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When Gina Raimondo, now Secretary of Commerce, was governor of Rhode Island, she was an enthusiastic supporter of privately-run charter schools. Her successor as governor was director of a charter school (Blackstone Valley Prep) before he ran for office.

Now, the Rhode Island House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would “automaticallly enter all public school students into charter school lotteries.”

The story reads:

The bill has the support of the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, which includes the state’s two largest charter networks, Achievement First and the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, located in northern Rhode Island. After some initial misgivings, the Rhode Island Department of Education also backs the measure.  

Currently, families must apply or “opt into” a charter public school. This bill, which now goes to the Senate, would automatically enroll students into eligible charters and allow them to decline an invitation to enroll if their child is accepted. Most charter schools draw children from specific districts. 

But the executive director of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, which represents the mom-and-pop charters, said the new approach, while laudable, has serious unintended consequences.  

“Highlander is a K-12 statewide charter school,” said league executive director Keith Oliveira. “There are about 140,000 public school children in Rhode Island. Everyone in the state would be part of their lottery. 

“This is a nightmare for the school districts, which have to collect the data, places an additional burden on the Department of Education and on the charter schools, which will run the lotteries.” he said.  “The bill is intended to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.” 

 

           

Paxton Smith, valedictorian of the class of 2021 at Lake Highlands High School in Texas, has received national attention for her three minute address at the graduation ceremonies. She had submitted her original speech to school authorities–about the media–and it was approved. But when the time came to speak, she whipped out a different speech, about the so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which is the most restrictive abortion bill in the nation. Texas does not permit abortions after six weeks, before women know they are pregnant, even in cases of rape and incest.

A new generation of young people is coming along, and they will change America for the better.

In the GOP’s race to the bottom on teaching about racism, Texas takes the lead. The legislature passed a bill limiting what teachers can teach in history and social studies about race. Rightwing Governor Greg Abbott will sign it.

Here’s a description of the legislation from the Texas Tribune, written before it was passed by the Senate:

After the bill passed both houses, the Huffington was blunt about its purpose: Teachers should not teach about racism or white supremacy.

The charter industry is turning its lobbyists loose in Texas. Despite the large number of charters in the state (more than 800), the lobbyists want more. More. More. $$$. The Legislature is now debating changes in state law to remove obstacles to charter entrepreneurs and corporations that want more locations. Texas doesn’t need more charters: Charters in Texas are regularly outperformed by public schools.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Companion bills filed in the Texas House and Senate, seeking to do away with hurdles facing charter schools that try to open or expand, have bipartisan support but will move the sharp debate over their rapid growth into the legislative arena.

Supporters of Senate Bill 28, called the Charter School Equity Act, say it would level the playing field for new and existing charter schools across the state by preventing local governments from treating them differently from traditional public schools and by relaxing state controls.Advocates for traditional public school districts say the playing field is tilted in favor of charter schools and the way to level it would require more state oversight and local input, not less.

Among other changes, Senate Bill 28 and its accompanying House Bill 3279 would require open-enrollment charter schools to be considered public school districts for the purposes of “zoning, permitting, (subdivision) plat approvals, fees or other assessments, construction or site development work, code compliance, development” and any other type of local government approval.

This would reduce the “red tape” that charter schools face from local authorities after being approved to operate by state officials, the bills’ sponsors say.

It also would make it impossible for cities to act in ways that were advocated by the superintendents of the two largest school districts in Bexar County in 2018, when they suggested San Antonio could use its zoning authority to geographically restrict charter expansion to prevent financial damage to traditional public schools.

“We think charter schools, and open-enrollment charter schools, are good for the state of Texas. That’s the bottom line here,” said the Senate bill’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, in a recent online news conference. “We are simply putting charter schools on the equity they should have. No city should treat charter schools differently than how they treat somebody else…”

“Right now communities have almost no say on whether a charter school comes in or not,” said Kevin Brown, executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Brown, who led Alamo Heights ISD as superintendent for 10 years, said leveling the playing field should include requiring charter schools to seek voter approval for funding their expansion and to elect their boards.“Anytime a charter school is being considered in a local community, that local community should have a large amount of input,” Brown said. “And right now they just don’t have that. So I think there should be much more transparency at the local level.”If anything, the SBOE should have more input, not less, on any expansion that would result in public school districts sharing taxpayer funds to educate students, Brown added.

