Archives for the month of: June, 2020

My favorite Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank summarizes where our “leaders” are in responding to the global pandemic. No wonder the EU won’t allow Americans to enter its borders.

Sen. Rand Paul doesn’t much care what Anthony Fauci has to say. The Kentucky Republican gets his public health advice from Friedrich Hayek.

Hayek, the Austrian-born economist and libertarian hero, died in 1992. But Paul, an ophthalmologist before he took up politics, still takes medical guidance from the 20th-century philosopher.

“Hayek had it right!” Paul proclaimed at Tuesday’s Senate health committee hearing on the coronavirus pandemic.

“Only decentralized power and decision-making based on millions of individualized situations can arrive at what risks and behaviors each individual should choose.”

Paul focused his wrath on Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease official. “Virtually every day we seem to hear from you things we can’t do,” Paul complained. “All I hear is, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, we can’t play baseball.”

Fauci assured Paul that “I never said we can’t play a certain sport.”

Unsatisfied, Paul demanded: “We just need more optimism.”

So that’s what we need. The United States is hitting new records for infection, largely because President Trump and allied governors across the South and Southwest ignored public health guidance. While other countries beat back the virus, we’re on course to have 100,000 new cases a day, Fauci said, and doing little about it. But we just need to be more upbeat!

Not for the first time, it feels as though 21st-century America is 14th-century Europe, reacting with all manner of useless countermeasures to the plague: balancing ill “humors” and dispelling evil “vapors” caused by planetary misalignment, religious marches and public self-flagellation, cures involving live chickens and unicorns, and the wearing of amulets and reciting of “abracadabra.”

Now, we have science to tell us how to beat the coronavirus — with face masks and social distancing. Yet our response is resolutely medieval.

The president ridicules mask wearing as politically correct and unmanly. His campaign staff tears down social distancing signs at his mass rally. Governors of hard-hit states tamper with data, sideline public health experts and blame the spread on Latino farmworkers, civil rights demonstrations and increased testing — anything but their reckless and premature relaxing of restrictions.

And then there’s Vice President Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force. “I’d just encourage every American to continue to pray,” he said at Friday’s task force briefing.

I’m all for prayer. But prayer without face masks won’t defeat the virus.

“The attitude of pushing back from authority and pushing back on scientific data is very concerning,” Fauci told senators Tuesday, bemoaning a “lack of trust” in government. “We’re in the middle of a catastrophic outbreak and we really do need to be guided by scientific principles.”

A lack of urgency about the virus caused the testing debacle. A lack of regard for science caused the hydroxychloroquine debacle. A contempt for public health advice caused the reopening debacle. A president’s vanity caused the anti-face-mask debacle. An immunology debacle likely comes next: If Trump rushes out a vaccine before the election, would anybody believe it’s safe?

Belatedly, more than a dozen states have paused or scaled back their rash plans to reopen without heeding public health guidance. But we still have the White House proclaiming “remarkable progress” against the pandemic because the latest victims are younger — as though they won’t infect the old and the sick. Trump insists he wasn’t joking when he said he told health officials to “slow the testing down” to suppress the number of reported cases. He’s proceeding with plans for an in-person, mask-optional convention in Florida, now a virus hot spot.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blames street protests (even though New York, Washington and Minneapolis experienced no such surge in cases) and “overwhelmingly Hispanic” workers, and as cases spiked last week, he claimed that “nothing has changed.” Like other GOP governors and the Trump administration, he also blames an increase in testing — which doesn’t explain the higher rate of positive tests.

Pence, too, rejects the obvious conclusion that “the reopening has to do with what we’re seeing” in the viral spread. (It’s the evil vapors!) He said Sunday that it’s a “good idea” to wear face masks — just after attending a church event at which half the 2,200 people, including the choir, eschewed masks.

At Tuesday’s committee hearing, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring, urged Trump to “occasionally wear a mask” so his admirers “would follow his lead and help end this political debate.”

