Archives for category: Education Industry

The Republican-controlled legislature in Missouri has imposed charter schools on the state’s two urban districts (but not their own). The legislature is now considering HB1552, which will financially benefit charter schools. Emily Hubbard, a parent in St. Louis, wrote to ask the Budget Committee to stop expanding and favoring charter schools and to fund the state’s public schools equitably and adequately. She sent this email to the Budget Committee, which I am posting with her permission.

Dear Budget Committee Members, 

I am planning to come speak to you in person, so I will keep this email brief. 

I am a parent of four children in St. Louis Public Schools. They are amazing kids who have been loved and taught well from our neighborhood elementary school to the magnet middle school my two oldest attend. With my youngest in second grade, I have another decade in SLPS, assuming that the district manages to survive.

Y’all, I am so tired of certain members of the state legislature pitting charter schools against public school districts. I am especially baffled that this bill is sponsored by someone with no charter schools in his district. Who is he representing with this bill? Because of the laws y’all or your predecessors have already made, this statewide law will only affect two cities (and maybe Normandy?), and I know you know these are the cities with the most Black kids (mine included). 

My new neighborhood school (we recently moved from Rep. Aldridge’s district to the 81st) is a school that serves students who speak many different languages at home. ESOL services cost money. I don’t know if you have the time to watch this video from the October legislative committee of the Board of Education, but let me remind you that around 20% of SLPS kids do not have stable housing. That’s around 5000 children. This data is 2018-2019 (from this site) , but please look at these numbers: 

all SLPS kids: 21,814

all Charter kids: 10,109

homeless population at SLPS: 4,771

homeless population at charters: 470

SLPS homeless percentage: 21.87% 

charter homeless percentage: 4.65% (but some have zero, some are high as 13%, some have closed 2019)

SLPS serves a student population with disproportionately higher needs than charter schools, whether it’s through our fantastic ESOL programs; the difficult task of walking through trauma with kids (one of my daughter’s classmate’s mother was murdered over Christmas break); the cost incurred by the desegregation program which doesn’t seem to have done that much to integrate our schools (especially the neighborhood ones) and instead allows white and privileged parents the ability to cluster in the particular magnet schools and hoard their resources for the sake of their already resourced children; or the special education costs which we shoulder alone, not shared like in the county. 

And then there’s the whole transportation thing–did you know that some charter schools don’t provide transportation? So you can’t really choose that school if you don’t have a safe way to get your kid to school and home again.

I don’t know anything about the education system in Kansas City, so I can’t speak to that, but please please please consider the effect that passing this bill will have on the children of St. Louis. 

I am an evangelical Christian (a pastor’s wife, even), and I have seen our school be the means that does the Lord’s work: they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the orphan, minister to the foreigners within our gates, not to mention, for our family at least, providing an education that has enabled my children to grow in their faith as we take what they’ve learned at school and use it to glorify God together. 

Please don’t take away from funds that enable SLPS to do the work it does, however imperfectly.

And could we just as a state, fund education at a higher rate all together? I know the rural schools are struggling too. 

Also if we could alleviate homelessness, do what it takes to end gun violence, prioritize the health of all Missourians, raise the minimum wage, deal with our opioid addiction crisis…there are a ton of non-education things that if addressed, would significantly and positively affect not just our district, but all the districts. Just think about it, okay?

Thanks so much for your time–see you on Tuesday! I’m sorry that this wasn’t brief at all, I just care a whole lot.

With appreciation for the difficult work you do,

Emily Hubbard

Carondelet, St. Louis

It has become traditional at the end of the year to pay tribute to those who died during the year. Usually, they are famous or celebrities or both.

In this post, John Merrow pays tribute to educators (or people important in the field) who died in 2021.

He begins by paying tribute to the more than 1,000 educators who lost their lives to COVID.

He singles out nine people, “all of whom cared deeply about America’s youth and public education.”

Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, former president of Brown University, and former president of the New York Public Library. I endorse John’s admiration for Vartan. I was on the board of the NYPL when he was selected, and he did indeed save a great public institution from bankruptcy, in large part by wooing great socialites, like Mrs. Vincent Astor, to give generously.

