Archives for category: Vouchers

The organization that has done the most to undermine public education is the Walton Family Foundation. It has given hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools, voucher programs, Teach for America, and rightwing think tanks to advocate for privatization. The Néw York Times reported that the Walton foundation had underwritten one of every four charter start-ups in the nation. In addition, it has given more than $50 million to Teach for America to assure that the charters have a non-union teaching staff.

 

And lest we forget, the Walton family as individuals has given large sums to charter referenda in Georgia and Washington state, as well as to pro-privatization candidates.

 

A reader suggests:

 

“How about a national teachers’ boycott of Walmart re school supplies and asking parents/kids to do the same? Perhaps we can enlist Target or Office Depot, Staples, other nation wide alternatives. . .”

 

I generally don’t advocate boycotts, but on the other hand, I never never never shop at Walmart. That’s just me.

Andrew Cuomo is proposing tax credit legislation that is generally considered a backdoor voucher. Corporations and wealthy people will get tax credits for supporting private and religious schools. The Legislature killed this proposal less than two months ago, but Cuomo is back with it on behalf of religious hroips that supported his election. (This is also ALEC legislation.)

No surprise that the Wall Street billionaire-funded group which is deceptively named”Families for Excellent Schools” is supporting Cuomo’s tax credit proposal and advocating lifting or eliminating the cap on charter schools. These families are not your average New York City families, though they pretend to be. this group spent $5 million in TV advertising last year to secure free rent for charters and to block Mayor De Blasio’s effort to regulate charters. These families have names like Walton and Paul Tudor Jones. It is doubtful that any of them ever attended a public school or sent their children to one. They are mad about charter schools because they are free-market fundamentalists.

This is their press release:

FAMILIES FOR EXCELLENT SCHOOLS URGES PASSAGE OF EDUCATION TAX CREDITS AND LIFTING OF CHARTER CAP

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** May 12, 2015

Contact: Khan@StuLoeser.com, 347 596 6389

FAMILIES FOR EXCELLENT SCHOOLS URGES PASSAGE OF EDUCATION TAX CREDITS AND LIFTING OF CHARTER CAP

#DontStealPossible DontStealPossible.Org

New York, NY – Families for Excellent Schools released this statement Tuesday afternoon following the introduction of the Governor Cuomo’s bill on education tax credits:

“Every parent should be able to choose a great school for their child. Passing the education tax credit and lifting the cap on charters expands choice immediately for families that need it most.

Today’s announcement is a bold step by Governor Cuomo to protect choice and ensure access to good schools in New York,” said Families for ExcellentSchools’ CEO Jeremiah Kittredge.

Families for Excellent Schools harnesses the power of families to advance policy and political changes that create and sustain excellent schools.

http://www.FamiliesForExcellentSchools.org
On Twitter at: @Fam4ExcSchools

###


Khan Shoieb
Communications Strategist
Stu Loeser & Co.
54 West 40th St #1131
New York, NY 10018
@KShoieb
(Office)
(347) 596-6389 (Mobile)
http://www.stuloeser.com

Gene V. Glass, distinguished researcher of education at Arizona State University, surveys the amazing spread of school choice in Arizona and asks what are the results of the spread of choice. You have heard the stories about how vouchers and charters will “save poor kids from failing schools,” will create competition to improve public schools, will work wonders for everyone. It turns out that Arizona is the choice capital of the world but is still waiting for that miraculous success that its advocates promised and still promise.

 

Professor Glass shows how dramatically choice has spread across Arizona, with the urging of choice advocates in the government and the private sector.

 

Glass writes:

 

Now Arizona is the school choice capital of the world: 1) 500 charter schools – soon to be closer to 600 if New Schools for Phoenix has its way, and they will; 2) huge virtual academies run by out-of-state companies like K12 Inc.; 3) open enrollment laws; 4) tuition tax credits subsidizing families sending their kids to religious schools; and 5) a history of active homeschooling. In fact, the number of students whose parents have “chosen” is staggering. There are 1,100,000 students of K-12 school age in Arizona. Of that number, 180,000 attend charter schools, 200,000 have exercised their right to switch school districts under open enrollment laws, and about 80,000 attend private (mostly religious)schools or are homeschooled. That amounts to more than 400,000 “choice students” in Arizona out of a population of a little more than one million for a choice ratio of about 40% plus.

