Search results for: "play"

Nicholas Tampio, a professor of political science at Fordham University, wrote recently in the Washington Post that children need a break, not academic pressure, this summer. But the federal government seems to have swallowed whole the claims that children are suffering from “learning loss.” He disagrees. Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle have repeatedly urged policymakers to acknowledge the importance of play in child development; they wrote a wonderful, research-based book about it called Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive. What Tampio and others argue is that the children have had a horrible year and need time to be children. We don’t need to press their little noses to the academic grindstone.


The global pandemic has taken its toll on families and children. Children have not been able to engage in their normal routines, sit in a classroom with friends and teachers, visit extended family or participate in social activities without a mask. Most parents are more concerned about their children’s emotional well-being than they were before the pandemic, a Pew Research Center survey in the fall found. And that situation may have grown more dire, as children have spent much of the school year online and maintaining social distance from other people.

Facing this year of loss, Democrats in Congress have framed the problem as primarily one of lower projected test scores; their solution is to make kids in high-poverty schools spend the summer inside preparing for standardized tests. This is exactly the wrong approach to the sadness and loss of the covid era: This summer, children need to do self-initiated activities that are rewarding for their own sake. This will create happier children now and, as research has shown, lead to improved physical, cognitive, social, emotional and creative outcomes later in life.

At the end of 2020, Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, explained how he wanted to address the learning loss caused by the pandemic: “You can’t just tell cash-strapped states and localities that they’ve got to cancel summer vacation. For the federal government, if we’re going to suggest that, we’ve got to help pay for it.”

So early this year, Scott introduced the Learning Recovery Act of 2021 to establish a grant program; the bill could become law by mid-March. It would authorize $75 billion over the next two years to address learning loss in Title I schools with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students by funding school extension programs — including longer school days, an extended school year and summer school. It’s a lot of money: Congress allocated about $16 billion for Title I schools in 2019.

The money has strings attached. The bill stipulates that state educational agencies shall support school districts “to effectively use data and evidence-based strategies to address learning recovery needs for students.” To collect this data, a school district may administer “high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable to accurately assess students’ academic progress.” The bill also authorizes funding for the Institute of Education Sciences to study what interventions and strategies best address learning recovery, that is, raise test scores. The supporters of the bill are not interested in paying for kids to play this summer.

That’s a shame — because pediatricians have been making a powerful case for the immediate and long-term benefits of play.

2018 article in the journal Pediatrics called “The Power of Play” defines play as “an activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement, and results in joyful discovery.”

Childhood play develops foundational motor skills, leads to an active lifestyle and prevents obesity. Climbing rocks gives children a chance to build confidence that will serve them well later in life. Rough-and-tumble play teaches children verbal skills, as they have to negotiate when things threaten to get out of hand. Taking risks on the playground hones executive functioning skills such as concentrating, problem solving and regulating one’s emotions. Recess gives children of different backgrounds an opportunity to become friends.

“Play is part of our evolutionary heritage,” the authors explain, “and gives us opportunities to practice and hone the skills needed to live in a complex world.”

And what happens when children do not have a chance to play? They don’t have a safe way to release toxic stress and may lash out with antisocial behavior. By focusing on academic achievement rather than play, young people often develop anxiety, depression and a lack of creativity. “Play may be an effective antidote to the changes in amygdala size, impulsivity, aggression, and uncontrolled emotion that result from significant childhood adversity and toxic stress,” the article argues.

Even more than usual, it would seem, children in the pandemic era need a chance to play before they resume their formal education in the fall. In England, experts in childhood development have called for a “summer filled with play” to recover from the pandemic. According to Helen Dodd, a professor of child psychology at the University of Reading, “children need time to reconnect and play with their friends, they need to be reminded how good it feels to be outdoors after so long inside and they need to get physically active again…”

Think of all the rewarding things that children could do this summer. Day camps with arts and crafts, sports, theater, and activities like podcasting and three-dimensional printing. Visiting family in other parts of the country. Swimming at the pool. Riding bikes with friends. Performing in a band. As scholars such as Yong Zhao and Christopher Tienken have been arguing for years, these kinds of unstructured activities give young people a chance to invent new things, create works of art, start businesses and develop their own talents.

Kids would be better off if Congress votes down legislation that would keep children in high-poverty schools inside this summer. Those kids — including ones living in shelters, with food insecurity or in dangerous neighborhoods — deserve to play just as surely as do those children whose parents send them to sleep-away camp. And governments, civil society and families should look for ways to give children a chance to do activities that are voluntary, joyful and imaginative: that is, to play.