He paid tribute also to bell hooks, James Loewen (author of Lies My Teacher Told Me), Shirley McBay, Robert Moses, Richard Robinson, Eli Broad, Denis Doyle, and George M. Strickler Jr.

As you (and John) might anticipate, I take issue with his characterization of Eli Broad as someone who “cared deeply about America’s youth and public education.” I am sorry that Eli died, and I express my sympathy to his wife and family, but I disagreed that he “cared deeply about America’s youth and public education.” He invested many millions in “training” urban superintendents to share his philosophy of top-down management and his belief that schools with low test scores should be closed, no matter how much parents, students, and staff protested. Many of the “Broadies,” as they were known, were complete failures. He devoted many millions to privatization of public schools, in Los Angeles and in cities across the nation. He selected an incompetent Broadie to run the bankrupt Detroit public schools, who increased the district’s deficit. He poured millions into Teach for America, to send inexperienced, ill-prepared teachers into the nation’s neediest classrooms.

John says he was critical of Eli’s passion for charter schools, and it was not surprising that Eli ignored his criticism. Eli was arrogant and believed that he was always right. I can’t find any evidence that he “cared deeply about America’s children” and for some reason, although both he and his wife were graduates of the public schools of Detroit, he was utterly contemptuous of public schools. He did not “care deeply” about public education. He cared deeply about turning public dollars over to private management.

So, thank you to John Merrow, for honoring the educators and advocates who died in 2021. He needed a different category for Eli Broad. Now, what would that be? Billionaires who thought they knew how to redesign American education to make it more like the corporate sector?

He writes:

Peter Greene reports on real estate transactions in the Florida charter industry, just one transaction that provides an insight into the financial interests getting rich by exploiting public dollars meant for education. Lots of millions changing hands, but nothing about children or education. This is the kind of “news” that makes my blood simmer.

It turned up as an item in the South Florida LBJ Business Journal, and the lead tells you just where we’re headed. The campuses of three charter schools in Broward County were purchased for a combined $49 million by a company in Boise, Idaho that specializes in charter school real estate investments.That just says a lot. Let’s look at some details.

The big deal involves–well, several companies. We’ve got AEP Charter Renaissance. These folks sold a school they bought back in 2017. That charter school was located in a former Target store in Tamarac that had been bought by an investment capital group and a development group for $6.3 million; AEP Charter Renaissance bought it for $22 million. That purchase was part of a two-school deal that merited this kind of language in industry blurbs:

Part of the Colliers team’s successful strategy required educating prospective buyers on each individual Charter Management Organization (CMO) and nuances of each charter school including charter terms, for this asset class considered a special purpose building. “This is a highly-specialized asset class which inherently requires a longer and more thorough phase of due diligence,” noted Colliers Senior Vice President and Education Services Group Member Achikam Yogev. “Because of the complexities, charter schools have traditionally sold individually and rarely as a portfolio, but the continued interest in this asset class has paved the way for more creative strategies and more complex deals being done on behalf of our clients.”

By “industry,” of course I mean real estate and investment, because none of this has to do with education. At any rate, AEP Charter Renaissance just sold that school (which has somehow shrunk to 85,233 square feet) for $26 million. AEP Charter Renaissance is managed by Charter School Capital, whose CEO and co-founder Stuard Ellis is based in Portland. They serve “charter school leaders, back-office/business service providers and brokers & developers” and they make a lot of money doing it. Also, “AEP” stands for “American Education Properties,” of which Ellis is also the CEO. FWIW, his degree from University of California, Berkley (1988), is in Political Economies of Industrial Societies. You can watch Ellis provide a history of charter school capital.

To learn more about the highly profitable news in the charter industry, open the link and read the rest of this post.

The North Carolina Supreme Court dealt a legal blow to charter schools. It ruled that they are not immune from civil suits, as public schools are. This punches a hole in the charter industry’s claim that they are ”public schools” but under private management.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on Friday that nonprofit charter schools can’t avoid facing civil fraud claims alleging mismanagement of taxpayer money by arguing they are immune from such lawsuits like a state agency.