Woods, the Northside ISD superintendent, said the bills, in their current form, ignore the public process that all public school districts must go through to fund and build a new campus. Planning takes years, and voters decide if they want to fund it, Woods said. School districts then have to work with cities and counties to assess the impact of construction in certain areas and get the project approved.

“We elect school board members, city council members and county judges to make decisions locally because they know the community,” Woods said. “And this (legislation) is just another example, in a long line of examples, where local control seems not to be prioritized in the Texas Legislature.”

Kentucky Republican legislators passed a voucher bill, which now goes to Democratic Governor Andy Bashear. The Governor will likely veto the bill, but the legislature can override his veto with a simple majority. This is the ultimate vengeance against teachers, who organized in 2018 to fight the Republican plan to change teachers’ pensions.

The rightwing group EdChoice, formerly the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, was thrilled:

Public school supporters normally fight back in-person when pension reform and school choice are up for votes in Frankfort. But this year, Kentucky’s Capitol is closed to the public because of COVID-19, so the halls are empty. However, the bills dealing with those issues are still moving through.

“It’s a really big day,” said Andrew Vandiver with EdChoice Kentucky, a group that supports school choice.

After years of fighting for school choice, EdChoice Kentucky hoped to see it become law Tuesday.

“It’s just about fairness,” said Vandiver. “Trying to make sure that low to middle-income families have the same choice and opportunities that upper-income families have.”

There it is: the big voucher lie. Upper-income families spend $20,000-$30,000 for private-school tuition. Children with vouchers won’t be able to pay for the same schools as those chosen by upper-income families. Vouchers in Kentucky will be no greater, and probably less, than the cost of public school, likely $5,000 or less. Families can take their voucher to a low-quality religious school with uncertified teachers and principal, where they will be taught fake history and Biblical science.

A large body of research shows that vouchers have a negative impact on student achievement.

The Kentucky legislature, controlled by Republicans, passed voucher legislation. The Governor, Democrat Andy Bashear, seems certain to veto it.

Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader wonders why Republicans are both anti-public school and anti-teacher, since most of them graduated from public schools and send their own children there. Why are they so eager to take money away from their community schools to fund what are almost certain to be inferior choices? Is it revenge on teachers for leading protests against pension changes?

She writes:

Back in the 1990s, Kentucky was a shining model of a state that valued education. The Kentucky Education Reform Act revolutionized school funding by creating a central pot of property taxes rather than an uneven patchwork of rich and poor. There was much more: cracking down on corruption and nepotism, raising academic standards, new money for teacher training, important supports for struggling children.

But over the past two decades, the state’s politics have turned crimson and all that potential — and state support for it — is slipping away. Why do Republicans appear to dislike and distrust public schools so much? Is it because their teachers are represented by politically powerful unions that happened to get our Democratic unicorn governor elected? Is it because those unions negotiated pretty good pension promises? Is it because they resisted reopening schools? Is it because the very notion of public education recognizes that government can do good things? 

“I think what you see is a demonization of public education that’s coming from all these right wing groups,” said Nema Brewer, a co-founder of 120 Kentucky United, an education advocacy group that helped defeat Republican plans for teacher pensions and elect Beshear in 2019. “The Republican Party of Kentucky has bought into this demonization of public schools, completely forgetting the majority of them are products of public schools. It’s just amazing to me that this is what’s happened.”

Those Republicans got their political revenge on Tuesday night when they passed House Bill 563, what’s known as a “neo-voucher bill.” It hurts teachers and rural school districts, while creating more segregation and less school funding, a veritable lottery for the GOP.

By now, the research on vouchers is compelling: they don’t raise the academic achievements of students. Voucher schools are typically inferior to public schools because they are free to hire uncertified teachers and principals. They discriminate at will. Why would Republicans think it was a good idea to waste public money on low-quality religious schools or to subsidize the tuition of students already in religious schools?


Read more here: https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/linda-blackford/article249974744.html#storylink=cpy

One of our greatest allies for public schools in the nation is the remarkable Pastors for Texas Children. They are active every day in Texas, urging the public to support and fund their public schools. Their leadership has helped to spur similar organizations in other states where public schools need help and where privatizers are making a play for public funds.

