Archives for category: Vouchers

Todd Kaminsky, a Democratic Assemblyman from Long Island, stated his unequivocal opposition to Governor Cuomo’s tax credit proposal–a thinly veiled voucher that will benefit children who attend religious schools. However, the election is over, and now Assemblymember Kaminsky thinks that vouchers are a swell idea.

Maybe he thought that local parents are so busy fighting high-stakes testing that they wouldn’t notice that he wants to take money from their schools and send it to yeshivas, parochial schools, and madrasahs.

During the campaign, he was a vocal opponent of vouchers and received the endorsement of the teachers’ union. He said:

““It’s something that’s not going to happen,” Kaminsky said at the time. “Last year, it did not come up for a vote in the Assembly. I don’t know if it will again, but I can tell you it’s not something I favor.”

Now the election is over and the fickle Mr. Kaminsky says, “there’s a difference between campaigning and governing….”

“Nassau County’s Five Towns area, which Kaminsky represents, has a strong and growing Orthodox Jewish community. During our conversation, the assemblyman noted the tendency of Orthodox families to have many children, which puts a strain on their education budgets.”

I spoke last night to educators, parents, and some school board members in Milwaukee. I was sponsored by the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. I am in awe of their courage. They keep on going despite the attacks by Governor Scott Walker, who boasted recently that if he could beat the unions, he could beat ISIS. I looked around for kindergarten teachers with Uzis or librarians with bazookas, but I didn’t see any.

This week Governor Walker plans to sign right-to-work legislation, the Golden Fleece of the far right. Can’t allow workers to have a voice in working conditions or collectively bargaining for higher wages, can we?

His budget is also a subject of heated discussion. He wants to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system, one of the narion’s finest higher education systems. He wants to cut public education by $127 million, of which $12 million will come from Milwaukee’s beleaguered public schools.

According to this article, some campuses are planning to lay off 1/4 of their staff, and others will close entire departments, if the cuts are enacted.

Walker wants more vouchers, even though the last independent evaluation showed that voucher schools do not get better results than public schools, and many are abysmal failures. Walker wants more charters, even though the charters do not surpass public schools in test scores, and many are failing.

The reformers promised that choice and competition would save Milwaukee’s children, especially its African American children, from “failing public schools.” They said that competition would improve the public schools, because they would be compelled to compete for students.

After 25 years as the Petri dish of school choice, we now know that those promises were hollow. Milwaukee started participating in the urban district portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the federal testing program–in 2009. It is one of the lowest performing of the 21 districts tested, slightly ahead of Cleveland and Detroit. (Cleveland also has vouchers and charters, and Detroit has been the setting for an endless parade of failed reforms.) today, the black children of Milwaukee perform on the federal tests about the same as black children in the poorest states of the Deep South. Choice and competition splintered community support and divided the schools into three sectors, none of which succeeded.

So who will save the children now trapped in failing voucher schools and failing charter schools?

Walker wants to adopt Jeb Bush’s A-F school grading program, which sets schools up for closure. He wants to make it easier for the state to takeover public schools and privatize them.

He wants alternate licensure to allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree and “life experience” who can pass a test to be eligible to teach grades 6-12.

Teachers, parents, and the community are organizing to push back against Walker’s assault on public education and the teaching profession. There is a silver lining: his budget cuts will affect all parents and families in Wisconsin, including those who voted for him. He may discover that families–Republicans, Democrats, and independents–would rather have a good neighborhood school and a great and affordable university system than property tax relief.

We now know that “reform” is empty and deceptive rhetoric, an excuse for ignoring poverty and segregation, a distraction from the growing income inequality and wealth inequality in our society.

There must be many legislators on both sides of the aisle who graduated from Wisconsin’s public schools and its renowned state university. Will they let Walker cripple the state’s education system?