 

With nearly half of all students enjoying the benefit of choice – with its effects on driving incompetent teachers out of work, shutting down bad schools, stimulating private and public schools to reach higher levels of effort and innovation – the condition of K-12 education in Arizona must be nothing short of fantastic!

 

But, to hear the state’s politicians and business leaders speak of it, Arizona’s school systems are terrible. Below average; lagging behind other nations; a threat to the economy of the entire state; not preparing students for college or careers; in need of major reforms; bring on the Common Core. Arizona’s education system is the paragon of choice, and yet it is a mess. Somebody needs to get their stories straight.

Writing in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a group of Texas pastors expressed their support for public education and their strong opposition to vouchers for religious institutions. They believe in separation of church and state.

 

They wrote:

 

Speaking passionately and personally, we pastors are for Texas children, and we are alarmed at the language and legislation coming from some of the most powerful people in our land. It attacks neighborhood and community schools and the dedicated, faithful educators who nurture and instruct our children.

 

The Texas Senate recently passed Senate Bill 4, providing tuition tax credits to donors giving scholarships to private schools. These are plainly private school vouchers.

 

The lieutenant governor’s hand-picked advisory board issued a letter calling every public school classroom “a Godless environment.”

 

We are offended. Several of our spouses and many of our members work in public schools, and many of our children attend them. We are certain they take God with them.

 

We see first-hand the dedicated servants committed to the moral, ethical and emotional well-being of children as well as their academic preparation. We know the love with which counselors, administrators, classroom teachers and other staff work with the broad range of students.

 

They encourage all, fretting over those with particular challenges, pouring their hearts, their hours, their energies into the precious lives of children, no matter their native ability, economic background or ethnicity. Former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., also an Episcopal priest, points out that objects — like chewing gum — may be kept out of schools, but not God. God is the creator of heaven and earth.

 

Pickpocketing public coffers while simultaneously attacking public schools — anchor of the common good — seems to us inadequate leadership.

 

We applaud the 12 senators who opposed the disappointing voucher legislation, and we urge our representatives in the Texas House to defeat vouchers. Here’s why:

 

Our state Legislature has repeatedly rejected private school vouchers because they divert public money to religious schools in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits any establishment of religion.

 

This time the ruse is not to give religious schools money directly but simply to allow a reduction of funds in the public treasury to be diverted to private schools.

 

Religious liberty is at stake. The separation of church and state is intended not to protect the state from the church, but to protect the church from the state.

 

With Thomas Jefferson, we believe it is sinful and tyrannical for government to compel people to pay taxes for the propagation of religious opinions with which they disagree, or even with which they agree. Authentic religion must be wholly uncoerced.

 

Faith should be dependent on the persuasive power of the truth it proclaims and not on the unwanted, and unneeded, assistance of the Texas Legislature.

 

George W. Truett, pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church for the first half of the 20th century, said on the steps of the nation’s capital: “Religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source, and to the degree it is thus supported, it is a millstone hanged about its neck.”

 

As a practical matter, vouchers channel public monies to private schools with no public accountability. Private schools could use public money to discriminate on race, gender, religion and special needs.

 

Private schools define and meet their constituency’s needs, but public money must come with public scrutiny.

 

Vouchers have always been defeated in Texas because they neglect the lawful, public system and, thus, violate the Texas Constitution.

 

Article 7, Section 1, says: “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

 

Texas benefits from a robust economy, yet hovers near the nation’s bottom in per-pupil spending. We feast at bounty’s table while some children subsist on crumbs.

 

Education is God’s gift to all persons. Education is a core component of democracy.

 

We pray the Texas House will defeat vouchers by whatever name.

 

Let us, rather, defend and protect public education in Texas, and let us affirm and support those who shape children on our behalf.

 

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/other-voices/article20059371.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

Writing in the Houston Chronicle, Chris Ladd describes a voucher proposal that just passed the State Senate as the most sweeping privatization plan in the nation. He calls it “neo-Confederate.” It is a stunning editorial that should be read by everyone who thinks that public education is a public responsibility and that public money should not be funneled to religious institutions. Hopefully, good common sense  will prevail in the state House, but one never knows.

 

Ladd writes:

 

Texas’ legislature is poised to deliver a massive gift to the state’s religious fundamentalists. The Senate has passed the boldest school privatization program in the country, a pilot program that would finally neuter the “godless” public schools. This is what happens when you place a mildly deranged radio host in a state’s most powerful elected office.