Here is their latest appeal for funding the public schools of Texas, attended by five million students:

After last week’s freeze, the Texas Legislature is back to work at the Capitol. Our focus on funding public schools fully and fairly is more important than ever.  As you know, our Texas Constitution says in Article 7, Section 1:  “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

 Here are three ways we can fulfill our constitutional obligation:

1. Federal COVID Relief Dollars
Last spring, Texas received $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funding earmarked to public education. The money was intended to equip schools for education during a pandemic, including PPE, technology, internet capabilities, and updating facilities. That package was not ever distributed to the local school districts, but was used to fill state budget holes.  

In December 2020, the state received the next federal relief package of $5.5 billion for public education purposes, which has not yet been distributed to school districts.  

We are asking our state leaders to release this and any future stimulus money for its intended purpose: to enable local districts to operate and educate safely without having to dip into reserves. Our friends at Raise Your Hand Texas have developed a helpful fact sheet about the federal stimulus funding. You can read that here, along with other resources.

1. Federal COVID Relief Dollars
Last spring, Texas received $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funding earmarked to public education. The money was intended to equip schools for education during a pandemic, including PPE, technology, internet capabilities, and updating facilities. That package was not ever distributed to the local school districts, but was used to fill state budget holes.  

In December 2020, the state received the next federal relief package of $5.5 billion for public education purposes, which has not yet been distributed to school districts.  

We are asking our state leaders to release this and any future stimulus money for its intended purpose: to enable local districts to operate and educate safely without having to dip into reserves. Our friends at Raise Your Hand Texas have developed a helpful fact sheet about the federal stimulus funding. You can read that here, along with other resources.

Read the Pastors’ legislative priorities here:

As a result of strong opposition, Republicans who control the New Hampshire legislature decided to postpone consideration of their “number one priority,” school vouchers. Under consideration was the most sweeping voucher bill in the nation. Thousands of people signed up to testify against the legislation.

A bill to create a school voucher-like system in New Hampshire is poised to be kicked to 2022, after Republicans on the House Education Committee said that it needed more time.

In a 20-0 vote Thursday, the committee recommended that the bill be retained, a move that if approved by the full House next week would put off any decision-making until next year’s session.

House Bill 20, named the “Richard ‘Dick’ Hinch education freedom account program” after the late House speaker, was a top priority for House Republicans this year. The proposal would allow parents to withdraw their children from public school and take the per-pupil state money with them.

Under the bill, that state funding, which amounts to $3,700 to $8,000 per student depending on the school, could then be used by the parents for a number of alternative expenses, such as private school tuition, college preparatory courses, school supplies, or transportation.

But a deluge of opposition to the bill from public school advocates and Democrats had slowed down its progress, resulting in contentious hearings and deliberative sessions that stretched through the day. Opponents argue the bill would drain resources from public schools and prompt cutbacks and increased property taxes; proponents say that it would provide new opportunities to families whose public schools aren’t working for their children.

Despite numerous tweaks and amendments, the bill didn’t have the votes to pass out of the GOP-controlled committee.

It is unclear if the committee would have had the votes to pass the bill even if the amendments were drafted correctly. Last week, NHJournal reported James Allard (R-Pittsfield) was likely to vote against the measure.

House insiders tell NHJournal that had a vote on the bill been held, the best-case scenario would have been a 10-10 tie vote in the committee, sending the bill to the floor with no recommendation. That would have set up a heated floor battle.

Attempts to sway Allard and other concerned Republicans included adding income-caps to the EFA eligibility formula. The cap would limit participation to those earning less than 375 percent of the federal poverty limit — roughly $99,000 for a family of four. That proposed income-cap would cut the number of eligible students in half.

Democrats on the Education Committee were pleased with the outcome.”HB 20 contains no protection for students against discrimination, little oversight, and is ripe for fraud…and would act as a tax-dollar giveaway to wealthy families. There has never been as much vocal opposition to a piece of legislation in NH,” Democrat leader on the committee Mel Myler said in a press release Thursday morning.

There’s still an Education Freedom Account bill in the Senate, giving supporters hope the legislation can still be amended and passed this year. In 2017-2018, the Senate passed SB193 – an education savings account program. That bill died in the House, after being heavily amended. The Senate then scrapped a separate bill and reintroduced SB193, the original version. Again, the proposal failed in the House.Democrats and teachers unions argued EFAs would increase property taxes, defund local district schools, and wreak havoc on New Hampshire’s education system. They celebrated Thursday’s win.

