Archives for category: Vouchers

A few days ago, I saluted Representative Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, Texas, for his plan to add $3 billion to the public schools’ budget.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, a powerful figure in the state, prefers vouchers.

Happily, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial supporting Aycock and dismissing vouchers. This is the real world, folks, not fantasy land, where wishes are horses. The legislature cut the public schools by $5 billion and has restored only a tiny fraction. Meanwhile the children are majority Hispanic, and they are in public schools. Their schools need the resources, the teachers, the class sizes, and the librarians and social workers to help them now.

The Chronicle says:

“While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick scampers down a rabbit trail in pursuit of costly school-voucher legislation, an influential public education policymaker in the House is doing what’s right for Texas school children and Texas taxpayers.

“State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, announced last week that the lower chamber will tackle the daunting task of finding a fair and equitable way for the state to fund its public schools.
By taking up the challenge instead of waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling, the low-key Republican chairman of the Public Education Committee shows us what a true representative of the people looks like. A formerKilleen school board member, Aycock does the people’s business with little fanfare, with an effort to be fair and open to all sides and with a goal to getting useful things accomplished….

“Patrick’s beloved voucher scheme would divert taxpayer money from public education to cover all or part of a student’s tuition at a private or religious school, with little or no accountability to the people whose money is being spent. Aycock, on the other hand, understands the urgent need to invest in the state’s public schools and their five million students, 60 percent of them economically disadvantaged. He’s also aware, we’re sure, that the number of low-income students is growing at twice the rate of the overall student population….

“The voucher issue distracts from the fact that public schools, whatever their problems, are the backbone of every Texas community. They require attention and investment.

Aycock’s proposal would add $800 million to the $2.2 billion the House already had allocated to public schools. In the Senate, Patrick and his voucher cohorts, including state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, have proposed about $1.8 billion less for public education than the House. Patrick also is pushing hard for tax cuts worth about $4.6 billion.”

Taylor, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is sponsoring legislation that would create a $100 million private-school tuition program to help lower-income students pay for private or religious schools. Patrick told the Education Committee last week that the legislation would give approximately 10,000 students an opportunity to escape failing schools, primarily urban schools. Funding would come through donations from businesses, which in turn would receive tax credits.”

“Since the House and Senate are so far apart on the issues, they probably won’t be addressed in depth until a special session this summer. When that happens, we urge lawmakers to look to the man from Killeen for direction and not the man pushing vouchers.”

In Pennsylvania, both Republicans and Democrats want to expand the state’s “tax credit” (aka voucher) program, allowing public funds to pay for private and religious tuition.

The tax credits drain funds from public school support, which is already inequitably funded and suffered deep budget cuts. The state’s public schools are in financial crisis, and the last thing they need is another stealth cut to their funding.

Why don’t the legislators put vouchers to a vote of the people? Are they afraid to find out how the public will respond?

Leonie Haimson includes in this post a summary of the latest Quinnipiac poll about public reaction to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education proposals. The long and short of it is that they are so unpopular that they have dragged down his overall rating.

 

28% approve his proposals while 63% reject them.

 

The Quinnipiac poll shows that Cuomo has dropped to his lowest rating ever–50%, and the poll connects his declining popularity to his ferocious attacks on public schools and teachers. He doesn’t seem to understand that most people like both and can’t understand why the Governor wants to destroy them. They have a low opinion of all his plans to “improve” them by raising the stakes on testing. This should be a warning to other politicians who think they can attack public education without arousing public antagonism. Most Americans–say, 90%–went to public school and presumably have good memories of their teachers and schools. Why would the governor or any other politician want to send public money to private and religious schools?

I was on a panel last year with someone from the Friedman Foundation, and he waxed on about how wonderful vouchers are and how much the public wants them. He cited polls to prove his point.

But there is only one poll that matters, and that is the one at the ballot box. That’s why the information in this post is so helpful. Keep it in your wallet, or just remember this plain fact: voters have never approved a voucher plan.