No sooner did Mercedes Schneider post a blog about the disintegration of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change,” than the group decided it needed a makeover. After all, as Mercedes pointed out: As of March 10, 2015, it boasts only four members, down from 13 in October 2014. The remaining members are John White of Louisiana, Deborah Gist of Rhode Island, Hannah Skandera of New Mexico, and Mark Murphy of Delaware. And one of the four, Deborah Gist, is on her way to Tulsa to become superintendent. Which brings the “Chiefs” down to only three. The “Chiefs” have been a reliable echo chamber for Jeb Bush’s policies, favoring high-stakes testing, the Common Core, charter schools, evaluation of teachers by test scores, digital learning, and A-F school grades. The new leader of this tiny group of three Chiefs is John White, a big supporter of vouchers, for-profit charters, and the rest of Jeb Bush’s agenda.

 

But now that their number has diminished so dramatically, the group has decided to open its ranks to city superintendents (allowing Gist to remain a member). And now that Jeb Bush is a Presidential candidate, it will strike out on its own, no longer an adjunct to Bush’s “Foundation for Educational Excellence.” The group says it is looking for “bipartisan education leaders” and hopes to have a voice in the debate about the future of No Child Left Behind.

Tennessee is the latest state considering vouchers, euphemistically calling them “opportunity scholarships.” The Senate Education Committee passed them. They will be considered by the House on Tuesday.

Why not be honest and call them what they are: vouchers. If the experience of other states is a guide, low-income students will have the “opportunity” to attend religious schools that have a meager curriculum and uncertified teachers, and students will learn creationism. The students will likely have lower test scores than their peers in the schools they left.

Funding is up to the districts, which are mandated to participate.

What a waste of children’s lives and taxpayer dollars.

George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush, was elected Texas Land Commissioner last fall, starting his political career as the third generation of the family. He spoke at a school choice rally in January and said that “a majority of our students are trapped in underperforming schools.”

Charles Johnson of the Pastors for Texas Children asked Politifact to check the facts. They did and said young Bush was wrong.

Apparently he assumed that Texas needed a waiver from NCLB because very few schools had 100% proficiency. He didn’t know that every other state had the same problem. By NCLB metrics, almost every public school is a failing school.

Peter Greene uses the example of Coke to show how market competition does not produce a better product. When faced with a loss of market share, Coca-Cola decided to put the same product into smaller cans. Maybe the failure of “Néw Coke” in 1985 taught them not to mess with the formula.

Similarly, in education, competition has not produced better education. Vouchers are used to send children to schools that teach creationism, that have no curriculum or certified teachers or to charter schools that push out low-scoring students and spend inordinate time on test prep.

Our slavish devotion to competition is destroying education.

Ohio has the second largest voucher program in the nation, after Wisconsin. We now know that half the vouchers are going to students who never attended a public school and are not “fleeing” from a “failing school” in which they were “trapped.” They are taking advantage of public money to attend private and religious schools, which their families would be paying for absent the voucher program. So taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools. It also turns out that many vouchers went unused. The rhetoric about waiting lists is phony. There is no evidence that students in voucher schools outperform their peers in public schools. There is much evidence–from Milwaukee, Cleveland, and D.C. that they do not. But the legislators don’t care. What is their goal?

 

 

Even as Ohio’s private school vouchers remain dramatically underused, there appears to be no rush to re-examine their need.
…..

The state offers 60,000 EdChoice vouchers for children in struggling public schools, and fewer than one-third were used this school year, according to data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Education.

 
In addition, the state in 2013 created 2,000 vouchers for low-income kindergartners across Ohio regardless of the performance of the public district. For this school year, 2,000 low-income first grade vouchers were added.

 

The state is advertising that 2,000 low-income second grade vouchers will be added in 2015-16, although that will require an appropriation in the state budget.

 

Nearly 3,500 of the 4,000 available low-income vouchers were being used as of Friday.