William Doyle and Pasi Sahlberg have a proposal for what children should do after the pandemic: Play.

They write at CNN.com:

When the novel coronavirus is no longer as great a threat and schools finally reopen, we should give children the one thing they will need most after enduring months of isolation, stress, physical restraint and woefully inadequate, screen-based remote learning. We should give them playtime — and lots of it.William Doyle William Doyle Pasi SahlbergPasi SahlbergAs in-person classes begin, education administrators will presumably follow the safety guidelines of health authorities for smaller classes, staggered schedules, closing or regularly cleaning communal spaces with shared equipment, regular health checks and other precautions. But despite the limitations this may place on the students’ physical environment, schools should look for safe ways to supercharge children’s learning and well-being.We propose that schools adopt a 90-day “golden age of play,” our term for a transitional period when traditional academic education.

Play gives children a wide range of critical cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing the nation’s 67,000 children’s doctors, stated in a 2012 clinical report that “play, in all its forms, needs to be considered as the ideal educational and developmental milieu for children,” including for children in poverty, and noted that “the lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also reported “substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement,” and “can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior,” including concentration and attention. Regular physical activity like recess and physical education, the CDC researchers noted, also “improves self-esteem, and reduces stress and anxiety.”

This is especially relevant for a student population that may face a tidal wave of mental health challenges in the wake of the pandemic. Data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report detailed that, as of 2016, 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 8 years of age had a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. And a study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology revealed that from 2009 to 2017, depression surged 69% among 16- to 17-year-olds.

A 90-day “golden age of play” school re-entry period would help ease children back into the school setting, while providing physical and creative outlets to allow them to calm their stress and thrive with their peers and teachers. But what exactly would this program look like?It should look like a child’s dreams. A time of joy, movement, discovery and experimentation without fear of failure; a time when every student should enjoy comfort, safety, and socialization with peers and warm, caring adults.

Open the link and read the rest.

The Select Sub-Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis (House of Representatives) released a devastating report on the Trump administration’s efforts to hide the seriousness of the pandemic from the public.

https://coronavirus.house.gov/sites/democrats.coronavirus.house.gov/files/10.2.20%20Political%20Interference%20Report%20%281%29.pdf

William Doyle and Pasi Sahlberg have reimagined the school: Let the children play!

They are the authors of a new book with that title.

They write in an article for CNN:

When the novel coronavirus is no longer as great a threat and schools finally reopen, we should give children the one thing they will need most after enduring months of isolation, stress, physical restraint and woefully inadequate, screen-based remote learning. We should give them playtime — and lots of it.

As in-person classes begin, education administrators will presumably follow the safety guidelines of health authorities for smaller classes, staggered schedules, closing or regularly cleaning communal spaces with shared equipment, regular health checks and other precautions. But despite the limitations this may place on the students’ physical environment, schools should look for safe ways to supercharge children’s learning and well-being.

We propose that schools adopt a 90-day “golden age of play,” our term for a transitional period when traditional academic education should be balanced as much as possible with learning through play, physical and creative outlets and mental health counseling to provide support for children who will need it.

Play gives children a wide range of critical cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing the nation’s 67,000 children’s doctors, stated in a 2012 clinical report that “play, in all its forms, needs to be considered as the ideal educational and developmental milieu for children,” including for children in poverty, and noted that “the lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing.”

Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle celebrate the importance of play in their new book, Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive , published by Oxford University Press.

This article, excerpted from their book, features the work of Superintendent Michael Hynes and the Patchogue-Medford school district on Long Island in New York. The article appears in Kappan online.

In 2015, a school district in New York State declared an educational revolution. Teachers and parents decided to rise up and liberate their schools and their children — by giving them more play.

The revolution erupted at the Patchogue-Medford district on Long Island, which serves 8,700 K-12 students, over half of whom are economically disadvantaged, and it is being led by Michael Hynes, the athletic, passionate young district superintendent. He realized that federal education schemes based on the compulsory mass standardized testing of children, schemes like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, were proven failures, and he figured it was time to try something new, even radical.