This is from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

Statewide referenda on school vouchers or their mutations: majority of citizens vote no

“Ohio’s education choice policies were initiated by proposals tucked in budget bills. Full debate on the merits of the proposals in single subject bills didn’t happen. In time, zealous advocates of choice policies gained sufficient political clout to leverage massive expansion. School districts lose over $1 billion annually to choice programs; and additionally, the state funds administrative cost reimbursement and auxiliary services for private schools. Districts also pick up the tab for transportation.

Vouchers and their mutations have never been subjected to a statewide vote in Ohio. Edd Doerr of Americans for Religious Liberty authored an essay that included the outcome of statewide referenda in various states over a 40-year span as follow:

Tax-funded vouchers

Nebraska 1970 Tax code vouchers 57-43 against

Maryland 1972 Vouchers 55-45 against

Michigan 1978 Vouchers 74-26 against

Washington, DC 1981 Tax code vouchers 89-11 against

Utah 1988 Tax code vouchers 70-30 against

Oregon 1990 Tax code vouchers 67-33 against

Colorado 1992 Vouchers 67-33 against

California 1993 Vouchers 70-30 against
Washington State 1996 Vouchers 64-36 against

Colorado 1998 Tax code vouchers 60-40 against

Michigan 2000 Vouchers 69-31 against

California 2000 Vouchers 71-29 against

Utah 2007 Vouchers 62-38 against

Florida 2012 Vouchers 55-45 against

Hawaii 2014 Vouchers 55-45 against

Tax-funded transportation

Nebraska 1966 Bus transportation 57-43 against (%)

Idaho 1972 Bus transportation 57-43 against

Tax support

New York 1967 Constitutional change to allow tax aid 72-28 against

Michigan 1970 Constitutional change to allow tax aid 57-43 against

Oregon 1972 Constitutional change to allow tax aid 61-39 against

Washington State 1975 Constitutional change to allow tax aid 60-39 against

Alaska 1976 Constitutional change to allow tax aid 54-46 against

Massachusetts 1986 Constitutional change to allow tax aid 70-30 against

Auxiliary services

Maryland 1974 Auxiliary services 56-43 against

Missouri 1976 Auxiliary services 60-40 against

Massachusetts 1982 Auxiliary services 62-38 against

South Dakota 2004 Auxiliary services 53-47 against

Textbooks

California 1982 Textbook aid 61-39 against

South Dakota 1986 Textbooks 54-46 for

Ohioans should be given the opportunity to weigh in on choice policies, i.e. tax funds flowing to privately-operated education entities. A statewide referendum would provide that opportunity.

William Phillis

Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

The Southern Education Foundation has created an excellent info graphic about the dangers of vouchers and ta mx credits—public funding of private schools. It is worth your while to watch it.

Why do we refuse to learn from successful nations? The top ten high-performing nations do not test every child every year.

 

Why aren’t we willing to learn from educational disasters in other nations? Take Chile, for example.

 

In this post, two scholars–Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones–explain what happened in Chile when national leaders imposed the free-market ideas of two libertarian economists, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

 

Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the “Chilean experiment” was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market.

 

 

How did they do this?

 

 

Basically by creating charter schools with a voucher system and a number of mechanisms for ensuring both the competition among them and the profitability of their business. In this scenario, the state has a subsidiary but still important role, namely, to introduce national standards and assess schools by virtue of them (in such a way that national rankings can be produced).

 

 

This accountability job, along with the provision of funding, is almost everything that was left to the Chilean state regarding education, in the hope that competition, marketing, and the like would lead the country to develop the best possible educational system.

 

 

So what happened? Here are some facts after about three decades of the “Chilean experiment” that, chillingly, has also been called the “Chilean Miracle” like the more recent U.S. “New Orleans Miracle.”

 

 

First, there is no clear evidence that students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.

 
Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.

 
Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.

 
Fourth, many schools are now investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.

 
Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.

 
Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.

 
Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years….

 

The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.

 
It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs.

 
Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results.

 

Why are we allowing philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and the U.S. Department of Education to force us to follow the same path as Chile? Are we powerless? No. Show your displeasure by opting out, speaking out, contacting your elected representatives. Organize demonstrations and protests. Make them notice you. Stop them.

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.

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