But neither Alexander’s pleadings, nor those of the various health officials testifying, are likely to break down America’s medieval resistance to science. Paul, citing the successful reopening of schools in Europe, demanded U.S. schools reopen (ignoring that Europe has contained the virus). Invoking the superiority of Hayek’s theories to the findings of public health officials, Paul said “we shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best.”

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states with private school scholarships must provide similar funding to religious schools. This was bizarre because the Montana Supreme Court had already banished the state’s private school scholarship program, which offered $150 to families that chose private schools and sought a state scholarship. So the state of Montana will not owe $150 to the Espinoza family.

Pastors for Texas Children criticized the ruling:

For Immediate Release June 30, 2020

Statement on the Supreme Court Decision in Espinoza

Contact Charlie Johnson, Executive Director charlie@pastorsfortexaschildren.com 210-379-1066 Cameron Vickrey, Associate Director cameron@pastorsfortexaschildren.com 704-962-5735

Fort Worth, TX – The Supreme Court decision today in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue is an attack on God’s gift of religious liberty for all people.

In ruling that states must allow religious schools to take part in programs that provide state-sponsored scholarships, the freedom of religion for us all is jeopardized.

“For the State of Montana, or any governmental authority, to divert money from public schools to underwrite religious schools is patently wrong,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, executive director for Pastors for Children.

A tuition tax credit for religious school scholarships takes dollars away from the state treasury for public schools and diverts those dollars to subsidize private religious schools.

Why does the State of Montana, or any state, have any role or agency whatsoever in religious schools?

Public schools accept all children regardless of race, class, status, disability, sexual orientation, and religion. They are where students of all faiths and no faith encounter one another in mutual understanding, where our nation’s constitutional values of religious liberty and respect across lines of difference are lived every day. They protect marginalized students, especially poor students, disabled students, students of color, and LGBTQI+ students.

That’s why the taxing authority of state government supports them.

And why it should stay out of our church schools.

Will Montana religious schools now be required to accept all students who apply?

It is the very nature of a private school to be exclusive. Private religious schools were not formed to be religiously neutral. They are voluntary assemblies protected by the First Amendment to advance and establish religious conviction and teaching. These religious schools constitute a core religious mission. They should be protected from government intrusion.

Let private schools remain private, public schools remain public. Common sense Americans know this. Such wisdom that has sustained our country since its inception escaped the Supreme Court today.

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About Pastors for Texas Children:
Pastors for Texas Children works to provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Texas children, families, and communities.

Our reader Laura Chapman read the Supreme Court decision in the Espinoza case, both the majority decision and the dissents. The majority decision said that if a state offers a scholarship program for private schools, it must include religious schools. The dissenters, Chapman noted, pointed out that the Montana Supreme Court had already invalidated the private scholarship program. So the case was already moot because Montana no longer has a scholarship program for private schools! The Espinoza family will not get $150 (the amount that used to be paid to families that sought help in paying private school tuition) because Montana no longer offers scholarships to private schools, and thus will not be affected by today’s decision!

She wrote:

I downloaded the text of ESPINOZA ET AL. v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE ET AL and read the dissents. Here are a few gems, all noting that the scholarship in question had already been made invalid by Montana’s Supreme Court !!

BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined as to Part I.

I shall assume, for purposes of this opinion, that petitioners’ free exercise claim survived the Montana Supreme Court’s wholesale invalidation of the tax credit program. (This is a feature in all of the dissents. Essentially, the dissenters claim there is no case because the program was made vaporware by the Montana Supreme Court.)
Breyer then begins an extended discussion of “entanglements” of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: and concludes that “The majority’s approach and its conclusion in this case, I fear, risk the kind of entanglement and conflict that the Religion Clauses are intended to prevent. I consequently dissent.

Well, that is the summary, but it is followed by at least 6000 words, as if prepared to show his colleagues that he had considered a lot of precedents that had no direct bearing on the case, these dating back to Madison and Jefferson’s Wall of Separation in Antebellum Virginia, along with hypothetical questions about state funding for charter schools (with a 2003 citation).

GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined.

