Archives for category: Vouchers

At least two lawsuits have been filed to stop Nevada’s sweeping “education savings account” legislation, which would allow parents to use public funds to enroll their children in private or religious schools or for home schooling. Today, District Judge James E. Wilson, Jr., ruled in one of those cases. He issued a preliminary injunction against the law, in that it does irreparable harm to the parents who sued by diverting public funds from public schools.

 

I will post more tomorrow on this decision.

The Lt. Governor has a powerful role in Texas government. Unfortunately, the Lt. Gov. right now is Dan Patrick, a former radio talk show host, who is a zealous supporter of vouchers. When he headed the Senate Education Committee, he put forward voucher bills but they died in the House. They died because of rural opposition to vouchers; it seems that rural Republicans in the House don’t see any good reason to kill off their public schools and divide their communities.

 

But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick now says he wants “education savings accounts” so that public money can flow to private and religious schools, as well as homeschoolers, and he wants to model his plan along the lines of the one enacted in Nevada. It is still public money going to religious schools, but that’s what he wants. As he says in the article, he wants school choice for all children, not just the poor.

 

The Nevada plan is being challenged in court by several organizations, because it violates the explicit language of the Nevada state constitution. Studies show that it primarily benefits well-to-do families, not poor families.

 

As in most other states, about 90% of the children in Texas go to public schools. Those schools are underfunded, especially since a dramatic $5.4 billion cut in 2011. Some of the money was later restored, but not most of it. The children in Texas are poorer than they were five years ago. The pupils are majority-minority. This is the scenario in which Dan Patrick proposes to gut public education.

 

It is time for the Texas Pastors for Children, for Friends of Texas Public Schools, and for every organization that believes in democratic control of public schools in Texas to step up and beat back Patrick’s bills.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute to the Arizona Supreme Court. Ducey bypassed many experienced jurists by choosing Bolick.

 

Bolick has litigated many cases to fight government regulation of all kinds. He strongly supports vouchers and charters. He defended vouchers in Wisconsin and Ohio.

A major new report from the progressive One Wisconsin Institute finds that the right-wing Bradley Foundation spent more than $108 million, working with 130 partner groups, to privatize public schools in Wisconsin between 2005 and 2014. During the same period, the state’s public schools experienced dramatic budget cuts.

 

Key findings of the updated “P Is For Payoff” report include:

 

 

Bradley Foundation head Michael Grebe, a political insider who chaired Gov. Walker’s presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, continues to orchestrate a massive propaganda campaign to advance the privatization of public education;

 
An analysis of IRS Form 990 records and Bradley Foundation reports reveals over 130 organizations supportive of their education privatization agenda and working to advance their cause have received over $108 million from 2005 through 2014;

 
Bradley’s tactics have continued to evolve, now featuring litigation to advance their privatization agenda and intimidate opponents. Leading the effort is the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty which since its inception in 2011 has been larded with over $2 million from Bradley;

 
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the voucher program will cost Wisconsin taxpayers over $1.1 billion from 2011 through the end of the 2015–17 budget cycle. Meanwhile, a new report found that Wisconsin schools have suffered the 4th biggest cuts in in the nation through 2014.

 

The Bradley Foundation is one of the nation’s most active reform organizations. It hopes to reform public education out of existence. Watch how skillfully the Bradley Foundation followed the usual reformer script:

 

Original research by One Wisconsin Institute in 2013 first exposed the Bradley Foundation as a leading player in the campaign to gut public education and promote the unaccountable, radical privatization of K-12 education. The Milwaukee-based group spent millions to support organizations, think tanks, journalists and right-wing academics. They engaged in a campaign that manufactured a crisis, singled out their enemies, generated a cure, justified their scheme with pseudo-science, broadcast their message through the media, helped elect politicians to advance their agenda and kept them in line with high-powered lobbyists and well-funded pressure campaigns. [Emphasis added by me.]

 

Ross concluded, “Wisconsin families and public schools are left paying the price as billions of dollars that could have been used for public education are siphoned off for the Bradley Foundation’s ideologically driven experiment. Until a majority of policy makers are willing to stand up to the Bradley Foundation’s millions, Wisconsin’s tradition of great public schools will remain under assault.”

Nevada’s new voucher program is the most radical in the nation. Of course, it is not called a “voucher” program, but “education savings accounts.” A rose by any other name. A stinkweed by any other name. You can call a stinkweed a rose, but it is still a stinkweed. The ESA will accomplish the same purpose as vouchers, by transferring public funds to private and religious schools.

