Archives for category: Vouchers

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.”

Last May, Ruth Conniff, editor of “The Progressive,” joined a group of other women on a tour of voucher schools in Milwaukee. The others included another journalist, a state legislator, and Milwaukee grandmothers Gail Hicks and Marva Herndon.

“Herndon and Hicks formed a group called Women Committed to an Informed Community, also known as the “mad grandmas,” to bring attention to the voucher schools popping up all over the largely African American north side of Milwaukee in strip malls, rundown office buildings, old car dealerships, and abandoned factories.”

What they saw should chill the ardor of the most doctrinaire followers of Milton Friedman. Vouchers began in Milwaukee nearly 25 years ago based on the claim that they would save poor black children from “failing” public schools. Today, Milwaukee should be a national symbol of the failure of vouchers. Yet state after state is endorsing vouchers, egged on by the Friedman Foundation and rightwing think tanks.

Let’s be clear. Vouchers, charters, and choice have failed the children of Milwaukee. The city ranks near the bottom of all cities tested by the federal NAEP, barely ahead of Detroit. Black children in Milwaukee score behind their peers in most other cities and states. Study after study shows they don’t get better test scores than their peers in public schools.

“”We are talking about the schools that fall under the category of LifeSkills Academy,” says Hicks, referring to a Milwaukee voucher school that made headlines last year when the couple that owned it fled to Florida, taking with them millions in state education funds and leaving sixty-six students suddenly stranded, with no school.

“Many of the schools Herndon and Hicks are concerned about are religious. But “we are not talking about schools associated with long-established churches,” Hicks says.

“In racially divided Milwaukee, most of the mainline parochial schools that take voucher students are run by Catholic and Protestant churches on the largely Hispanic south side, Herndon explains.

“On the north side, it’s just loaded with fly-by-night, hole-in-the-wall schools, gas station schools,” Herndon says.

…….

“The $6,442 per pupil in public funds attached to vouchers is more than the cost of tuition at many parochial schools. That, along with start-up funds for new voucher schools, creates a powerful incentive for cash-strapped parochial schools and unscrupulous, fly-by-night operators alike. As a result, parents in voucher districts have been inundated with marketing calls, flyers, and advertisements at taxpayer expense urging them to send their kids to private school for free.

“Nowhere is the problem with turning public schools over to private business more evident than in Milwaukee, the birthplace of school choice.

“Academy of Excellence” is spelled out in snap-on plastic letters above a phone number on a temporary-looking sign on West North Avenue.

“A teacher stands in the doorway of a rundown office building with peeling orange paint on cinderblock walls, watching children jump rope in the parking lot between rows of cars. A few little girls crouch on the sidewalk, drawing with chalk.

“Pastor George Claudio of the StraightWay Vineyard Christian Fellowship greets us inside.

“He has been serving as principal here since September, although he has no background in education, he explains.

“I’m not a trained principal, so my approach has been more of a business and leadership approach,” he says. “I don’t know much about academics, so I’m on a crash course, relying on the teachers in the building.

“Everybody here is way below the poverty level,” he adds, as we peer into a classroom where four-year-old kindergarteners are lying down for a nap on the dirty indoor/outdoor carpeting. A teacher snaps out the lights.

“Despite the dirty carpet and peeling walls, and a first-floor bathroom with no toilet paper, no paper towels, and heavy scribbling in the stalls and over the sink, Pastor Claudio is proud of how much better things look here since school started in September, after a major cleanup. Last fall, he tells us, the lights didn’t work.

“This building has flipped through several voucher schools. The last resident was BEAM Academy, an Edison charter school. “Edison” plastic tags still adorn some of the classroom doors. Another Academy of Excellence school, on the south side, is in even worse shape, the pastor tells us.

“There are three Academy of Excellence schools in Milwaukee, run by the Association of Vineyard Churches, a conservative, evangelical sect.

“Every morning, Pastor Claudio leads the school in a daily devotional.

“We use the Bob Jones University curriculum,” he says.

……………

The pastor says that two-thirds of the students probably would benefit from special education, but the school has no trained special education staff. Indeed, teachers in voucher schools don’t need teaching certification. Instead of special education, the children get tutors–college kids and volunteers from the church. In the middle school science class, a sign on the wall says, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth—Genesis 1:1″ a poster in the hallway says: “God can see your heart and he knows that it is wicked.”

