Archives for category: Education Reform

Larry Cuban turned his blog over to retired Swedish teacher Sara Hjelm, a reader of his blog, who took the opportunity to warn American readers about the dangers of the free-market reforms adopted in Sweden.

Sweden adopted the “reforms” in 1992, allowing families to choose any school, public or private, and send their child there with his/her taxpayer dollars. It is the “backpack full of cash” theory behind the demand for school choice, as advocated here by Betsy DeVos and Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform. The voucher system has led to a growing industry of private, for-profit schools, called “free schools.” Two of the companies that run “free schools” are listed on the stock exchange. They are comparable to our charter schools.

Hjelm writes:

The huge private for profit school companies exist on all these levels, competing for student vouchers. Largest part is in the upper secondary where more than 30% of students today attend such a free school. By cherry-picking “easy” students through aggressive marketing to parents (we offer good behavior, academic excellence, high grades, etc.) they attract students that are more or less self going and enable a profit for shareholders or owner consortiums by keeping wages low, having large groups, substituting some teaching for on-line learning, employing teachers from abroad on short term contracts and more hours of teaching, etc. 

As a result real student achievements and school climate are mediocre, about the same as in municipal schools and with a considerable grade inflation to that according to PISA and national tests. Students from municipal upper secondary schools have a slightly lower grade point average than students from free upper secondary schools, but still generally show higher performance and less dropouts during the first year of higher education.

There are also plenty of examples of parents told that their child does not really fit in, that the support needed is not available and they should seek a more suitable school. With a queue system for admission on compulsory level, where you can put your baby in line at birth, they keep all groups filled. And being private businesses they only have to share whatever follow up data they choose due to international business and stock market legislation of secrecy. If a school is not as profitable as expected it can simply close down with short notice or apply for bankruptcy when as much monetary resources as possible have been moved somewhere else in the organization. Stranded students are the municipality’s responsibility. The risk is minimal. At least for now.

She recognizes the important role of venture capital in the expansion of the publicly-subsidized “free schools,” and notes that it has led to persistent cost-cutting.

What matters most in this free-market system, she concludes, is profit, not education, not students.

This is a very worthwhile read.

Nancy Bailey is hopeful that 2021 will bring a new agenda for public schools and their students and teachers.

All are worried about the pandemic and whether there will be the resources to protect students and staff.

There will surely be a teacher shortage due to the numbers of teachers who felt threatened by returning to school when it was not safe, as well as the necessity to reduce class sizes to make social distancing a reality.

The need for social justice should be high on the agenda, and it has nothing to do with vouchers and school choice.

Students with disabilities have been seriously affected by the pandemic and need extra instruction and resources.

The pandemic threw a harsh light on the condition of school infrastructure. Many states have not invested in school facilities. Will they?

The arts were dropped in many schools during the disastrous reign of NCLB and Race to the Top. Today they are needed more than ever.

What will become of assessment? Will the new Secretary follow those who think that testing produces equity? Or will he listen to teachers and parents? Twenty years of federally mandated testing produced a static status quo, locking the neediest students into their place in the social hierarchy and denying them equality of educational opportunity.

With only a few days left in Trump’s term of office, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos resigned. She says she objected to his rhetoric in inciting the insurrection of his devoted loyalists. This is certainly an anti-climax. DeVos had to clear out anyway, but by resigning now she avoids the painful decision about forcing Trump to resign by the terms of the 25th Amendment. Whether she resigns or stays is irrelevant. Whether she uses her position to force the ouster of a malevolent, incompetent president does matter. She opted out.

The Washington Post reported:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation Thursday, citing the president’s role in the riot on Capitol Hill.
“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” she wrote in a letter to President Trump. The behavior of the “violent protestors overrunning theh U.S. Capitol” was “unconscionable,” she wrote.


“Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgment and model the behavior we hope they would emulate,” she wrote. “They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday.”


She said her resignation is effective Friday. The resignation, she said was “in support of the oath I took to our Constitution, our people, and our freedoms.”


DeVos had been one of Trump’s most loyal and longest serving Cabinet secretaries, and also one of his most controversial, despised by many on the left. In recent days, though, even as Trump disputed the election results, DeVos acknowledged that Joe Biden had defeated him.