 

Since the Republicans took control of the Legislature, school choice has been their top priority in education. This is their answer to the financial woes of Nevada’s underfunded public schools.

 

Says the article, “Nevada’s public schools are in the toilet. The Silver State consistently ranks near the bottom when it comes to education spending. Things got so dreary in the mid-2000’s that the state even amended its constitution with “Nevada Fund Education First,” a measure to ensure the education budget is determined before all other items. Even worse, Education Week ranked Nevada dead last in 2014 in a “Chance for Success” analysis that combined data on student achievement, state spending, and standards and accountability.” 

 

But why fund the schools when you can pass a school choice measure instead? The bonus is that you can call yourself a reformer as you are drawing even more money away from the schools that the majority of the state’s children attend.

 

Funny, the Nevada state constitution bars the use of public money for religious schools. Two-thirds of the private schools in Nevada are religious schools.

 

The Nevada Constitution states that, “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.” Anything ambiguous about that?

 

Nevada law also states in NRS 387.045 that, “No portion of the public school funds shall in any way be segregated, divided or set apart for the use or benefit of any sectarian or secular society or association.” Anything ambiguous about that?

 

Remember when conservatives used to be “strict constructionists” of state and federal Constitutions?

 

But that was then. Now, conservatives, led by ALEC, have set their sights on privatizing public education.

 

Don’t expect vouchers to reduce the achievement gaps between rich and poor: “It doesn’t promote better schooling for low-income [kids],” said Martin Carnoy, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. “It’s going to benefit new private-school providers and current private-school providers…It’s welfare for the rich.”

North Carolina was once the most progressive state in the South. Under the leadership of Governor Jim Hunt, it enacted many progressive programs for education and invested in public education, both K-12 and higher education.

But Tea Party Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010, and a Republican governor was elected in 2012, the first time in a century that Republicans controlled the state. Since taking power, the Republicans have slashed the budget for public education at all levels. They have enacted a law to authorize charter schools, including for-profit charters. They enacted a voucher law. They welcomed for-profit virtual schools. They have set out to shrink government and diminish the public sector. Per-student spending is now near the lowest in the nation, as are teacher salaries. The legislature has gone after teachers’ tenure and benefits. It shut down a five-year career teaching preparation program at the University of North Carolina, called the North Carolina Teaching Fellows, yet allocated almost the same amount of money to pay for Teach for America recruits, who will come and go.

This webinar should address these issues and more.

It should be of special interest to members of the Network for Public Education who intend to participate in our annual conference at Raleigh, NC, on April 16-17. Please visit our website and register. 

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Register For Our Upcoming Webinar

North Carolina Voters and the Value of Public Education,

2015 Survey Highlights

December 15, 2015, 2-3 pm EST

North Carolina Voters and the Value of Public Education, 2015 Survey Highlights

Leslie Winner, Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, shares the findings from their 2015 statewide survey of voters perceptions of public education.  The results show that North Carolina voters strongly value local public schools, support greater investments in overall funding and want more investment in teachers. The most recent survey shows great concern that state education policy and funding are undermining the public’s desire to ensure that each child is challenged to grow and is prepared for success in college, career and life.  Learn about tools for communicating the value of and advocating for public education!
Register here.
We are also excited to be soft-launching our new Southern Education Network, an online forum and virtual network created for you — advocates, organizers, students, parents, educators — who are working to support public education in the American South.  We’re providing this forum as a means for you to find resources, connect with others, dialogue about issues you’re facing and strategies you’re using, and to get support in the work to achieve education justice. 
The site is free to join, and by signing up as a member, you gain access to an online forum and a member directory, where you can search and connect with others. 
Over the coming months, you’ll see us add resources and additional information to the site.  As you check out the site during this initial launch phase, we’d love to get your feedback so that we can keep improving  the site and making it as user-friendly and efficient as possible.  We look forward to continuing to work with you in new ways.