…..
Students who use the traditional EdChoice vouchers to attend private schools essentially take their state funding with them. Marion City Schools lost more than 40 students to vouchers this year at a cost of nearly $160,000.
In fiscal year 2012, Ohio’s public schools lost $75 million to EdChoice vouchers.

…..

The majority of those students in Marion attend St. Mary Catholic School, and Principal Jack Mental hopes the increase in students eligible for vouchers will lead to an increase in voucher kids whom his school attracts. The private elementary school has about 42 students on vouchers, making up 40 percent of the total school population.

 

Mental said the school has had some enrollment struggles — it will suspend teaching eighth grade next year because of a lack of students — and he is unabashed in his desire to sell the benefits of vouchers to area residents. He said he will reach out to parents through advertising, direct mail and social media.

 

“This could be a lifeline to our school,” he said, noting that he hoped to add 30 new students through the voucher program for next school year…

If the low-income program continues to expand, it is expected to cost taxpayers more than $100 million each year by 2025-26.

 

The state offers 60,000 EdChoice vouchers for children in struggling public schools, and fewer than one-third were used this school year, according to data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Education.
In addition, the state in 2013 created 2,000 vouchers for low-income kindergartners across Ohio regardless of the performance of the public district. For this school year, 2,000 low-income first grade vouchers were added.

 

The state is advertising that 2,000 low-income second grade vouchers will be added in 2015-16, although that will require an appropriation in the state budget….

 

Kaleigh Frazier, spokeswoman for School Choice Ohio, said her organization has been doing consistent outreach through community events to share information about the program with families.

 

“What we see in the voucher program is steady growth every year,” she said. “We’re still finding there are many families that don’t know there are options available to them.”

 

The use of vouchers has grown from 3,141 in 2006-07 to 22,347 this school year. Of course the number of available EdChoice vouchers also has risen, from 14,000 in 2006-07 to 64,000 this year, including the low-income variation.

Kyle Henderson is Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Athens, Texas. In this article, he warns that religious schools should not seek or accept vouchers.

He writes:

 

“I have been a pastor for over 30 years. I have been the pastor of a 150-year-old Baptist church in East Texas for 18 years. We operate a distinctively Christian grade school averaging 75 students. Our students have thrived going on to high academic success. I know how tempting it could be to take voucher money. I know the burden on families that scrimp and save to send their kids to our school. I have bought lots of cookie dough, sponsored walk-a-thons and attended fundraisers. I also know the freedom of operating a school that is able to openly talk about Christ, a place where prayer is a part of each class, where sharing Christian testimony is encouraged and where chapel and worship are a regular part of the school.

 

“These government payouts seek to fill in for faith. They whisper from the shadows that they are the answer to the problems of funding a Christian school. God does not need vouchers.

 

“Vouchers and all its versions including “school choice options” rightly come with responsibilities and obligations to the government, but Jesus told us we cannot serve two masters. These vouchers are either a grab to control faith-based schools or an irresponsible, unaccountable disbursement of public funds. Either the government will start exerting control over faith-based schools, or they will send money to schools that do not have to meet any standards. The only viable choice for a faith-based school is to reject the funds.

 

“Faith is strong and alive in America because of the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. In the places where this is not true, the church is an empty shell. Depending on the state for funds is a death sentence for free religion and vibrant faith….

 

“I prefer the system where those who love faith bear the cost of that faith. We don’t need vouchers to solve the problems of education in the state of Texas. We need legislators who are courageous enough to help public schools to thrive, to return full funding to Texas schools and even increase it. I am part of Pastors for Texas Children, because we are mobilizing all over the state to fight for children, fight for freedom of religion and against a private view of education that draws money away from already struggling schools.”

A few days ago, I posted about a proposal by powerful Republicans to “reform” public education with a grab-bag of failed policies that punish public schools and demoralize teachers while creating a flow of public dollars to the private sector.

