Archives for category: Vouchers

Lindsay Wagner writes in NC Policy Watch that 90% of the students using the state’s new vouchers are attending religious schools. The institution receiving the largest number of vouchers is the Greensboro Islamic Academy.

The vouchers are given the euphemism “opportunity scholarships,” in an effort to disguise the fact that they are vouchers, which voters never approved.

North Carolina legislators are proving that our Founders were far wiser than legislators today. The Founders wanted no establishment of religion, and they did not foresee the subsidy of religious schools by the state. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote about separation of church and state in 1802, aware of centuries of religious strife in Europe. For years, the U.S. Supreme Court tried to maintain such a wall, allowing some subsidy for religious schools to perform state-required activities, subsidizing textbooks and testing, even transportation, but not tuition in religious schools.

Wagner writes:

“Religious private schools account for 90 percent of those receiving the state’s new taxpayer-funded school vouchers—a disproportionately high amount given that only 66.4 percent of the state’s 715 private schools are religious institutions.

“According to data released by the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority, 98 out of the 109 private schools that have received vouchers (formally known as Opportunity Scholarships) from the state so far are religious institutions. Ninety-four of those schools identify as Christian, and four other schools identify as Islamic. To date, the state has disbursed just over $1 million to the religious schools.

“The largest recipient of school voucher dollars thus far is Greensboro Islamic Academy. The school has received more than $90,000 from taxpayers while information has surfaced indicating that the school is in financial trouble and has inflated its tuition rates to reap as many publicly-funded vouchers as possible to stay afloat.

“The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which lawmakers enacted last year, siphons approximately $10.8 million dollars out of the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead. Each voucher is worth a maximum of $4,200 per student, per year.

“Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give low-income students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.

“In August, a Superior Court judge found that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.”

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/10/09/ninety-percent-of-private-schools-receiving-taxpayer-funded-vouchers-are-religious-institutions/#sthash.N9RY1dr4.dpuf

Politico.com reported that StudentsFirst chose a staunch advocate of charters, vouchers, and privatization to replace Michelle Rhee. (As usual, the word “reformer” is a synonym for privatization and hostility to teachers’ rights):

“STUDENTSFIRST PICKS NEW PRESIDENT: Longtime education reformer Jim Blew has been selected by the StudentsFirst Board of Directors to serve as the group’s new president, replacing former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Blew has served as an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation on a host of K-12 education reform issues and he has directed campaigns for the Alliance for School Choice and its predecessor, the American Education Reform Council. He steps in at an integral time for StudentsFirst – when news broke in mid-August that Rhee was stepping down, reform activists said [ http://politico.pro/1rt7Uh8%5D she was leaving a trail of disappointment and disillusionment in her wake. Four years ago, Rhee pledged to raise $1 billion to transform education worldwide. But StudentsFirst has been hobbled by a high turnover rate. And activists said Rhee failed to build critical coalitions, instead alienating activists who should have been her allies with strategies they found imperious, uncompromising and even illogical.”

Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports that the school that received the largest number of vouchers in North Carolina—the Greensboro Islamic Academy–is in financial trouble.

She writes:

A private religious school receiving by far the largest payout from the state’s new school voucher program was in financial trouble during the last school year, pleading for help from the public online to fund its $150,000 shortfall so the school could complete the 2013-14 school year.

“The Greensboro Islamic Academy is suffering from a scarcity of funds,” said Eesaa Wood, a leader at the school’s parent organization, the Islamic Center of Greensboro, in a YouTube video posted online last January. The school has run a deficit of $150,000 every year, according to the fundraising pitch.

“For over a decade, the Muslim community of Greensboro has paid for this shortfall,” said Wood. “For that we are grateful to Allah…but we can no longer rely exclusively on this system.”

The school is the biggest recipient of all those participating in the state’s new Opportunity Scholarship Program, having already received 43 school vouchers totaling more than $90,000 dollars in public funds.

But as taxpayer money flows into Greensboro Islamic Academy’s coffers, questions arise: will the school be able to sustain itself going forward given the financial difficulties it faces? And if not, what happens to funds that taxpayers have already spent on private, religious education?

Lawmakers enacted a school voucher program last year that pulls approximately $10.8 million dollars away from the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead.

Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.