Over a number of decades, some fabulously wealthy right-wingers and the think tanks they support have determined to convince African-American families that privately managed charters and vouchers would “save” their children from “failing” public schools. If you are very rich and you don’t want your taxes to become outrageous, then it makes sense to persuade people who have little that poverty is just an excuse for bad teachers. Forget about poverty. Why should our society invest hundreds of billions of dollars in restoring our infrastructure and creating good jobs for everyone willing to work, when it is so much less costly to get people angry at teachers and public schools? Who cares if we spent two trillion (with a T) on war in the past dozen years? Why waste time imagining what half of that would have done to reduce income inequality in this country? So the right-wing think tanks adopted the views of their founders and their funders, which was that the 1% are job-producers, and they must not have higher taxes. Nope.

 

This is the background to the nasty confrontation between teacher Patrick Hayes and Dr. Steve Perry of Hartford, Connecticut. Dr. Perry brought his message about how poverty doesn’t matter, how kids are hurt by their teachers, and how they should be in charter schools and they should get vouchers to get away from teachers’ unions. South Carolina doesn’t have teachers’ unions, but that is beside the point. And of course, he talked about the miracles at his school in Hartford.

 

It is somewhat startling to think that African American families in South Carolina might take up the cause that once belonged to White Citizens Councils in the South, supporting vouchers to avoid desegregation.

 

Here is an audio file of the event.

 

Patrick Hayes had the effrontery to challenge Dr. Perry. Dr. Perry referred to Hayes as a Satan and a blogger (yes, a blogger!).

 

Well, read it for yourself. And ask yourself what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., might say today about those who say that poverty doesn’t matter, that vouchers are necessary to escape public education, and that unions are the enemies of oppressed minorities.

 

Someone has been hoodwinked. But let’s not talk about hoods in South Carolina.

Arthur Camins posted this thoughtful critique of the rush to replace democratically controlled public schools with privately managed charters and vouchers for private schools. He expects Republicans to embrace charters and vouchers, given their love of the marketplace. Camins is the director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

 

But he criticizes Democrats for failing to defend the public nature of a public institution.

 

He writes:

 

 

 

As policy framing rhetoric, the word choice is meant evoke the imagery of democracy and equity. Words are powerful, especially in framing and influencing political debates. Words can conjure positive or negative emotional responses. However, sometimes words clarify and sometimes they obscure underlying values. So it is with choice.

 

In our culture the “the right to choose” suggests an almost inalienable individual right, making for powerfully resonant political rhetoric. However, behind the easy-to-swallow positive connotation of choice, there is underlying message in its use in the context of education. If stated explicitly, the message might cause a little indigestion: Be out for yourself and don’t worry so much about your neighbors or community.

 

I do not say this to castigate parents who choose to send their children to charter schools or the teachers who work in them. However, what is moral or sensible for an individual does not make for sound or just education policy for a society. The moral burden falls not on parents, but on those who knowingly advance the wellbeing of the at the expense of the many.

 

Many centuries ago Rabbi Hillel sagely wrote,

 

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14.
It is time to reframe the policy dialog from choosing just for me to choosing to ensure better schools for us.

 

There is reason for hope. While choice is a deeply held American value, so is community responsibility. In fact, reference to individualism and community responsibility in politics has ebbed and flowed in recent American history. The New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960’s- catalyzed by the labor and civil rights movements- represented high points for collective solutions, such as Social Security or Medicare, to complex problems. Alternatively, the election of Ronald Reagan initiated a sustained period of individualism. In periods of relative or growing equity and shared prosperity individualism may foster personal interests and creativity. However, in periods of scarcity a selfish brand of individualism diminishes equity by diverting attention from more systemic solutions that can only be achieved by collective action. Such is the case with charter schools. Only some are superior, and there is no evidence that a market-based, all-charter system will lead to overall improvement. On the contrary, charter school expansion is more likely to lead to market volatility and disruption in children’s lives.

 

With individualism in ascendancy, few current politicians challenge structural inequality or run for office on an explicit program of equity. Sadly, faith in the prospect of voting as a route to greater equity is at a low point while cynicism about the viability political process grows. As a result, the self-interested perspective of those with relatively more privilege leads to holding fast what they have. In the context of scarce federal and state education resources, that means protecting their community’s property tax resource advantage. It means maintaining various in-school segregative tracking mechanisms that privilege some children over others. Similarly, from the perspective of the disempowered and disadvantaged in urban areas, charter schools and vouchers may represent an individual choice in the apparent absence of viable community alternatives.