 

Sending public school students to private religious schools may not seem like a ticket to a well-educated citizenry prepared for 21st century demands. That’s ok. Those are not the goals of this program. Legislators are looking for ways to further cut taxes and rescue Texas children from the godless influence of science, history, and empirical knowledge.

 

There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about school vouchers. Thirteen states plus DC already have programs that let students attend private institutions with public funding under some limited circumstances. What makes Texas’ proposal special is its ambitious scope and its potential to remove the last major edifice of public capital in Texas…..

 

So, let’s review. Texas’ proposed school reform would, at least on a limited scale for now, allow taxpayers to opt out of paying taxes to public schools in order to direct their contributions to EAO’s. Those entities would decide which students to fund in private schools, with no constraints on sending students to religious academies and no oversight on which students they fund.

 

If expanded, this offers Texas’ religious fundamentalists a huge achievement. They could finally destroy their most hated public institution – the schools. This proposal would gradually starve the public schools of their revenue stream, further cutting the amount that the state pays after years of careful under-funding. Meanwhile it would leave the public schools trapped under their existing infrastructure and mandates, a trap that would finally finish off the beast.

 

Undersized vouchers would fail to deliver enough funding to support a competent private education. Affluent families would get to take the money and run, receiving a state subsidy which they could combine with their family’s own contributions to pay for a reasonably good private education. Middle income families who can’t afford to pay above the voucher value would be left in the lurch, trapped between a collapsing public school system and a collection of cheap, storefront Christian madrassas.

 

A new generation of young people will be spared from learning about their history or discovering anything about the natural world that might challenge their religious assumptions. They’ll be ignorant, bigoted, and reliably pious, which this legislature will see as a big fat win.

 

The roots of this concept are perhaps even worse than the shape of the plan itself. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down racial discrimination in schools, Georgia passed a constitutional amendment in 1954 allowing their legislature to privatize the entire school system. They never took that radical step, but the law remained in place until Georgia introduced a new constitution in 1982.

 

One of the architects of Texas’ current plan is Arthur Laffer, a man who has manufactured a successful career out of being wrong about everything. He became famous for formulating what George Bush, Sr. famously called “voodoo economics.” Laffer most recently used his policy voodoo to rip the bottom out of Kansas’ state finances. People are still listening to this guy because results don’t matter in politics.

 

It isn’t clear whether the current proposals can gain enough support to pass in this session. The Senate has already approved the plan, but its future in the House is uncertain.

 

What is clear is that Texas’ experiment with radical Neo-Confederate government is reaching a crucially painful stage and there is no relief in sight. This disastrous and bizarre proposal may fail this year, but there is nothing to stop it from emerging again and again until it, something even worse, finally passes. Elections have consequences and there are no signs of Texas elections delivering sanity any time soon.

A reader sent this email to me:

At the 6:43 mark of this latest Fordham podcast, Mike Petrilli says:
http://edexcellence.net/commentary/podcasts/opening-minds-about-closing-schools
“If this [opt-out] thing goes national, the whole education reform
movement is in serious trouble.”

Amen!

In his never-ending campaign to strip away any power from duly-elected State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz, Governor Mike Pence has removed oversight of the voucher program from the State Education Department. Apparently he won’t be satisfied until Ritz has nothing but a key to the bathroom.

Here’s a thought. Ritz won more votes than Pence. How about Ritz for Governor in 2016? Turn the rascals out! Restore decency to the Hoosier State!

This is quite a remarkable admission. Nicholas Kristof writes today in the New York Times that the “reform” efforts have “peaked.” I read that and the rest of the column to mean that they have failed to make a difference. Think of it: Bill Gates, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Wendy Kopp, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Michelle Rhee, Campbell Brown, and a host of other luminaries have been singing the same song for the past 15 years: Our schools are broken, and we can fix them with charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing, merit pay, elimination of unions, elimination of tenure, and rigorous efforts to remove teachers who can’t produce ever-rising test scores.

Despite the billions of dollars that the federal government, the states, and philanthropies have poured into this formula, it hasn’t worked, says Kristof. It is time to admit it and to focus instead on the early years from birth to kindergarten.

He writes:

For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education.

Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.

Yet I wonder if the education reform movement hasn’t peaked.

The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has droppedfor the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.