Hynes started following his students around through their typical day and was increasingly alarmed to realize how little recess, play, and self-directed time they got. “We have done a great job of stripping away childhood from our children,” he thought. “We tell kids what to do from the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to bed. They don’t have the ability to take time for themselves, just be kids, to make decisions for themselves.” He remembered his own childhood, and how different things were when he started as an elementary school teacher in the 1990s. “My students were free to play often,” Hynes recalled. “I loved watching them benefit physically, emotionally, and socially. We would go outside three times a day.” A single idea began to dominate his thinking: “Kids must be free to play in school. Childhood itself is at stake. I am sworn to protect children, and I must give this to them.”

Making time for play

For years, Hynes had read about the striking successes of Finland’s school system, and its strong foundation of play in childhood education. It gave him an inspiring idea, and he presented it to his community. And with the strong support of his school board and local parents, Hynes and his team took a series of steps almost unheard of in American public education today, steps that for some politicians and bureaucrats would be shocking, even downright dangerous, and nothing less than pure blasphemy. They doubled daily recess from 20 minutes to 40 minutes and encouraged children to go outside even in the rain and snow. They brought building blocks, Lincoln Logs, toys, and kitchen sets back into the classrooms. They gave each child a 40-minute lunch. They added optional periods of yoga and mindfulness training for K-8 children. They launched an unstructured Play Club for kindergarten through 5th-grade children, every Friday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

They opened “Divergent Thinking Rooms” filled with big foam blocks, where children can negotiate, plan, innovate, collaborate, and construct new worlds of design and architecture together, free from adult interference. A free breakfast program in classrooms was started so children and teachers could eat together every morning. The amount of homework was sharply reduced. Hynes calls the program “PEAS”: Physical growth, Emotional growth, Academic growth, and Social growth. It has nothing to do with technology. During the play periods, there isn’t a tablet, laptop, or desktop in use.

In 2018, Hynes sent a letter to his district, informing teachers and students that they were more than a score on a government-imposed standardized test, and they should feel free to toss such test scores in the trash. “We must abandon one-size-fits-all lesson plans and stop drilling to create high scores on year-end standardized tests,” he argued. “Instead, children should be involved in play, project-based learning, cooperation, collaboration, and open-ended inquiry.”

Hynes is an educational revolutionary. He stands firmly against the status quo of high-stakes testing and hyper-pressure. It takes courage to think afresh.

Imagine if we had state leaders with this vision?

A few months ago, William Doyle and Pasi Sahlberg published their book about the importance of play, called Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive.

Checker Finn Jr. criticized their book in the conservative journal Education Next, maintaining that middle-class and affluent kids need to play, but poor kids need to keep their noses to the academic grindstone.

Doyle and Sahlberg respond to Finn in Education Next in this article.

They write in answer:

Chester E. Finn Jr.’s review in the Winter 2020 Education Next of our book Let the Children Play reveals a startling lack of knowledge of medical guidelines for children in school, including children in poverty.

Finn contends that our policy message, the need for more intellectual and physical play in school, “portends damage to children and society at least as severe as the practices the authors rightly deplore.” The reason, Finn asserts without evidence, is that playful teaching and learning “does little harm to middle-class kids,” but “for children from troubled circumstances it’s a recipe for failure.”

In fact, the exact opposite is true, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing the nation’s 67,000 children’s doctors, which declares in its 2012 clinical report on play and children in poverty that “the lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing.”

In the report, the AAP says that “play should be an integral component of school engagement,” and “for children who are underresourced to reach their highest potential, it is essential that parents, educators, and pediatricians recognize the importance of lifelong benefits that children gain from play.” The doctors added: “It could be argued that active play is so central to child development that it should be included in the very definition of childhood. Play offers more than cherished memories of growing up, it allows children to develop creativity and imagination while developing physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths…”

Play is the learning language of children, and a critical foundation of life success. Teachers and pediatricians know that in school it can take many forms, including recess, free play and guided learning through play, playful teaching and learning and experimentation without fear of failure, and creative physical and intellectual expression through the arts and high-quality physical education. All children need it in regular doses, including and especially children in troubled circumstances.

An argument against play in school for any group of children is a reckless violation of the clinical position of America’s pediatricians and an insult to our teachers and students, and should be dismissed as such.

Game, set, match to Doyle and Sahlberg!