The justices reversed a 2019 Court of Appeals decision that had dismissed claims against Kinston Charter Academy, which closed abruptly to 190 students and their teachers in 2013. A 2016 lawsuit by then-Attorney General Roy Cooper sought financial damages for the state and monetary penalties against the academy, its CEO and the chair of its board

Kinston Charter Academy and leaders were accused by Cooper’s office of violating the state’s False Claims Act and deceptive trade laws. State attorneys allege the school provided a bogus upgraded enrollment estimate to state education officials that meant receiving additional funds, even as leaders knew the school would not last the 2013-14 school year.

Academy CEO Ozie Hall and his wife, board leader Demyra McDonald-Hall, unsuccessfully sought to get the lawsuit dismissed by a Wake County trial judge. They in turn asked the Court of Appeals to step in, saying the academy was protected from liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which exempts state government from most lawsuits unless an agency consents to be sued.

A three-judge panel of the intermediate appeals court agreed with the academy, saying it was entitled to such immunity and that it didn’t fit the definition of a “person” who is the target of state litigation under the False Claims Act.

Associate Justice Sam Ervin IV, writing the lone opinion for the Supreme Court, emphasized that the General Assembly declined to describe charter schools as agencies of the state in the law authorizing them in the 1990s, but rather entities that “operate independently of existing schools….”

“The obvious purpose of the False Claims Act is to ensure that public funds are spent in the manner for which they were intended instead of being misappropriated, misspent or misused,” he wrote, while reversing most of the Court of Appeals decisions. The Supreme Court did uphold the Court of Appeals ruling that Ozie Hall cannot be dismissed from the complaint for now on claims that he was immune as a public official. The case, which now returns to Wake County court, has not gone to trial.

The academy, which had struggled financially for years, enrolled barely half of the 366 students that it had estimated it would enroll in fall 2013, contributing to an overpayment by the state of more than $344,000, Friday’s opinion reads. The lawsuit also alleged students were misled into thinking the school would remain open.

The Network for Public Education will host its annual conference in Philadelphia on March 19-20. The conference has been repeatedly delayed by COVID. We now feel confident that we can meet safely in person. Please join us!

Carol Burris writes:

We have reopened registration for our conference to be held in Philadelphia on March 19 and 20. We believe that when the current Omicron surge subsides, we will enjoy a safe and healthy conference. We appreciate that so many of you have remained registered these past two years.

If you previously registered for the conference, and never asked for a refund, there is no need to register again.

However, you must register for your hotel room. You can do that here. These are discounted rooms and they will go quickly.

If you have not registered, or, canceled your registration, you can register here.

Because we need to preorder food, which is a large part of the registration cost, no refunds will be issued after February 21.

In order to attend, you must be fully vaccinated. That is a requirement of both the hotel and the Network for Public Education. At this point, there is also a mask mandate in place (surgical or KN95 please).

It has been a difficult and long haul for all of us. Hopefully, we are nearing the pandemic’s end. We can’t wait to see you again! Let’s draw strength from each other this March.


New Board Members Welcomed by NPE and NPE Action

President Diane Ravitch is happy to announce that Cassandra Ulbrich and Keith Benson have joined the Network for Public Education Board while Gloria Evans Nolan joined the NPE Action Board.

You can read about these three accomplished public education advocates below. Last month we announced the addition of Georgina Cecilia Pérezto the NPE Board. We thank retiring Board members Denisha Jones, Susan Ochshorn, and Roxanazww as Marachi for their service.

Casandra E. Ulbrich, Ph.D.was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education in 2006 and re-elected in 2014 to serve a second eight-year term expiring January 1, 2023. She serves as the President of the Board.

Casandra has spent the majority of her career in higher education administration, currently serving as the Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Advancement at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Prior to joining UM-Dearborn, Casandra was the Vice President for College Advancement and Community Relations at Macomb Community College for eight years, where she oversaw the college’s marketing and communications, public relations, cultural affairs, and foundation, as well as serving as the College’s Title IX Coordinator. Casandra began her career as a Press Secretary to the former U.S. House Democratic Whip David Bonior, acting as the official spokesperson for the Congressman.

Dr. Keith E. Benson is the author of Education Reform and Gentrification in the Age of #CamdenRising: Public Education and Urban Redevelopment in Camden, NJ (2019) and is currently the President of the Camden Education Association. A dedicated community and public education advocate, Keith taught in Camden City public schools for fourteen years prior to being elected to the Association’s presidency. Keith is also an adjunct professor at Rutgers University-Camden.