Recall that the Montana court remedied the state constitutional violation by striking the scholarship program in its entirety. Under that decree, secular and sectarian schools alike are ineligible for benefits, so the decision cannot be said to entail differential treatment based on petitioners’ religion.

Put somewhat differently, petitioners argue that the Free Exercise Clause requires a State to treat institutions and people neutrally when doling out a benefit—and neutrally is how Montana treats them in the wake of the state court’s decision. Accordingly, the Montana Supreme Court’s decision does not place a burden on petitioners’ religious exercise. Petitioners may still send their children to a religious school. And the Montana Supreme Court’s decision does not pressure them to do otherwise.

SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

The majority holds that a Montana scholarship program unlawfully discriminated against religious schools by excluding them from a tax benefit. The threshold problem, however, is that such tax benefits no longer exist for anyone in the State. The Montana Supreme Court invalidated the program on state-law grounds, thereby foreclosing the as-applied challenge petitioners raise here.

Indeed, nothing required the state court to uphold the program or the state legislature to maintain it. The Court nevertheless reframes the case and appears to ask whether a longstanding Montana constitutional provision is facially invalid under the Free Exercise Clause, even though petitioners disavowed bringing such a claim. But by resolving a constitutional question not presented, the Court fails to heed Article III principles older than the Religion Clause it expounds.

Laura Chapman added: I am not a lawyer, but I cannot understand why this case even got on the docket of the US. Supreme Court. It was settled in the Montana Supreme Court, made invalid, struck entirely.

Randi Weingarten is not only president of the AFT, she is a lawyer. Below is her reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. She calls it a “seismic shock.” She sees the decision as one more step in the relentless rightwing effort to defund and privatize public schools. She thinks the decision set the stage for an even more radical decision, one that requires states to fund religious school tuition as some states (think Florida, Indiana, Ohio) currently do.

Randi is right, but I was actually relieved that the decision was not far worse. I was afraid that the current Supreme Court, with Trump’s addition of two super-religious justices (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh), would overturn all Blaine amendments and require states to pay religious school tuitions in full. But the decision was far narrower. It said that any state that has a program to fund private schools must admit religious schools to the same program. So Montana, which has a private scholarship program, must include religious schools on the same footing as other private schools. That means that the Espinoza family has won $150 per year for all their troubles.

People like Betsy DeVos and her American Federation for Children, Jeanne Allen and her Center for Education Reform must be terribly disappointed that the decision did not tear down Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between state and church,” thus compelling states to pay full tuition for students at religious schools, regardless of their ideology, their quality, or their lack of certified teachers. That didn’t happen, thank God!

The public schools, the schools that nearly 90% of all American families choose, the schools that educated the overwhelming majority of the American people, have survived a close call. If Biden wins in November and Ruth Bader Ginsburg remains healthy until Biden’s inauguration, we will in time have a Supreme Court that supports public schools.

Randi warns:

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue:

“This ruling in the Espinoza case is a seismic shock that threatens both public education and religious liberty. It is a radical departure from our Constitution, American history and our values. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent, this ruling is ‘perverse.’

“Never in more than two centuries of American history has the free exercise clause of the First Amendment been wielded as a weapon to defund and dismantle public education. It will hurt both the 90 percent of students who attend neighborhood public schools, by siphoning off needed funds, and, in the long term, those who attend religious schools by curtailing their freedom with the accountability that comes with tax dollars.

“The court’s narrow conservative majority joined with Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and other wealthy donors and special interests to attack public education and turn the First Amendment on its head. What’s even more disturbing is that some justices wanted to go even further.

“While the court didn’t invalidate the 38 state constitutional provisions that preclude public money from going to religious schools, it came very close. The financial backers of this case will now use it to open the floodgates to litigation across the country.

“I hope the court and the plaintiffs understand that by enabling this encroachment on religious liberty, they are also opening up religion to state control and state interference. With public funding comes public accountability. Upending the carefully constructed balance of free exercise and separation of church and state not only undermines public education, it is a grave threat to religious institutions and organizations.