A wise reader, who is anonymous, posted this comment a few days ago. I thought it was wise because we hear so many Disrupters cheering about “the end of schooling as we know it” when the reality is that most parents and students can’t wait for real school to start again. You don’t hear those same voices saying that no one will ever work in an office again; no one will every go to a concert or a play; no one will ever go to a physical store. They clearly have an agenda, and their predictions are their wishes, but they fly in the face of reality. Life goes on. It is never the same after an earth-shattering event such as a pandemic. But many things will not change. Who knows? Schools may even change for the better as parents show their gratitude to teachers and their public schools, and as the backlash against distance learning grows stronger, based on experience.

He or she wrote:

No one is calling for the end of grocery stores for Instacart, restaurants for takeout, church buildings for live streaming, physical stores for their online versions, theatre/sports/concerts for streaming, conventions for talking heads on video, clubs for solo dance parties on Zoom, renting office space for work at home, theme parks for Virtual Reality machines, etc. in the advent of COVID-19. But, so many think that this is a “great opportunity” to shift students away from school buildings.

“But education is broken.” Talk to people in any other industry, and they’ll tell you about the broken parts of those too. But they aren’t using COVID as a means to COMPLETELY change it. Yes, there will be a permanent uptick in grocery delivery, online shopping, a day or two a week to work from home, and videoconferencing as some people fall in love with the platforms and get used to them. There may even be a parent in a two-parent household where one was laid off, and they figured out that they could live on one income by getting rid of one of their car payments and so they decide to do virtual school.

BUT, society will be itching to get back into going to concerts, stores, conventions, theme parks, airplanes, sitting inside of restaurants, church, to the office, and SCHOOL!

Lenore Skenazy wrote this article in the Washington Post. Her advice to helicopter parents: Give up! Relax! Let the children play and figure things out. It is a welcome antidote to the policy wonks who are predicting that American children need constant academic pressure, more testing, more worksheets, held back a grade, or face a life of failure.

Skenazy is an advocate of “Free-Range Parenting.”

She writes:

The idea that parents have to enrich every second of their kids’ lives was a crazy lie even before the coronavirus. Kids never needed all that parental stimulation and all those teachable moments.

You know how Einstein spent much of his time as a kid? He made houses of cards.
Just imagine young Albert, the little loser, balancing cards and learning absolutely nothing. Except … well … patience … and concentration … and physics.


The point being not that you should run out and get your offspring a deck of cards so they can win the Nobel Prize before school starts up again. (Don’t run out for anything!) The point being that kids have always been bored, and they’ve always come up with things that seem like a total waste of time to adults — I’m looking at you, slime! — but maybe aren’t.


Many are the parents right now who are worried their kids are turning into “Call of Duty” fanatics. Okay, perhaps I am worried one of my sons is turning into a “Call of Duty” fanatic now that his college classes have switched to pass/fail.

But is that terrible? Nothing is interesting to kids — or any of us — if it’s not at least a little challenging. So even if a kid is working on his “kill/death ratio” (sigh), he is learning focus, frustration tolerance and how to make alliances. Those are transferable skills — not wasted hours. Video games are absorbing because they turn kids on, not off.



Coronavirus has parents and families self-quarantining with their children. So don’t worry about those.
Don’t worry, either, if a child seems to be slacking off in the homework department. Think back on how much you loved summer vacation. Wasn’t it a huge relief to finally not worry about grades and tests?


Before covid-19, childhood anxiety levels were going through the roof. In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 70 percent of teens said anxiety and depression were “major problems among their peers.”
Now children have, basically, a long, strange, twisted vacation. Yes, for many, school is continuing, but it’s not taking the same number of hours, and all their after-school activities are off, too. This opens up a vast swath of free time that many children and teens have never had before. It can turn into a period of growth — mentally and emotionally.


Though not every youngster will become an Einstein while quarantining, many seem to be turning into the kids they would have been if they’d grown up a generation or two earlier, with more time to discover their real interests and hobbies (remember those days?), before childhood got so structured and busy.




So, don’t worry that everyone else’s children are making fabulous “Les Misérables” parodies while yours is hitting his brother with the webcam. You can shower your child with construction paper and glue sticks, but if she hates arts and crafts, she probably won’t emerge from quarantine an artistic genius. (Just like I stocked up on lentils. Why? I am not suddenly a vegan. I should have stocked up on chicken thighs.)


What I mean is: It’s all okay. Our kids are not going to seed even if they are sleeping, gaming and bingeing on YouTube. In fact, they’re growing, simply because kids are always growing and learning from everything — houses of cards, Nerf guns, Barbies, baths, videos, but most of all from that vital resource more rare and precious than toilet paper: free time.
My advice for would-be coronavirus helicopters? Think of the quarantine as an AP class in chilling. You can help your kids ace it by stepping back.