The school will double in size this fall when it enrolls 200 students from Myanmar who don’t speak English.

………………

Conniff concludes:

“The latest battle of the mad grandmas is against new laws that would force the sale of public school buildings to private school operators.

“The public schools are just being raped,” says Hicks. “A lot of schools no longer have gym, no longer have art, language, higher math. Schools don’t have the money because they’re sticking money in charter schools and vouchers, which are businesses.”

“In Milwaukee, eighth graders are attending what purports to be a public school to study science and learn creationism.

“Third graders are absorbing a strange home brew of art, finance, and bible passages.

“Immigrant children straight from refugee camps in Myanmar are landing in a school that looks like a refugee center, to be immersed in English and a harsh religious ideology that teaches them that their hearts are wicked.

“All of this is supported by the public with tax dollars.

“It looks like the end of society.”

Ruth Conniff’s reporting is persuasive evidence that the once strong belief in separation of church and state was sensible protection for the common school system. Now that the wall of separation has been penetrated, all manner of Bible schools are getting public dollars. Does anyone believe that the children of Milwaukee are better served in these schools than in the public schools? And what remains of public education when children are withdrawn to attend voucher schools and charter schools?

Can anyone honestly say that the children in these publicly-supported voucher schools are getting a good education that prepares them for college and careers in the 21st century?

Sarah Garland, writing for the HECHINGER Report, says that the Reagan-era report “A Nation at Risk” (1983) laid the groundwork for today’s regime of high-takes testing, longer school hours, and tougher accountability measures. The conservative Republicans he quotes express satisfaction with the Obama administration’s embrace of their agenda. The enduring puzzle: who stole the Democratic agenda of equity and teacher professionalism?

A North Carolina judge ruled voucher legislation unconstitutional because it gives money intended for public schools to private and religious schools. He ordered an immediate halt to the program.

Yvonne Brannan of PublicSchools First NC sent the following response, which included a video of Judge Robert Hobgood reading his decision:

“PLEASE watch this– you will better understand why this is so critical!! Hobgood is brilliant — he clearly points out how children will be denied the promise and privilege of public education if in a private setting where they have no constitutional rights!!!! EVERYONE must get this!! Rs and Ds…please understand the common good of public education for us all must be protected!!!! THIS IS A WIN FOR all children – regardless of race, income, gender, ZIP CODE!!!

“Our forefathers gave us this gift!!! THANKS TO the Great leaders of the past and thanks to fair courts!!

PLEASE CELEBRATE by joining me on Sat at 3:30 pm at the Bicentennial Mall for Moral Week of Action EDUCATION DAY!!

“I CANNOT STOP WATCHING THIS!
http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/video/13911824/”

As Stephanie Simon of politico.com put it, it’s been a bad week for the Common Core. Yesterday, The conservative journal Education Next showed a precipitous drop in support by teachers in only one year–from 76% to 46%. It seems that the more they learn about the standards, the less they like them.

Then today the annual poll by the Gallup organization and Phi Delta Kappa revealed growing public opposition to the Common Core. Last year, most people were not sure what they were; now, as they know more, support is diminishing. The most important reason for opposition: people say the Common Core standards limit the flexibility of teachers to do what they think is best. While 60% of the public oppose the Common Core, 62% of public school parents oppose them.

Some other important findings in the Gallup/PDK poll:

Local public schools get high marks from public school parents at the same time that American public education gets low marks. This seeming paradox shows the success of the privatizers’ relentless attacks on public education over the past decade. For years, the public has heard Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, and other supporters of privatization decry American public education as “broken,” “obsolete,” “failing.” Their message has gotten through. Only 17% of the public gives American education an A or a B.

At the same time, however, 67% of public school parents give an A or B to the public school their oldest child attends.

Public school parents do not like standardized tests. 68% say they are not helpful. 54% of the public agrees.

Approval of President Obama’s “performance in support of public schools” has plummeted since 2011, when it was 41%. In 2014, approval of the President was down to 27%.

The public is confused about what charter schools are, but 70% favor them. About half think they are public schools and that they are free to teach religion. 57% think they charge tuition, and 68% think they select students based on their ability. My guess: as the public learns more about the misuse of public funds by some charter schools, about frauds, nepotism, and conflicts of interest, these numbers will decline.

Only 37% of the public and public school parents support vouchers.

Here is the Washington Post summary of the poll.

Here is coverage of the Gallup poll from Edsource in California.

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