Gloria Evans Nolan has joined the NPE Action Board.

Grounded in her experience as a St. Louis Public School graduate and parent, Gloria is now serving as Interim Parent Liaison in the St. Louis Public School district. She has over 17 years of experience working in non-profits and fostering excellence in the lives of young people through her work supporting mentoring teams, managing school partnerships, and developing volunteers and caregivers.

Nolan holds a Masters’s Degree in college student personnel administration and a Bachelor of Science in therapeutic recreation. Gloria is a fierce advocate, championing equity and transformational policy change in true public education. Gloria draws her inspiration from being a devoted wife of Kevin Nolan (also known as Cocoa Santa) and the mother of Dylan & Evan.


There is no doubt that the privatizers will continue their fight to destroy public education in 2022. We already see voucher bills introduced and we are watching for charter expansion legislation as well. You can be assured that we will keep on fighting for our democratically governed public schools, the pillar of our democracy. Happy New Year and we hope to see you in March!!

Thanks for all you do,

Executive Director


The Network for Public Education is a 501 (c)(3) organization. You can make a tax deductible donation here.

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Donald Cohen is the executive director of “In the Public Interest” and co-author of an important new book The Privatization of Everything. He titled this column, which originally appeared in the Washington Post.

He writes:

Reforming public education with market-based reform is “like using a hammer to cook an omelet”

Trying to fix public education with market-based reform is like using a hammer to cook an omelet. It’s just the wrong tool.

That’s one of the main points in The Privatization of Everything, a new book that I co-authored with Allen Mikaelian, which explains why market rules don’t apply to every single aspect of human activity—including education.

The recent announcement by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg that he’s investing $750 million to expand student enrollment in charter schools was a harsh reminder that the decades-long experiment with market-based education reform isn’t working. Charter schools have been in existence for decades, but they haven’t proved to be the panacea their supporters claimed.

To the contrary, many communities see charter schools (and voucher programs) as harming district schools that educate most American schoolchildren.

That’s why what a growing number of public schools are doing to actually improve educational outcomes—and create strong ties among families, students, educators, and communities along the way—is so promising and refreshing.

Over the past few years, public schools from places as diverse as the suburbs of Tampa and Los Angeles have been implementing what’s called the “community school” approach.

Community schools bring together local nonprofits, businesses and public services to offer a range of support and opportunities to students, families and nearby residents. Their goal is to support the entirety of a student’s well-being to ensure they are healthy, safe and in a better position to learn.

These benefits then extend to the surrounding community—which has been especially crucial during the pandemic.

Like, Florida’s Gibsonton Elementary, which organized an effort to have the local government install new streetlights near campus, immediately increasing attendance—which, among other things, helped improve test scores.

And Texas’s Reagan High School, which doubled enrollment, increased graduation rates, and avoided closure by launching mobile health clinics and parenting classes, changing its approach to discipline, and expanding after-school activities.

And so many more community schools around the country.

Many of these schools are succeeding because the community school approach treats public education as the public good that it is. Like with coronavirus vaccines and other public health measures, no child should be excluded—there should be no winners and losers.

In his recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg concludes, “We need a new, stronger model of public education that is based on evidence, centered on children, and built around achievement, excellence and accountability for all.” I agree.

Read the full version of this article in the Washington Post.

You can buy The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed America and How We Can Fight Back at your local independent bookstore or from Bookshop.org.

Stay in touch,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
In the Public Interest

Denis Smith was a teacher and an administrator in West Virginia. He moved to Ohio where he worked in the State Education Department. His last position before retiring was in the office of charter schools (misleadingly called “community schools” in Ohio, even when they operate for profit).

He writes here in the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail, the state’s largest newspaper.

The link works but doesn’t permit me to copy any print.

Here’s the basic story. The Republican legislature passed a charter law, and the Republican Governor (billionaire Jim Justice) signed it, despite promising the state’s teachers he would veto it.

He appointed cronies to the state’s new West Virginia Charter School Board. The board picked five new charter operators. One of the charter operators is Ron Packard, CEO of Accel, former CEO of K12 Inc., which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Accel has charter operations in many states. Its teachers are paid less than the national average but its CEO collected $19 million in a four-year period. Its bottom line is profit, not education or community, writes Smith.

Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey of Kanawha County issued an injunction barring the schools from opening because they violate state constitution. She ruled that the creation of a new school district within an existing school district is unconstitutional, unless a majority of voters in the existing district approve in an election.

Smith writes that the West Virginia law is “a flagrant attempt” to use public funds for private profit. He writes that public schools are democratic institutions owned by the community and operated by elected school boards. The initiation of charter schools is a blatant effort to destroy the public schools, a radical and wasteful decision that was never put to voters.

Paul Bowers was the education reporter at the Charleston Post and Courier. He wrote this post at my request. A reader alerted me to the billionaire-driven attack on public schools in Charleston, and I had the good fortune to find the journalist who knew the story.

Paul Bowers writes:

Every few years, South Carolina becomes a battleground for school privatization. It looks like 2022 is going to be one of those years.

Back in the 2000s, the New York real estate investor Howard Rich backed a series of South Carolina candidates pushing school vouchers, which would funnel public education funds into private schools. More recently, we have seen efforts by Gov. Henry McMaster and the state legislature to create a Tennessee-style “turnaround district,” to deregulate for-profit online charter schools via authorizer shopping, and to divert federal COVID-19 relief funds from public schools to private schools. Teachers and parents have had to fight these advances tooth and nail and have so far kept most of the damage at bay.

Lately it seems like the tip of the spear for privatization efforts in South Carolina is the Charleston County School District, a starkly segregated and unequal district anchored by a world-renowned tourist destination. The Charleston County School Board is scheduled to vote Jan. 10 on a proposal called “Reimagine Schools” that would allow a private third party to make decisions at 23 predominantly Black schools. I thought now would be a good moment to revisit the history of school board power struggles and dark-money campaigns in Charleston County.

The pressure to privatize the governance of public schools often comes from two of South Carolina’s billionaires, the chemical manufacturer CEO Anita Zucker and the debt collection agency CEO Ben Navarro. Sometimes working in tandem, sometimes independently, Zucker and Navarro tend to promote more charter schools and private takeovers of public schools.

Zucker and her advocacy organization, the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative, were involved in a 2015-2016 effort to create a “turnaround district” at the state level, modeled after failed efforts in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Michigan. The proposal involved lumping the state’s lowest-performing schools into a new district and bringing in third-party operators to manage them. Similar bills were introduced in Georgia and North Carolina around the same time, but the idea never received serious discussion in the South Carolina Statehouse.

Navarro is best known nationally for his failed 2018 bid to buy the Carolina Panthers NFL team. In the financial world, he is known for his Sherman Financial Group, a privately owned firm that filed more lawsuits against defaulted credit-card debtors than others in the industry during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a recent Wall Street Journal investigation.

In the arena of education, Navarro is known for his private Meeting Street Schools, which are sometimes lauded as a model for improving the test scores of low-income students from at-risk communities. Since 2014, Meeting Street Schools has entered unique public-private partnerships with South Carolina public school districts, starting with the takeover of two elementary schools in North Charleston.

With a boost of private funding, the schools invest in wraparound services for students and their families, offer additional psychological support, place two teachers in each classroom, and operate on an extended school day and academic calendar. Those practices have a proven track record of success, but most schools in South Carolina lack the funding to carry them out.

Meeting Street Schools also heavily recruit staff from Teach for America and KIPP, and they preach the trendy mid-2010s gospel of “grit” – in fact, the disciplinary model is so gritty that one Meeting Street-run elementary school suspended one-quarter of its students in a single school year. Before opening the schools under new management, Navarro sought and received a special exemption from the state’s employment protections for teachers. As a result, Meeting Street principals can hire and fire teachers at will.

Navarro is also closely associated with the Charleston Coalition for Kids, a dark-money group that emerged in 2018 and immediately outspent all other donors combined on advertising for a slate of school board candidates. Much of the Coalition’s funding and spending is hidden from public view thanks to state election law and the group’s nonprofit status, but FCC records reveal it spent at least $235,000 on TV commercials alone in the run-up to the 2018 school board election – four-and-a-half times what all of the candidates combined raised for their own campaigns. (Local activists estimated the Coalition’s spending on Facebook ads, billboards, and other media might have cost additional hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

The Coalition spent big on the school board election again in 2020, investing $306,000 on TV commercials, including attack ads against two Black incumbents. Today 6 of the 9 sitting Charleston County School Board members have received backing from the Coalition.