The Washington Post published this cautionary story by Carolyn Y. Johnson and William Wan about the rules for dealing with a public health crisis. Above all: Be honest. Level with the public. Let the experts lead. Have a consistent message to develop public trust. Trump has broken all the rules.


Amid an outbreak where vaccines, drug treatments and even sufficient testing don’t yet exist, communication that is delivered early, accurately and credibly is the strongest medicine in the government’s arsenal.

But the Trump administration’s zigzagging, defensive, inconsistent messages about the novel coronavirus continued Friday, breaking almost every rule in the book and eroding the most powerful weapon officials possess: Public trust.

After disastrous communications during the 2001 anthrax attacks — when white powder in envelopes sparked widespread panic — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a 450-page manual outlining how U.S. leaders should talk to the public during crises.

Protecting vulnerable people from a virus that, according to some projections, could infect millions and kill hundreds of thousands, depends on U.S. leaders issuing clear public health instructions and the public’s trust to follow directions that could save their lives.
“Sometimes it seems like they have literally thrown out the book,” said Joshua Sharfstein, a former top FDA official and Johns Hopkins University professor who is using the CDC manual to teach a crisis communication class. “We’re studying what to do — and at times seeing what not to do — on the same day.”

Two weeks ago, Trump said the country would soon have zero cases. This week, there were more than 2,200 and 49 deaths. When asked at a news conference Friday why he disbanded the White House’s pandemic office, Trump denied doing so, saying, “I didn’t do it … I don’t know anything about it.” When asked if he bore any responsibility for disastrous delays in testing, Trump said no, blaming instead “circumstances” and “regulations” created by others. When asked if Americans should believe Trump or his top health official, Anthony S. Fauci — whom Trump has contradicted repeatedly — Trump sidestepped the question.

“For those of us in this field, this is profoundly and deeply distressing,” said Matthew Seeger, a risk communication expert at Wayne State University who developed the CDC guidebook alongside many top doctors, public health researchers, scientists, consultants and behavioral psychologists.

“It’s creating higher levels of anxiety, higher levels of uncertainty and higher levels of social disruption. … We spent decades training people and investing in developing this competency. We know how to do this.”

For three years, the Trump administration has often taken a hostile stance to science and its practitioners, but health crisis experts say it’s not too late and the fruits of their research — like the CDC’s 450-page manual — are waiting, untapped, to serve as a road map to help leaders navigate the growing pandemic.

The fundamental principles behind good public health communication are almost stunningly simple: Be consistent. Be accurate. Don’t withhold vital information, the CDC manual says. And above all, don’t let anyone onto the podium without the preparation, knowledge and discipline to deliver vital health messages.

Experts say that means not having multiple messengers jockeying for attention with completely different information. It means not overly reassuring people in the face of a threat that is likely to sicken many and kill some. It also means expressing empathy while also delivering information that may be scary. Tell people what they can and should do at an individual level to help those who are at greatest risk.

“It’s in the nature of leaders sometimes to want to tell everybody we have everything under control,” said Michael Palenchar, a crisis communications expert at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “We know overwhelmingly that research suggests that’s detrimental to health and safety.”

Palenchar was one of more than 180 who contributed to the CDC manual, including experts from the CDC, American Red Cross, FBI and EPA as well as federal and state health departments.

They compiled a list of pitfalls to avoid — a list that has begun to look a lot like the administration’s playbook.

Nearly every day since the coronavirus landed in America, the White House has issued “mixed and conflicting messages from multiple sources,” the first guideline in the manual’s list of potentially harmful practices. “Overly reassuring and unrealistic communication” has come from the highest levels of government. The “perception that certain groups are gaining preferential treatment” has become a problem with health care workers complaining they can’t get tested while two asymptomatic Trump allies in Congress, Celine Dion and the members of the Utah Jazz basketball team were able to access tests.

Crucial messaging also appears to be failing to reach or convince many in America. Nearly 50 million in the country are 65 or older — the most vulnerable age group for severe symptoms and death. But many are shrugging off pleas for them to practice social distancing. At The Villages, a sprawling Florida retirement community, many seniors said the crisis is being overblown and talked of continuing their normal lives.