K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

Wow! That is exactly what I wrote in “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” along with recommendations for reduced class sizes, a full curriculum, a de-emphasis on high-stakes testing, a revival of public policies to reduce poverty and segregation, and a recommitment to the importance of public education.

When I look at the Tea Party legislature in North Carolina or the hard-right politicians in the Midwest or the new for-profit education industry, I don’t think of them as idealistic but as ideologues. Aside from that, I think that Kristof gives hope to all those parents and teachers who have been working for years to stop these ideologues from destroying public education. Yes, it should be improved, it must be improved. There should be a good public school in every neighborhood, regardless of zip code. But that won’t happen unless our leaders dedicate themselves to changing the conditions in which families and children live so that all may have equal opportunity in education and in life.

Sara Stevenson, librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin and a member of the honor roll of this blog, is a relentless thinker and doer. She writes frequently to set the record straight when rightwing ideologues and reformers attack public education. In this post, she questions the rationale behind voucher legislation in Texas, which comes back session after session, a true zombie. Texas is a conservative state, for sure, but every time the subject of vouchers has come up, it has been beaten back by a coalition of rural representatives, mostly Republicans, who value their hometown schools, and urban representatives, mostly Democrats, who don’t want to drain money away from their underfunded public schools. The voucher proponents are back, and Stevenson says it is time to stop them again.

 

She writes:

 

Even though this latest version states that eligible students must
have attended a public school the previous year, once the door opens,
this bill will achieve what it was originally designed to do all
along. As a rural Republican in the Texas House said recently,
“Vouchers are just tax breaks for people who already send their kids
to private schools.”

 

I spent ten years teaching in a private Catholic school in Austin. I
admire greatly the work of private schools and the communities they
serve. However, if parents choose to send their child to a private
school, they do not deserve a tax credit. Just because their child
does not attend a public school does not mean they are not obligated
to support public education. Millions of Texas citizens with no
children of school age pay taxes to support our public schools, which
educates 5 million children. Every citizen benefits from an educated
populace. We used to refer to this concept as the common good.

 

It’s important that we citizens respect our own traditions. The United
States was the first country in the world to enact compulsory, free
education. By this important 19th century innovation, our nation
became a world leader, dominating the 20th century. This value is
inscribed in Article VII of the Texas Constitution.

 

The main difference between public and private schools is that the
latter have enormous freedom to teach what they want. They are
completely free from any state-imposed curricula, accountability, or
punitive testing schemes. They are also exclusive. You must apply to
a private school, and these schools can reject or expel students for
any reason. They do not have to accept the students who wipe their
feces on the bathroom walls or those with a mental age of one and a
half. Will private schools be equipped and willing to serve these
severely disabled children? Will they be able to teach students who
speak languages other than English, a group that comprises almost 20%
of the current Texas public school population?

The details of the Texas voucher plan were released, and the politicians pushing it can’t wait to siphon money away from the state’s underfunded public schools. They show no remorse for cutting $5 billion from the public schools in 2011, and now they are back looking for ways to drain even more money away from the public schools that enroll about 90% of the children in the state.

 

As a graduate of the Houston public schools (San Jacinto High School, class of 1956), I resent that these men are tearing down their community’s public schools. They claim they want to “save poor kids from failing schools,” but the schools aren’t failing: the politicians are failing the schools. Poor kids can’t learn when they don’t have access to decent medical care, when they don’t have enough to eat, when they are deprived of necessities that advantaged families take for granted. Poor kids will learn better if they have smaller class sizes, experienced teachers, and a full curriculum instead of incessant testing. By cutting funding and sending it to religious schools, the Texas legislators will guarantee larger classes and a stripped-down curriculum. Furthermore, while they won’t pay for what kids need, they have set aside millions for the inexperienced temps called Teach for America, most of whom will disappear after two years.

 

I am proud to be a native Texan, but I am not proud of the men who are destroying the public schools that educated me and my family and made it possible for me to go to a good college.

 

If I were in Austin, I would say to State Senator Larry Taylor and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick that vouchers and tax credits (backdoor vouchers) hurt the great majority of children who attend public schools. I would say to them that they should take a trip to Milwaukee, which has had vouchers for 25 years, and is one of the lowest scoring cities on the NAEP federal tests. I would tell them that poor black children in Milwaukee are doing worse in voucher schools than they were in public schools. I would tell them they are cheating the children of Texas, to placate their ideology and their pals in the corporate world.

 

I would tell them to hang their heads in shame.

 

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