The state received 170 applications earlier this year from students wishing to attend Greensboro Islamic Academy (GIA) this fall with a school voucher – by far the most popular school chosen among voucher applicants and a very large number considering that the school only accommodated 130 students the previous year.

Since then, a high-profile court battle ensued, resulting in a Superior Court judge finding that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.

In September, the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority awarded 43 vouchers to students attending Greensboro Islamic Academy, totaling more than $90,000 tax dollars– nearly 8 percent of the $1 million+ in school vouchers that were disbursed to 109 private schools so far across the state. The next largest recipient of school voucher funds was Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, which received 26 vouchers totaling $54,600, followed by Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, which received 18 vouchers totaling $37,800.

More voucher funds will be disbursed in the coming weeks, although it’s not clear how much more money, if any, GIA will receive.

According to its fundraising video, Greensboro Islamic Academy is the only full-time Pre-K through 8th grade Islamic private school in the Triad area – and it has struggled with financial obstacles since its inception in 2003.

“Because GIA never turns down any student because of financial need, this has resulted in a $150,000 deficit ever year,” said Islamic Center of Greensboro leader Eesaa Wood in his fundraising plea.

A link on the school’s YouTube fundraising video brings the viewer to a fundraising page that says the school raised only $374 of its $150k goal. Numerous calls and emails to school officials seeking more information about the financial status of Greensboro Islamic Academy, as well as calls to the Islamic Center of Greensboro, the parent organization of GIA, have gone unanswered. Efforts to reach out to the video’s narrator, Eesaa Wood, have also been unsuccessful.

Reached by telephone, GIA school board president Dr. Hatim Mahmoud, a physician practicing in Danville, VA, said he wouldn’t talk about the school with N.C. Policy Watch, despite the fact it now receives taxpayer dollars.

“We don’t talk to reporters. We don’t wanna talk to nobody. Goodbye,” said Mahmoud.

NC Policy Watch is a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.
© 2014 NC Policy Watch | 224 S. Dawson Street, Raleigh, NC 27601

Bob Braun, veteran investigative journalist is baffled: the Néw Jersey Educational Association endorsed Cory Booker, who loves vouchers and charters. About 90% of charters are non-union. About 100% of voucher schools are non-union.

Braun asks:

“In the latest NJEA Review, the organization that calls itself a union and supporter of public education not only endorses this pro-voucher, pro-charter, pro-Cami Anderson, pro-Chris Christie candidate of Wall Street, it also provides a forum for him to spread lies and half-truths. How, when the children and parents of Newark are suffering from the agony that is “One Newark,” when the city’s teacher union is under attack and about to be broken, how when Booker already has said he wanted to see Newark turned into the charter capital of New Jersey—how could the NJEA publish this rot?”

He adds:

“I went on a voucher pilgrimage to Milwaukee that Booker helped organize, a trip sponsored by the right-wing organization Education Excellence for Everyone (EEE). He brought us to see evangelical schools operated with public funds where students greeted each of us individually with “Jesus loves you.” He brought us to see Catholic schools kept alive with public money. And it was then that he began his nonsensical mantra—“Public school choice is the civil rights issue of our time.”

“To be honest, I was in favor of school choice until that trip. When I saw what it really looked like in operation, I was repelled. It meant the end of public education as we know it: And that is precisely what Cory Booker wants—and, if he succeeds, the NJEA will have helped him.”

Braun says the NJEA is so desperate to maintain a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate that they support a candidate who wants to privatize public education.

Another explanation is that his opponent on the Republican line is a Tea Party extremist who is far worse–from the point of view of teachers and public education–than even Cory Booker.

Is it best to make a deal with someone like Booker or to send a message to the Democrats that teachers and parents of public school students will not vote for them or send them a dime until they end their privatization policies? That’s why I Am voting for the Green Party in the Néw York gubernatorial election. Cuomo is a tool of the charter industry, and I can’t vote for him. If I lived in Néw Jersey, I would not vote for Cory Booker. Bob Braun calls him “the Manchurian candidate of rich, white people who don’t live in Newark but want to control it and its people and, most of all, its real estate.”

Florida never ceases to amaze. In 2012, the voters overwhelmingly defeated a constitutional amendment to permit school vouchers, yet the Legislature keeps finding ingenious ways to siphon off public funds for vouchers.