It has been well documented that students who leave public schools for voucher schools lose ground academically. Vouchers will not only hurt the state’s poorly funded public schools, it will hurt the children who use vouchers. It is a lose-lose for everyone except the religious schools that win public funds.

Two years ago, the voters of Arizona overwhelmingly rejected an expansion of vouchers, by 65% to 35%. The pro-voucher side was funded by Charles Koch, Betsy DeVos, and other enemies of public schools. The voters said a resounding NO to voucher expansion!

Yet, this week the Arizona Legislature passed legislation to expand vouchers, approving what the voters rejected. Apparently, the word “democracy” is not in the Republican legislators’ dictionary. The voters expressed their will in no uncertain terms. The legislators ignored them.

The Arizona Senate approved a massive expansion of Arizona’s school voucher program Monday, just two years after voters decisively repealed a similar expansion of school vouchers to all students. 

The Senate passed the bill on a 16-14 party-line vote, with all 16 Republicans voting for the measure. It will now be sent to the House of Representatives. 

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts allow parents eligible to take funds from public schools and spend them on private school. The bill would expand the program, which currently serves only 9,700 students, making it available to an exponentially larger group. 

Bill sponsors contend the voucher expansion will benefit only low-income students from so-called Title I schools, which receive funding for disadvantaged students to close educational gaps.

But SB 1452 would also allow any student who lives in the boundary of a Title I school to be eligible for an empowerment scholarship account. The students would merely have to attend the school and would not need to be low-income themselves to qualify. 

More than 1,300 of the 2,000 district schools in Arizona — about 65% — are Title I schools, and even wealthy districts include some Title I schools.

Another account adds this:

The proposal from Glendale Republican Sen. Paul Boyer, SB1452, would make all children attending schools with a high percentage of low-income families or who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches eligible for the state’s voucher program. The program allows parents to take state funding and pay for religious or other private education and education costs. 

If the Republican-controlled House also approves the measure and it is signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, a school choice supporter, about 800,000 of Arizona’s 1.1 million K-12 students would qualify to use state money to attend private schools, up from about 256,000 currently. Despite the current eligibility, only about 9,700 children currently use state vouchers to pay for private or home schooling costs.

So, of the 256,000 students eligible for vouchers, only 9,700 use them. That’s less than 4% who want vouchers.

Dare I mention yet again that there is a sizable body of evidence showing that kids who leave public schools to use vouchers are set back in their academic achievement?

Jan Resseger writes that the Ohio Legislature is up to its familiar tricks.

While no one was looking, it passed more voucher legislation, again brazenly violating the state constitution, which requires public funding of public schools and forbids public funding of private schools. Let us not forget that former Governor John Kasich was instrumental in this violation of the public trust.

Five years ago right at the end of a spring session of the Ohio Legislature, a group of state senators added a long amendment to House Bill 70, which was about expanding the number of full service, wraparound community learning centers—schools with medical and social services located right in the school. The amendment had nothing to do with the subject of the original bill. The amendment’s purpose was to establish the state takeover of the school district in Youngstown and set up a procedure for state takeovers of other so-called “failing” school districts. A deal had been cut. No opponent testimony was permitted. The Ohio Senate passed the amended HB 70 and sent it back for quick approval by the Ohio House. Within hours, Governor John Kasich had signed it, and without public input, an appointed Academic Distress Commission supplanted the elected school board in Youngstown.

This time the subject is vouchers.

Last spring, just as everything shut down due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, both houses of the Ohio Legislature debated changes in the EdChoice voucher program and came up with two separate bills. EdChoice eligibility is currently described by legislators as “performance-based.” The state designates EdChoice schools by these schools’ low ratings on the state’s school district report card, which everybody agrees is flawed. Last spring the program was expected to double in size. At angry hearings, school districts complained because EdChoice vouchers are funded through something called “the school district deduction.” The House plan would have funded the vouchers out of the state budget; the Senate plan kept the school district deduction.

Read the rest of this sorry story. It is especially sorry since legislators already know that vouchers in Ohio do not improve test scores; they actually drag them down. For shame!