“In this time of national crisis, we have seen the importance of our public schools. Children across the country rely on public education for far more than just academics: Thirty million kids eat lunch in school, 12 million eat breakfast in school, and schools provide millions more with their healthcare. We should be prioritizing additional resources for public education and other vital social programs, not diverting them to private purposes.

“We are not going to give up. In fact, we are only going to fight harder. Parents, teachers and their unions stood up and fought back—and we will continue to do so each and every day, whether in court, in Congress, in state legislatures or at the ballot box.

“When it comes to Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’ attacks on public education, we will see them in November.”

Joe Biden seems to be waging a vigorous front-porch campaign.

The Washington Post reports:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Joe Biden doesn’t just want to ensure that every person in this country gets free testing for the novel coronavirus. He wants their treatment covered, too, no matter whether or how they are insured.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also calls for adding $200 per month to the checks of everyone who collects Social Security, temporarily increasing Medicaid funding by 12 percent and expanding food stamp benefits by 15 percent.

Biden, who has mostly stayed in his house here for nearly four months, will venture out Tuesday afternoon to deliver a speech at a local school on his vision for fighting the coronavirus crisis.

As infections and hospitalizations surge, and with the United States poised to surpass 125,000 confirmed covid-19 deaths as soon as today, Biden will recall how President Trump described himself as a “wartime” leader at the start of the pandemic and then accuse him of “surrendering to the virus.”

“Americans social distanced and did their part to bend the curve, but Trump didn’t lead,” Biden plans to say, according to a preview shared by aides.

Biden will argue that the need for federal outlays to contain the worst public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economic crisis since 1933 is only growing – and he wants to guarantee emergency paid leave not just for everyone who gets covid-19 but also those who care for them – “for as long as they need to recover.”

The Network for Public Education has been tracking the charter schools that collected from the federal Paycheck Protectiin Program intended to help small businesses struggling to survive. The charter schools have not had any budget cuts, have lost no money, have not been struggling to pay employees, but their lobbyists get them included as eligible for the PPP funding, although public schools are not eligible.

The San Francisco Chronicle published a story about some of the charters in California that have applied for and received PPP money. You will not be surprised to see V that the Michelle Rhee-Kevin Johnson charter chain in Sacramento is among them.


WASHINGTON — Charter schools in the Bay Area received tens of millions of dollars from a federal coronavirus relief program intended for small businesses, money they say is necessary to stay afloat amid the pandemic.

The schools are alternatives to traditional public schools and are exempt from many state regulations related to class size, curriculum and teacher tenure, yet still receive state funding. Some of the Bay Area charters that got federal bailout money are also backed by Silicon Valley billionaires, and the board chairman of one school conceded that taking the aid could be an “optics issue.”

It’s the latest instance of the federal Paycheck Protection Program coming under scrutiny for giving money to businesses that fit the letter of the law, but which don’t fit the traditional notion of a small business. Among aid recipients were Shake Shack, the owner of Ruth’s Chris Steak House and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, all of which gave back the money after it was reported that they were beneficiaries.

But some Bay Area charters say they are well within the spirit of the program. Many teach students from low-income or lesser-served communities, and they say they will accept any resource that keeps their teachers paid and schools open amid uncertainty about state education budgets.

The federal aid is in the form of low-interest loans that recipients don’t have to repay if they meet certain requirements, including keeping all their employees on the payroll. During the initial window for loan applications in May, Bay Area charter schools received funds from the program in amounts ranging from a few hundred thousand to several million dollars.

How we reported the story.

The Chronicle was approached by Parents United for Public Schools and In the Public Interest, which oppose charter schools and the privatization of education, with research they had done on schools that had received aid under the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The Chronicle then independently verified the information and conducted further research, including contacting policy makers.

The Chronicle was able to review charter boards’ meeting videos, audio recordings, minutes, documents and agendas to identify loan amounts and recipients. The Chronicle then contacted high-dollar recipients and schools named in the story to verify the information and to give them an opportunity to share their perspective on taking the low-interest federal loans.