The CDC manual devotes an entire chapter to “choosing the right spokesperson,” someone who gives the government and its message “a human form.” But the government’s leading health experts have had to repeatedly cede the microphone to politicians — with the nation’s top health officials repeatedly canceling news conferences to make room for Vice President Pence or Trump or to avoid upstaging other White House announcements.

Last week, instead of holding CDC’s news conference focused on coronavirus, Trump toured the CDC in front of cameras, telling the public, “Anybody right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. And the tests are beautiful.” This Friday, CDC’s press call was canceled again so that Trump could hold his Rose Garden news conference.

In recent days, rather than having one voice, the spokesperson role has ping ponged among Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Fauci and Trump. Trump in particular checks off many of attributes the manual specifically warns against. The spokesperson must be “familiar with the subject matter” and have the “ability to talk about it clearly and with confidence.”

Since taking office, Trump has ousted scientists, muzzled researchers and suppressed basic information on climate change. Public health officials worry that his erosion of public trust of science, coupled with the ongoing conflicting messaging between experts and politicians, is making it unclear whom the public should listen to.

“I’m fearful we’ve continued to undermine our belief that subject matter experts are people we should listen to,” said Seeger, the Wayne State professor. “We’ve done a good job over the last couple decades of undermining science and telling people scientists aren’t to be believed.”

Class in Session

All semester long, Johns Hopkins professor Sharfstein has been drilling the principles of the CDC manual into the class he teaches at Johns Hopkins. On Thursday, as the White house issued more contradictory statements, his students — a mix of undergrad and graduate students — debated the Trump administration’s response, which has served as a real-time master class for what not to do in a crisis.

They compared it to historical blunders in health communications: the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, when officials gave overly optimistic timetables on vaccines, and bungled messaging by British leaders on mad cow disease in the 1990s, which led to millions in economic damage to the country’s beef industry.

Similarly, several students noted, the messaging disasters in recent weeks have muddled and overshadowed lifesaving health advice to the public.

Many of his students were especially puzzled by the Trump administration’s reluctance to admit fault on its dire problems in testing for the coronavirus.

“They have so much less credibility because of that,” said one student, noting how questions of what went wrong keep dominating congressional hearings and news conferences — making it hard to get instructions to the public on how to prepare and suppress the spreading virus.

Another empathized with Trump officials: “It’s a fine line between apologizing and putting yourself out there for attacks.”

Sharfstein — who served as Maryland’s health secretary and a top FDA official in the Obama administration — asked his students whether they thought the Trump administration would be willing to make a partial admission: “Obviously something has gone wrong. There will be time to assess what went wrong, but right now here’s what I’m focused on to fix the problem.”
Students began workshopping what the White House could do to right the ship:

— Tell Americans, “We made mistakes. Here’s how we’re going to fix them.”

— Stop pretending testing is fine. Explain what solutions are underway

— One student simply cited the cover of the CDC manual: “Be first. Be right. Be credible.”

The Education Law Center created this graphic and explanatory information about the battle to keep public funds in public schools. The graphic shows the state of the voucher movement and identifies which states have advanced or repelled efforts to privatize public funding to religious and private schools via vouchers. It is heartening to see the number of states that rejected voucher legislation, especially when such legislation was defeated by a coalition of rural Republican legislators and urban Democratic legislators, as was the case in Texas and Arkansas. Thanks to all those who are joining forces to keep public funds in public schools.