 

Now, Julie Delegal writes, a local school board member–presumably elected to strengthen and support his district’s public schools–has come out strongly in opposition to the Florida School Boards Association’s lawsuit against private school vouchers.

 

What you need to know to understand this story is that former Governor Jeb Bush loves vouchers, and everyone on his team does what Jeb wants.

 

This is how her article begins. It is worth reading it all to see how the privatization movement is trying to starve public education and send money to unaccountable private schools:

 

Duval County School board member Jason Fischer is a nice young man. But in politics, I’ve learned, it’s the nice young men you have to watch.
His most recent actions reveal that he’s a foot soldier in the war to destroy public education. And his bread may be getting buttered by lieutenants in the Jeb-Bush-brand, school privatization movement — the ones who are affiliated with his employer, Uretek Holdings.
Fischer’s recent activities put him squarely in the camp that has been systematically destroying Florida’s public schools for more than a decade. As both governor and puppet-master, Bush has overseen the implementation of a punitive school-grades system and an overreaching teacher-accountability scheme.
Meanwhile, the Bush camp has promoted privatization — and the funding choices that go with it – while the Legislature has been starving our public schools. Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that he’s boosted spending for education, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that, in real dollars, per pupil spending in Florida public schools is still not up to pre-recessionary levels.
Fischer has come out strongly against the lawsuit filed by the Florida School Boards Association, which questions the constitutionality of Florida’s private-school voucher program. He not only published a guest editorial in the Jacksonvlle Times Union, he also asked his fellow public school board members to pass a resolution condemning the suit.
Voucher funding now drains state coffers by more than $300 million yearly.
Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is on record saying that privatization — voucher schools, charter schools, etc. — could siphon away up to $70 million from Duval next year.
With support from the FEA, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Florida PTA, and other education advocates, the FSBA is asking a Leon County judge to declare the tax credit voucher program unconstitutional on two grounds. Plaintiffs say that by permitting corporations to pay their taxes to the voucher program called “Step Up for Students,” instead of to the Florida treasury, the program creates a separate, shadow school system. The Florida Constitution, the suit points out, calls for a single, “high quality,” and “uniform” public school system.
The Constitution also forbids aid to religious institutions, and the majority of schools funded by “Step Up” are religious schools.
The response to the lawsuit from voucher supporters is, essentially, “You’re picking on poor children who need to have ‘choice,’ you big meanies.”

 

Is there hope for public education in Florida? Yes. Parents must organize and fight this attack on their public schools. School boards must be vigilant against privatization. Working together, they stopped the “parent trigger” twice in the Legislature. They have the power, and they can’t let down their guard for a minute. The privatization movement never rests, and neither should the defenders of public education.

 

 

Voucher advocates used to claim that vouchers would dramatically raise test scores. They don’t. Then they said they raise graduation rates, which they do as long as you overlook high attrition rates.

Now, the new siren song is that they save money! Politico reports “the fiscal case for vouchers:”

“The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice touts vouchers as an ideal way to shake up the “government monopoly” on public education. Now the foundation aims to prove that vouchers make good financial sense, too. A report out today calculates that voucher programs in six states plus D.C. saved taxpayers $1.7 billion between 1990 and 2011. (States typically spend less on a voucher for private school tuition than educating a student in public school.) “Parents are already demanding school choice. Taxpayers should be, too,” said Robert Enlow, the foundation’s president and CEO. The report does not look at the quality of education in voucher schools, under fire in many states. Nor does it look at tax-credit scholarships, which allow individuals and corporations to cut state tax bills by donating to private school scholarship funds. The report: http://politico.pro/1rFrb2e.”

Just think: abolish public education and save hundreds of billions!

I thought the point was better education, not cheaper and worse education.

The North Carolina Policy Watch reports on the latest turn in the battle over vouchers, which were declared unconstitutional in August by a Supreme Court judge.

“The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled today that the 1,878 students who have already been granted school vouchers can now use those taxpayer dollars at private schools while the fate of the program is decided.

“Students enrolled at private schools this fall expecting to have the vouchers, worth $4,200 annually, in hand – but an August ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood found the school voucher law to be unconstitutional, halting a program that, as Judge Hobgood said, “appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified.