Fourteen charter schools or chains in Oakland combined to receive roughly $20 million from the program. They included Education for Change, which runs six schools in the city and received $5.25 million, and Lighthouse Community Public Schools, which has two campuses and got $2.3 million.

Eight charter schools or chains in Santa Clara County combined to receive roughly $20 million. All but one received at least $1.5 million. Summit Public Schools, which has three schools in the county and a total of eight in the Bay Area, received $6.8 million.

At least two schools in San Francisco received loans. San Francisco Creative Arts Charter School got nearly $600,000. Envision Education’s City Arts and Tech High School also received a loan, but says the money will go to its consulting business — not the school that is supported by public funds. It did not divulge the amount it received.

And the St. Hope charter schools in Sacramento, whose board is chaired by school choice advocate Michelle Rhee and which was founded by her husband, former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, received more than $1.5 million.

Some of the loans were first publicized by Parents United for Public Schools and In the Public Interest, which oppose charter schools and the privatization of education. The Chronicle independently verified their research and conducted its own.

Traditional public schools are not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, and state-funded charter schools’ access to the loans raises questions among their critics about fairness.

“Because charter schools are currently receiving full funding as public schools intended to maintain employees, while at the same time receiving funding as private entities that are also intended to maintain employees, taxpayers are left covering what appears to be the same bill twice,” the groups said in a report questioning whether Oakland schools were “double dipping” on funds.

Chalkbeat reports that charter schools in Denver collected $16 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, intended to help small businesses.

Across the country, charters are collecting federal money intended to save small businesses faced with economic collapse. Public schools are not eligible to get money from this program. Charter schools also receive state and local funding earmarked for public schools.

Aren’t they lucky to be both small businesses and public schools!

Denver charters knew this looked bad, so they suggested they might share future funding with the public schools.

Charter school critics nationally have balked at charters receiving federal Paycheck Protection Program funding, which is not available to traditional public schools.

But Denver charter leaders have committed to reckoning with any inequity created by the funding — a move the memo identifies as unique to Denver. Leaders said that could mean charters taking less than their share of other federal coronavirus relief funds earmarked for Denver schools, leaving more money for district-run schools.

Many charters have been unwilling to acknowledge that they have applied and received PPP money. In Denver, the charters released their federal funding at the request of a board member, Scott Baldermann.

The Supreme Court just released a 5-4 decision in the case of Espinoza V. Montana that struck down a provision in the state constitution banning public funds to religious schools.

The decision seems to be narrowly tailored to say that if a state provides aid to private schools, it can’t bar aid to religious schools. I will post expert opinions on this as soon as they are available.

The many rightwing groups arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs (Espinoza) said that the ban was rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry (Blaine amendments), but Montana’s ban was enacted in 1972.

The decision will be celebrated by DeVos and other conservatives but it is not the knockout blow they were hoping for. If states don’t fund any private schools, they don’t have to fund religious schools. Conservatives were hoping to tear down Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state.” That didn’t happen.

The Los Angeles Times reported, in a story titled “Religious Schools Are Entitled to State Grants Given to Other Private Schools, Supreme Court Rules”:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that states may not exclude religious schools from tuition grants that support other private schools.
The justices, by a 5-4 vote, decided that denying grants to students in church schools amounts to unconstitutional discrimination against religion.

The decision is a victory for advocates of school choice, and a setback for those favoring strict interpretation of the principle of church and state separation.

Montana, like more than 30 other states, has a long-standing state constitutional provision that forbids spending tax money to support churches and their affiliates. On that basis, the state supreme court blocked a state-sponsored scholarship program that would give grants to parents sending their children to private and parochial schools.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court struck down a Montana constitutional provision banning state aid to parochial schools, ruling that states cannot exclude religious institutions from programs benefiting nonsectarian private schools.

The program began in 2015 and provided up to $150 in tax credits for donations to scholarship funds that helped students attend private schools. State tax authorities determined that donations to religious schools didn’t qualify. Then Montana’s Supreme Court, citing a state constitutional ban on state aid to sectarian schools, struck down the whole program.