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PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS: ANALYSIS OF 2019 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS
For a larger version and a text description of this map with a list of the states in each category, click ​here​.
In anticipation of states’ 2020 legislative sessions, this is the first in a series about the fate of private school voucher proposals during 2019 sessions.
Introduction
Despite the continued promotion of school privatization by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as well as support from a number of governors, legislatures, and well-funded advocacy organizations across the country, only two states enacted new private school voucher programs during their 2019 legislative sessions. Although some states expanded existing voucher programs, most passed no voucher legislation at all, and the majority of those that did made small-scale changes.
2019 Legislative Session Highlights:
  • Bipartisan majorities in Georgia, Kentucky, and West Virginia rejected voucher proposals supported by those states’ newly elected governors.
  • Although 22 states have full Republican control, only Florida and Tennessee were able to pass legislation creating new voucher programs in votes largely along party lines.
  • In Nevada, just a few years after the nation’s most expansive Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher law was passed, a new governor signed a bill repealing the program, which had never been implemented.
2019 Legislative Session Lowlights:
  • Tennessee passed a new private school voucher program, though it is limited to two counties.
  • Florida added yet another voucher program to the state’s existing voucher system.
  • Other states increased funding for their previously enacted programs, including Indiana and Iowa.
State Actions in Brief:
Arkansas
For the second consecutive legislative session, rural Republican lawmakers teamed with Democrats in a bipartisan effort to defeat legislation that would have created new school voucher programs. Proposals for a tax credit voucher and a traditional voucher were defeated. Although eligibility for the state’s existing ESA vouchers was modestly expanded, a bill passed requiring a biennial study that will provide lawmakers with important information to analyze how public funds are being spent in that program.
Arizona
Months after voters overwhelmingly rejected the 2017 expansion of the state’s ESA voucher program, legislators introduced a number of bills to again expand the program. Two of these bills passed out of relevant committees but were not taken up by the House or Senate. The remaining expansion bills did not advance, and a bill that slows the growth of tax credit vouchers passed into law.
Diverting public money to private education starves public schools of vital resources and does not lead to improved academic outcomes. For information about various types of private school voucher programs, visit the Public Funds Public Schools website. The PFPS website also highlights a wide range of research showing that private school voucher programs are an ineffective and harmful use of public funds.
Florida
Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed Florida’s latest private school voucher plan, the “Family Empowerment Scholarship Program,” into law. This program will divert an estimated $130 million to private schools over the authorized period and will make vouchers available to middle class families earning up to $80,000 a year.
Georgia
Despite a new Republican governor who supports private school vouchers, voucher legislation failed in the State Senate. Six of the 13 Republican senators who represent rural areas of the state voted against the bill.
Indiana
Governor Eric Holcomb (R) signed legislation to increase funding for Indiana’s existing tax credit voucher program by almost 15% over the next two years. The legislation also increases the voucher amount for eligible families.
Iowa
Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed legislation to increase the cap for Iowa’s existing tax credit voucher program by $2 million over the next two years. A bill to establish an ESA voucher was not considered by the full legislature.
Kentucky
Mobilization at the state capitol by educators standing up for public schools and several days of school sickout closures led to the defeat of legislation to create a tax credit voucher program. The Republican majority did not bring the bill up for a vote.
Louisiana
In Louisiana, a bill creating a “reading voucher” for public school students to use for private tutoring and other private uses passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee.
Mississippi
A bill to expand the state’s limited ESA voucher program was not voted on in the Republican-led House Education Committee. However, as the session was ending, the Lieutenant Governor included $2 million in new ESA funding in a bill to fund state construction projects.
Missouri
Bills to create a tax-credit-funded ESA voucher program were not acted upon before the legislative deadline.
Nevada
Governor Steve Sisolak (D) signed a bill formally repealing the state’s ESA voucher program first passed in 2015, and subsequently struck down by the Nevada Supreme Court. Additionally, a number of bills to create ESA vouchers for students deemed “victims of bullying” failed to advance in the legislature.
North Dakota
A bill that would have authorized a “school choice” study, including of ESA vouchers, passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate.
Pennsylvania
Governor Tom Wolf (D) vetoed a major expansion of the state’s tax credit voucher program passed by the Republican-led legislature. The bill would have nearly doubled the amount that could be diverted to the program, included automatic annual expansions, and significantly raised the income limit for participating families.
South Carolina
Two bills were introduced in the legislature to establish an ESA voucher for students with disabilities. Both were referred to their chamber’s education committee, with no action taken by the legislature.
Tennessee
Governor Bill Lee (R) signed a law to establish an ESA voucher program. Concessions were made to rural Republican legislators in order to pass the bill, including limiting the program to the state’s two largest school districts and capping it at 15,000 students per year.
Texas
State leadership, including Republican legislators and the governor, did not include vouchers among their education priorities in 2019. In response to electoral losses in the suburbs and a lack of support for vouchers, legislative leaders emphasized improving the state’s public school financing system instead.
West Virginia
After a nine-day teachers’ strike in 2018, educators went on strike again, closing all but one of the state’s 55 county public school districts, to protest bills to allow charter schools and to create an ESA voucher program. The voucher bill did not pass during the regular session. Vouchers were again considered, but the program did not pass, during a special session on education legislation.
Resources
Acknowledgements
Many thanks to Jason Unger for compiling the research and drafting this series on 2019 legislative sessions.
Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
973-624-1815, ext. 24