. Not everyone agrees with his enthusiasm. The Detroit Free Press ran a series of articles in July 2014 concluding that the state of Michigan spends $1 billion every year on charters with no accountability.

Here are the newspaper’s findings:

“What the Free Press found:

A yearlong Free Press investigation of Michigan’s charter schools found wasteful spending, conflicts of interest, poor performing schools and a failure to close the worst of the worst. Among the findings:

Charter schools spend $1billion per year in state taxpayer money, often with little transparency.

Some charter schools are innovative and have excellent academic outcomes — but those that don’t are allowed to stay open year after year.

A majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in Michigan have been open 10 years or more.

Charter schools as a whole fare no better than traditional schools in educating students in poverty.

Michigan has substantially more for-profit companies running schools than any other state.

Some charter school board members were forced out after demanding financial details from management companies.

State law does not prevent insider dealing and self-enrichment by those who operate schools.”

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