A number of national organizations have taken an interest in Charleston school politics as well, including 50CAN (formerly StudentsFirst) and the Broad Foundation.

After failing to create a statewide turnaround district in 2016, the 50CAN affiliate SouthCarolinaCAN shifted its focus to the local level – specifically to Charleston County. When I interviewed then-Executive Director Bradford Swann in December 2016, he said his organization would be focused on “grassroots organizing” via a 5-month fellowship program for parents.

The result was Charleston RISE, a parent advocacy group that also operates a parent help hotline. Billboards advertising its services have appeared all over the county, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. Charleston RISE trainees were among the founding members of the Charleston Coalition for Kids when it launched in 2018. Some RISE members said they helped vet school board candidates for the Coalition.

Currently the Charleston County School Board is deciding how to spend its share of the COVID-19 recovery funds provided under the American Recovery Act’s ESSER III program. Multiple local nonprofits submitted proposals on how to spend the money, but only one has gotten a public hearing.

On Monday January 10, the school board will vote on a proposal called Reimagine Schools that would target 23 low-performing schools in low-income and majority-Black parts of the county. Leaning on a “Schools of Innovation” law recently expanded by the state legislature, the proposal would authorize a takeover of individual schools by an unidentified “Innovation Management Organization.” The Schools of Innovation law also allows a school to hire up to 25% of its teachers in certain subject areas without a state teaching license.

The organization that proposed the Reimagine Schools plan is the Coastal Community Foundation, a relative newcomer to school board lobbying. The foundation and its CEO, Darrin Goss Sr., have promoted the Meeting Street Schools public-private partnership model as a way of getting around “bureaucratic” regulations. (Complicating matters further, the Coastal Community Foundation also administers an investigative fund and Education Lab for the local daily newspaper, The Post and Courier.)

The 9-member school board gave the Reimagine Schools proposal initial approval by a 6-3 vote in December without holding any community input sessions about it. All 6 members who voted to approve for the proposal had been endorsed by the Charleston Coalition for Kids.

Whatever the Charleston County School Board decides, the privatization push will continue in parallel at the state level. The state superintendent of education post is up for grabs this fall, and the first candidate to announce her run was Ellen Weaver, a charter school advocate with the conservative Palmetto Promise Institute. A central proposal in her platform is the creation of an Education Scholarship Account, a modified private school voucher program.

Sound familiar? If at first they don’t succeed, they give it a new name and try again.

***

Paul Bowers is a parent of 3 public school children in North Charleston, South Carolina. He was The Post and Courier’s education reporter from 2016-2019 and was part of a team that won the 2018 Eddie Prize from the Education Writers Association. Find him on Twitter at @Paul_Bowers and read his work at brutalsouth.substack.com.

Stephen Dyer is a former state legislator in Ohio and an expert on school finance. In the latest post on his blog, 10th Period, he shows why the arguments for vouchers are a fraud. Vouchers are sold as a salvation for Black and Hispanic students, yet they mostly subsidize white children escaping desegregated schools. And while they are sold with the promise of improving student performance, the voucher schools are in fact inferior to public schools. They are not the schools that rich parents pay for; most voucher schools are low-quality religious schools with unqualified teachers.

Dyer begins:

Now that a group of 100 school districts have formally sued the state over the EdChoice Voucher program, it’s time for voucher proponents to trot out their favorite canard — vouchers give students of color opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. And to oppose vouchers is to oppose opportunities for students of color.

Total crock.

The reason this canard is so pernicious is simple: It’s not true, and in fact, the opposite is true. Vouchers are disproportionately distributed to white students, leading to greater overall segregation in public school districts and communities of color with substantially fewer state resources to educate students in those communities.

This is the stat that voucher proponents love to quote, and it’s what Greg Lawson (a guy I actually like personally, despite our profound policy differences on this and nearly every issue) from the Buckeye Institute articulated in the Dispatch story yesterday:

“Greg Lawson of the Buckeye Institute said the data on who takes vouchers varies from school to school, but overall more minority students use EdChoice. 