Some parents who sought to send their children to Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell, Mont., said they couldn’t afford the tuition without the program, and otherwise would have to rely on public schools.

In an appeal to the U.S Supreme Court, these challengers argued that the state constitution’s ban stems from a 19th century bias against Catholics and their parochial schools—and that the state constitution violated the federal Constitution by discriminating against church schools.

Many other states have similar restrictions, often called Blaine amendments after Rep. James Blaine (R., Maine), who unsuccessfully proposed a similar provision for the federal Constitution.

While anti-Catholic bias helped fuel the 19th century drive for Blaine amendments, Montana argued that its 1972 constitutional convention, which re-enacted the provision, had not been tainted by religious bigotry.

Conservative groups backing the Montana suit hoped it would pave the way for broader taxpayer subsidy of religious schools through vouchers and other programs, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s relaxation of the separation between church and state in recent years.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board has three core beliefs about education.

1. Public schools are horrible.

2. Teachers’ unions are evil.

3. Non-unionized charters and vouchers are the remedy to all that ails American education.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The three highest performing states in the nation—Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey—have strong teachers’ unions. None of the non-union states are at the top of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Unions fight for adequate resources and decent salaries for teachers, in addition to fighting for teachers’ right to fair treatment on the job. The resources help their students, and the job rights help retain career teachers.

Most recently the WSJ wrote a glowing editorial about the alleged success of vouchers in Florida, one of its favorite states because its governor and legislature have diverted $3 billion from public schools to non-union charters and vouchers. The editorialists are thrilled because Florida just recently expanded its voucher program.

Most vouchers in Florida are used in religious schools, most of which are evangelical Christian schools. The voucher schools are not required to take state tests. They are not required to be accountable in any way. They are not required to hire certified teachers or principals. The voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against gay students, staff, and families. They do not have to adopt the state standards and may use the Bible as their science textbook if they wish. The Orlando Sentinel wrote a revealing series about Florida’s voucher program, called “Schools Without Rules.”

Bear in mind that the size of a voucher—less than $8,000–guarantees that it will be accepted only by low-tuition schools, not by the schools of elite families, where tuition may be as high as $35,000-40,000 a year.

Here is the text of the WSJ editorial:

The headline is “Florida’s School Choice Blowout.”

The subtitle is: “The State Expands Its Successful K-12 Scholarship Program.”

Good news from Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed the biggest private school voucher expansion in U.S. history—giving families in Democratic, union-controlled states another reason to move to the Sunshine State.

Florida established the Family Empowerment Scholarship last year for low and middle-income families. The private school vouchers run between $6,775 and $7,250 per student depending on the grade level, and 87% of recipients come from households below 185% of the federal poverty level (about $48,470 for a family of four). Most are black or Hispanic.

Vouchers had been limited to 18,000 students this year with annual growth capped at about 7,000. This wasn’t enough to meet parental demand, and there are 35,000 eligible students on scholarship waiting lists. Republicans have now quadrupled the cap on annual growth so that 28,000 more students can benefit each year. If the voucher program’s capacity exceeds demand from eligible families, the new law will increase the household-income limit (currently 300% of the poverty line) by 25% so more middle-income families can apply. In short, supply of vouchers will now automatically expand to meet demand.

As a political trade, Mr. DeSantis gave public schools $500 million for salary increases—not that this appeased the teachers unions that oppose all school choice because it forces unionized public schools to compete for students. While voucher studies have shown mixed effects on academic performance, one reason is probably that giving parents more choice forces improvements at public schools. A National Bureau of Economic Research study this year found higher standardized test scores and lower absenteeism among students, especially low-income ones, who attended Florida public schools in areas where more students had access to private-school choice.

Notably, fourth-graders in Washington, D.C., and Miami-Dade in Florida showed the most improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores among large urban school districts since 2011. Both Florida and Washington, D.C., offer robust private-school choice and have eliminated teacher tenure. By contrast, student scores in most districts including Houston, Philadelphia and Baltimore have been flat or declined.