“As a result, voucher recipients either returned to public schools or paid the full cost of attendance at private schools. Some private schools also indicated they would temporarily subsidize voucher students with the hope that the final court ruling would turn out in their favor.

“While the Court of Appeals’ ruling obligates the state to disburse taxpayer funds to the private schools of those students who were awarded vouchers no later than August 21, 2014, it also blocks the state from awarding any additional vouchers until the final merits of the case are decided.

“State lawmakers passed a 2013 budget that tagged $10 million to be used for the school vouchers, or “Opportunity Scholarships,” beginning this fall. The vouchers funnel taxpayer funds to largely unaccountable private schools–70 percent of which are affiliated with religious institutions…..”

Judge Robert Hobgood, who ruled against vouchers in August, said at that time:

““The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.”

This farce, which transfers public money from public schools to mostly religious schools, has nothing to do with education reform, and everything to do with extremist ideology and the ALEC agenda. It is a betrayal of the state’s obligation to its children.

Ken Previti alerted me to the appearance of this story in Harper’s, called “PBS Self-Destructs.” Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, so you will either have to subscribe or run out and buy a copy.

Aside from Bill Moyers, PBS has paid little attention to the astonishing, destructive, breath-taking assaults on the very principle of public education. Nor, with the exception of an occasional piece by John Merrow, has PBS devoted air time to the outrageous attacks on the teaching profession and the very idea of collective bargaining. Now is the time for hard-hitting journalism to exposé the outrageous profiteering by tech companies and the testing industry, and the capture of education by economists who think that whatever can’t be measured doesn’t count. Where is the Public Broadcasting System when public education is under siege?

A report from the OECD, which sponsors the international assessment PISA, finds that competition among schools for students (“choice”) is not associated with higher math scores but is associated with higher levels of social segregation.

“PISA results…show that, on average across countries, school competition is not related to better mathematics performance among students. In systems where almost all 15-year-olds attend schools that compete for enrollment, average performance is similar to that in systems where school competition is the exception.

“What this means is that school choice may actually spoil some of the intended benefits of competition, such as greater innovation in education and a better match between students’ needs and interests and what schools offer, by reinforcing social inequities at the same time.”

In the U.S., school choice began as an integral part of the opposition to court-ordered desegregation. The word “choice” was a code word for segregation. Southern politicians were all for choice because it would allow white students to “escape” to white schools, leaving black students in all-black schools. Today, charter schools are more segregated than district schools, even in districts that have high levels of segregation, according to the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. today, the media celebrates all-black schools if they get high test scores. Charters have become a way of enabling renewed segregation.

EduShyster interviewed David Kirp following the publication of his article in the New York Times about why teaching is not a business. EduShyster noticed that some “reformers” were incensed by Kirp’s views, especially his criticism of the virtues of competition and his skepticism about choice and charter schools.

Among his interesting answers to her questions:

“With respect to choice, the studies coming out of Milwaukee, which has the longest-running voucher program in the country, don’t suggest that that city has been well served by choice. As for charters, they’ll be the subject of my next piece for the Times. I’m looking for examples of charter schools that actually do what Al Shanker wanted them to do, which is collaborate rather than compete. I’d love to write about good charters and am looking for examples, so if you or your readers know of these, by all means send them along. My view, by the way, is that the best of the charters are as good as the best traditional public schools, while the worst are worse than the worst public schools. But no one has figured out how to bring really great schools to scale without the structure of a school system. Does that sound like a declaration of war? I don’t think so.”

When asked about his view that teaching is not a business, he said:

“I actually think there are important lessons for school folks in looking at a business model that works, hence my shout out to Ed Deming. But that model isn’t creative decimation. If you look at businesses that have been successful over time, you’ll find there’s much less emphasis on booting out the bad guys then there is retraining. Proctor and Gamble hasn’t remained a very successful company because it keeps tossing out its leadership every three months.

EduShyster: “A lot of this seems to come back to the question of how you drive change. You seem to think that trust is a more effective driver than, say, a boot to the neck.

Kirp: “If you peel back the nature of this disagreement, it has to do with people’s fundamental views about human nature. If you believe that everyone is by nature a slacker and needs to be whipped into shape, then you come out on one side of the conversation. If you believe that, by and large people want to do the right thing and should be supported in doing that, then you come out on the other side. That’s a very old debate.”

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