 

In this article, the brilliant and persistent Sara Stevenson explains the details of the proposal. Stevenson, a member of the blog’s honor roll, is a librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin. She has had more letters published in the Wall Street Journal than anyone I know. She believes in setting the record straight, and she believes in public education. That’s why this destructive proposal made her blood boil.

 

The bill could well have been written in ALEC’s corporate offices. It has everything on the corporate free-market wish list.

 

Stevenson writes:

 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry
Taylor, R-Friendswood, delivered the terrible news last week: The
Senate education plan contains no financial help for school districts,
600 of which are already suing the state for inadequate and
inequitable funding. It offers no testing relief for students in
grades 3 through 8 who must sit for up to four hours at a stretch
taking multiple standardized tests.

 

Furthermore, their proposals are
merely warmed up, stale leftovers written by the American Legislative
Exchange Council, a corporation-funded group that emphasizes free
markets and limited government. Here’s a sample serving:

 

Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public schools.

A “parent trigger” law, which allows the majority of parents at
individual failing schools to petition for new management.

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses.

Tying teacher performance to compensation.

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle
school students.

Creation of a statewide district to manage failing schools.

 

The most dispiriting part of this education plan is that it proposes
absolutely nothing that will help educators with the serious charge of
preparing our young citizens for their adult lives. Our schools are
terribly underfunded. After the Texas Legislature cut $5.4 billion in
education dollars in 2011, Texas ranked 49th among the fifty states in
per pupil spending. Today we are spending less money per student than
we did ten years ago. How can the Legislature’s continued starving of
school districts help us with the very real challenges we face?

 

Less state funding for schools translates into larger class sizes,
fewer teaching assistants and painful cuts to electives, arts, PE,
libraries and clinics. Texas educators are willing to work hard in
daunting circumstances, but the more our legislators insult us with
unoriginal, ineffective schemes as they deprive us of necessary
resources, the more those of us with choices will flee our beloved
profession. The best teachers will refuse to work in an environment in
which they cannot be successful. I give this lazy, irresponsible
education plan a big, fat zero.”

 

Never mind that not one of these proposals is new or that not one of them has been successful anywhere.

 

Ideologues don’t care about evidence. The goal is to dismantle public education, a fundamental, essential institution of our democracy. In doing so, they override local control and funnel taxpayers’ dollars to entrepreneurs and religious institutions. There is not a shred of evidence that any of their proposals will improve education.

 

These men are not conservatives. Conservatives conserve. Conservatives don’t blow up community institutions. These men are radicals and anarchists, destroying heedlessly, mindlessly, zealously, without regard for the damage they do to the lives of children, families, educators, and communities.

Texas Republican leaders in the state senate unveiled their ambitious plan to enact the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) agenda for privatization of public education.

With the help of Texans for Education Reform and a battalion of highly paid lobbyists, the Republicans will promote charters, school choice, and accountability measures to stigmatize public schools.

Texas schools have high numbers of students who are poor and who are English language learners. The senate has no new funding measures, despite the fact that $5 billion was cut from school funding a few years ago.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a voucher advocate. “On Tuesday, he said “148,000 students, approximately, today, are trapped in 297 school campuses across our state that have been failing for more than two years.”

His agenda includes school choice and other items, including:

“Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public school school campuses each year based on their performance — something already done for districts;

A stronger “parent empowerment” law, often called “the parent trigger,” that would allow parents to petition for new management schools that have been failing for two years rather than five;

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses;

Making sure high school students can take more courses that count for college credit;

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle schoolers.”

The spokesman for teachers was critical:

““None of the proposals offered by Sen. Taylor and the lieutenant governor would give teachers and students the time and resources they need to improve teaching and learning,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria. “The Taylor-Patrick agenda fails to meet the needs of five million public school students whose schools have been inadequately funded by the very legislators who are eager to declare schools a failure based on standardized test scores.”

The Taylor-Patrick agenda is a grab-bag of failed ideas cribbed from the ALEC play book. None of them has been beneficial to students or successful anywhere.

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