Jeb Bush kicked off Florida’s school choice movement two decades ago, and Rick Scott (now Senator) and Mr. DeSantis have built on his success. More than 130,000 students in Florida now receive scholarships. Florida is helping to increase social mobility and future incomes by expanding educational opportunity for all.

Here are the facts:

Florida’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a sample test of reading and mathematics in grades 4 and 8 for the nation, states, and some urban districts, have been mostly flat over the past decade. The NAEP scores don’t include voucher schools, because they are not held accountable in any way. The WSJ asserts that Florida is a great “success” story, that its fourth graders showed dramatic improvement from 2011-2019, but that is false. Why leave out the eighth graders? Could it be because the eighth grade scores in both Florida and Miami were flat?

Here are the NAEP results for 2019 in reading.

Here are the NAEP results in mathematics for 2019.

You can look at average scores over time for every state and for urban districts that asked to be tested, including Miami-Dade.

You can compare 2019 to previous years. The WSJ chose to compare 2019 to 2011, but I chose to compare 2019 to 2009. It’s not impressive for Florida or Miami no matter which year you choose.

Let’s check the progress of Florida and Miami on NAEP (public schools only):

Fourth grade reading: Scores unchanged since 2009.

Eighth grade reading: Scores unchanged since 2009.

Fourth grade mathematics: Scores unchanged since 2011 (Remember that Florida retains low-scoring third graders, which tends to inflate fourth -grade scores).

Eighth grade math: Scores unchanged from 2009-2019.

Since the WSJ refers to NAEP as evidence of Florida’s amazing performance, it’s worth noting that Florida has flat-lined for the last decade on NAEP.

We don’t know anything about the “success” of vouchers in Florida, since their students don’t take state tests or NAEP.

But we do know that rigorous voucher studies in other states—Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana, the District of Columbia—have shown that voucher students lose ground compared to their peers in public schools. (See here and here and here.)

Far from “expanding opportunity,” vouchers enable children to attend low-cost schools where they abandon their civil rights protections at the door, are instructed by uncertified teachers, and are likely to fall behind academically or return to their public school. One of the unexplored issues associated with voucher schools is their high attrition rates. When voucher boosters boast about their high school graduation rate, they fail to mention the number of kids who didn’t make it to senior year. Only the elitist Wall Street Journal would think of this as a boon for children and families.

The Relay “Graduate School of Education” was created by charter schools to train charter school teachers on test-score-raising and no-excuses discipline, while using Doug Lemov’s Bible “Teach Like a Champion.” It’s teachers mostly taught in charters.

Relay is called a graduate school, but it has no research faculty, no campus, no library, and at last review, no scholars or anyone with a doctorate.

Nonetheless, Relay has landed some contracts for professional development in districts run by corporate reformers and Broadies. The chancellor in D.C. is Lewis Ferebee, who previously led privatization efforts in Indianapolis.

In D.C., it does professional development for principals.

One principal in D.C. didn’t like Relay’s philosophy.

She was fired.

Parents were not happy.

Ceaira Richardson recited the challenges that make life in her Southeast D.C. neighborhood difficult.

Grocery options are sparse, making it tough to find fresh produce. Crime rates are higher than in other parts of the city. Keeping children safe is not always easy.

But she feels at ease at Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School, a recently modernized, light-filled campus not far from Richardson’s home. There, her three-year-old daughter is already reading. She senses teachers truly care about her child, so much so that she persuaded family members to send their children to the school.

“I told everybody, ‘Enroll in Boone. Enroll in Boone,’” Richardson said.

In recent months, Richardson and other members of the Boone community have rallied around the school’s principal, Carolyn Jackson-King, after they learned the veteran educator was fired and will not return to the position for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Teachers, parents and some D.C. lawmakers have demanded D.C. Public Schools reverse its decision. Jackson-King and her supporters say she was dismissed by the school system because she resisted teaching practices that educators at Boone felt were militaristic and racist.

“I just feel they attempted to control Black bodies,” Jackson-King said.

Ferebee had no comment.