 

Supporters of equity and democracy must depend upon and develop agency and hope for community solutions because when there is only despair, the only rational course of action is individual survival. Ideological supporters of privatization understand this and actively undermine democratic participation and the promise of collective solutions. That is why since the 1980’s they have followed an explicit starve-the-beast strategy to defund public institutions in order to undermine quality, public trust, and confidence. That is why they favor private charter boards over elected school boards.

 

I have come to believe that the struggle for equity must include a tandem strategy of opposition and advocacy.

 

Friends of equity need to oppose funding charter schools, not because choice is inherently a bad idea but because the spread of charter schools is morally corrosive and drains money from other local schools. Since funds are always limited, the opportunities for the few come with the sacrifice of others. “They are stealing your child’s future,” might be an appropriate opposition slogan.

 

Developments outside of education, such as adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage in several cities, may represent the beginning of a climb out of the valley of individualism. In education, the fledgling opt-out movement in response to the misuse of testing may represent a resurgence of hope in the power of agency through collective action.

 

Progress requires an opt-in campaign for local public schools based on community rather than individualist values. Advocacy should highlight the fundamental characteristics of effective public schools both in the U.S. and abroad and contrast these with prevalent market-based solutions.

 

These are the factors that make for the oft-mentioned great schools and teachers in which children flourish. Many already exist. The public needs to hear their stories. Friends of equity and democracy need to relentlessly offer these factors as a viable alternative for better schools.

 

Change will only happen when a movement demands these factors from the people we elect- from school boards to presidents. What we need is better choices in who we elect to guide education policy. Candidates need to hear from the public: There are better choices than school choice to improve education.

 

 

 

The radical right and their allies claim they are strict constructionists of the Constitution. They don’t feel the same way about State Constitutions. Even when the State Constitution explicitly says that public money is to be used only for public schools, the far-right celebrates when the Legislature passes a voucher program that violates the State Constitution.

This is the case in Nevada, where the Constitution is very clear about where public money should go: to public schools only. Yet Nevada passed the most sweeping voucher legislation in the nation, and the allegedly strict constructionists have thrown their principles to the wind. The fact is that they care more about free markets than about the State Constitution.

Here is the complaint that was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs challenging Nevada’s sweeping voucher law.

“EducateNevadaNow” is the organization that is leading the charge against vouchers. Here is its question-and-answer sheet about the lawsuit:


On September 9, 2015, a group of parents whose children attend Nevada public schools filed a lawsuit challenging the State’s new voucher law. The lawsuit, Lopez v. Schwartz, has generated media attention and interest from parents, educators and taxpayers.

Today’s frequently asked questions focus on what the parents hope to achieve and next steps in the process.

Q: Are the parents suing for money damages?

A: No. The parents are only suing to stop the voucher program and keep it from taking away funding from the education of their children in the public schools. They are not asking for any money. Additionally, the attorneys representing the parents are providing their legal services for free or “pro bono.”

FACT: The Nevada Constitution states that the funding provided for public schools can only be used to operate those schools and not for any other purposes.

Q: What are the next steps in the parents’ lawsuit?

A: The case has been filed before Judge James Wilson in Carson City, Nevada. The parents will be asking Judge Wilson to declare the voucher law unconstitutional and to block the State Treasurer from implementing the voucher law.

One of the groups I have come to admire is called Pastors for Texas Children.

They regularly testify before the state legislature against vouchers because they believe in separation of church and state.

They have been especially effective in making the voices of rural communities and small town heard, places where people like their public schools.

They need your help to continue their battle for better public schools:

As many of you already know Pastors for Texas Children has received a matching grant from The Meadows Foundation! They will award us $30,000 on November 10, 2015. If we can raise that amount between now and then they will award us an additional $30,000 to benefit our children in Texas. Here is the amount we have raised and the amount we still need.

Amount Raised: $9,080.00

Amount Needed: $20, 920.00

Remember, we will need to raise the $20,920.00 by November 10, 2015 – counting today that’s just 19 days left.

Many of you have already generously donated, and we would like to express our sincere gratitude to you! If you haven’t given already, please donate $50,$100, $200 or any amount you would like to:

Pastors for Texas Children
PO Box 471155
Fort Worth, Texas 76147

You may also donate by credit card online at http://pastorsfortexaschildren.com/donate by clicking on the red Donate button.

Please give so we can receive these matching funds and help us make the local church and the local school a “dynamic duo” for God’s common good in every community in Texas!
God bless you, your family, your ministry, your school, and your district, and thank you for standing strong for our schoolchildren.

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