Ohio is about 82% white, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But 50% of the students who take an EdChoice scholarship identify as white or non-Hispanic, according to the Ohio Department of Education. 

‘The choice is there for everybody regardless of what demographic box they check,’ Lawson said.”

What Greg and others “forget” is that EdChoice doesn’t apply to every school district in the state. In fact, according to data from last school year, only 164 of Ohio’s 613 school districts lost any state funding to the EdChoice Voucher transfer last year — a $164 million deduction from districts’ state aid. However, 95% of that funding came from just 38 school districts. Want to take a gander at the demographic makeup of those 38 districts? You guessed it. Overwhelmingly non-white. How overwhelmingly?

Try 68% non-white.

Sounds a whole lot different from the 82% white stat Greg mentioned, doesn’t it? In fact, of those 38 districts, only Wilmington was close to the 82% white stat.

Why would he try to repeat the 82% stat when only 1 district in the entire state that loses substantial state aid to EdChoice fits that description?

Because if only 50% of the voucher recipients are non-white, yet the communities from which the students come are almost 70% non-white, it kinda kills the whole “giving people of color an opportunity” argument.

Yeah….

Seems that for more than 20 years now, legislators have known that vouchers are disproportionately going to white students, yet they have done nothing to address this. 

Someone might want to ask them about that.

Oh yeah. One more thing. It was interesting to read that not even the outrageously histrionic Aaron Baer mentioned in the Dispatch the whole original argument for the voucher program to begin with: it provides better options for kids in “failing” public schools. 

That’s because we now know, thanks to more than a decade of comparative testing, that vouchers actually harm student achievement.

Even the Fordham Institute — an avowed voucher proponent — agreed in 2016 when it found that vouchers actually reduced student achievement. This was affirmed in 2020 when the Cincinnati Enquirer looked at test scores of voucher recipients and compared those scores with scores of students in the communities in which the private school resided. The paper found that 88% of the time, the public school students outperformed the private school students.

To voucher proponents now what matters now is the choice, not the outcomes from that choice apparently.

So let me bottom line this program: it leads to more racial segregation, deprives communities of color much needed state educational aid and provides less successful student outcomes. 

But hey, let’s throw hundreds of millions more of our tax dollars at this thing

Jan Resseger writes here about a lawsuit against vouchers filed by 100 school districts and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

She begins:

On Tuesday, 100 Ohio public school districts and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program under the provisions of the Ohio Constitution. EdChoice is Ohio’s rapidly growing, publicly funded school voucher program.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Laura Hancock reported: “A coalition of 100 school districts sued Ohio over private school vouchers Tuesday, saying that the hundreds of millions of public dollars funneled away from public schools have created an educational system that’s unconstitutional.”

The lead plaintiffs are Columbus City Schools, Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools, Richmond Heights Local School District, Lima City Schools, Barberton City Schools, Cleveland Heights parents on behalf of their minor sons—Malcolm McPherson and Fergus Donnelly, and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding. The Cleveland law firm of Walter Haverfield is representing the plaintiffs.

In their lawsuit, plaintiffs declare: “The EdChoice Scholarship Program poses an existential threat to Ohio’s public school system. Not only does this voucher program unconstitutionally usurp Ohio’s public tax dollars to subsidize private school tuitions, it does so by depleting Ohio’s foundation funding—the pool of money out of which the state funds Ohio’s public schools… The discrepancy in per pupil foundation funding is so great that some districts’ private school pupils receive, as a group, more in funding via EdChoice Vouchers than Ohio allocates in foundation funding for the entire public school districts where those students reside. This voucher program effectively cripples the public school districts’ resources, creates an ‘uncommon’, or private system of schools unconstitutionally funded by taxpayers, siphons hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds into private (and mostly religious) institutions, and discriminates against minority students by increasing segregation in Ohio’s public schools. Because private schools receiving EdChoice funding are not subject to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws or most other regulations applicable to public schools, these private facilities operate with impunity, exempt from public scrutiny despite the public funding that sustains them.”

Please open the link and read the rest of the post, which explains the grounds for the lawsuit.