DeVos joined several other Trump administration officials who quit with less than two weeks left in Trump’s term, in protest of the violence that unfolded Wednesday.


Earlier in the day, Elaine Chao — who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.)—also resigned as transportation secretary, saying she was “deeply troubled” by what had happened at the Capitol. In addition, Mick Mulvaney quit his job as the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland.

DeVos’s sensibilities were not offended by the separation of children from their families at the border. She was not offended by his effort to pressure the president of Ukraine to give him dirt on Joe Biden. She was not offended by his destruction of the independence of the Justice Department or his politicization of every other Department, including her own. She was not offended by his racism, sexism, xenophobia. She was not offended by his persistent lying about everything. She was not offended by his flagrant lies about losing the election, and his refusal to concede his loss more than two months after the election.

She happily served this morally and ethically bankrupt man.

But she bails out rather than stand up to her duty to vote to oust him by the terms of the 25th Amendment, which requires a vote of the Vice President and the Cabinet to remove him.

In the early 2000s, media mogul Rupert Murdoch brought New York City Chancellor Joel Klein to Australia to spread the word about the “New York City Miracle.” This alleged miracle was as phony as George W. Bush’s “Texas Miracle,” all hat and no cattle. Unfortunately, the Education Minister (who subsequently became Australia’s Prime Minister) bought the tale and imposed national standards and testing on the entire country.

Pasi Sahlberg, teacher, researcher, scholar, is currently based in Australia. As a chronicler of Finnish education (see his book Finnish Lessons), Sahlberg has achieved international renown. In Australia, he heads the Gorski Institute and is trying to change the course of Australian education.

Pasi Sahlberg writes here about Australia’s refusal to own up to the dire consequences of the wrong path that it has taken. It is not too late to change course.

He writes that Australia has done a great job in controlling the coronavirus, but it has been unwilling to bring the same focus to education.

Like the United States, Australia continues to fund failure.

He writes:

Despite frequent school reforms, educational performance has not been improving. Indeed, it has been in decline compared to many other countries. International data makes that clear. Australian Council for Educational Research concluded it by saying that student performance in Australia has been in long-term decline. The OECD statistics reveal system-wide prevalence of inequity that is boosted by education resource gaps between Australian schools that are among the largest in the world. And UNICEF has ranked Australia’s education among the most unequal in rich countries.

Often the inspiration for the education reforms in Australia are imported from the US and Britain. Yet, the evidence base to support many of these grand policy changes here is weak or non-existent. For instance, research shows that market-based models of school choice, test-based accountability, and privatisation of public education have been wrong strategies for world-class education elsewhere. Yet, market models have been the cornerstone of Australian school policies since the early 2000s.

Australian education is failing because of reform, not in spite of it.

Jan Resseger writes here about Montana Senator Jon Tester’s deep and well-grounded belief in public education. He says that Democrats would have greater success in red states if they talked about the importance of public schools and the elites who are trying to privatize them.

Think about it. The vast majority of students in the United States attend public schools even when school choice is offered to them. Only 6 percent choose to attend charter schools; about 2 percent use vouchers. By now we know that neither charter schools nor vouchers offer a better education than democratically controlled public schools. Yet the billionaires continue to fund failure.

I hereby add Senator Jon Tester to the blog’s honor roll of champions of public education.

Resseger writes:

In mid-December, the NY Times‘ Jonathan Martin interviewed Montana Senator Jon Tester about his new book, Grounded: A Senator’s Lessons on Winning Back Rural America. Tester, a Democrat and U.S. Senator in his third term, represents a deep red state.

Tester tells Martin: “Democrats can really do some positive things in rural America just by talking about infrastructure and what they’re doing for infrastructure, particularly in the area of broadband. And then I would say one other policy issue is how some Republicans want to basically privatize public education. That is very dangerous, and I think it’s a point that people don’t want to see their public schools close down in Montana…”

Many hope President Joe Biden’s administration will significantly reshape federal education policy. During last year’s campaign for President, Biden, the candidate, declared a public education agenda that contrasts sharply with what happened to federal policy in public education beginning in the 1990s and culminating in the 2002 No Child Left Behind and later in 2009 in Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top.  Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire describe the past couple of decades: “Together, led by federal policy elites, Republicans and Democrats espoused the logic of markets in the public sphere, expanding school choice through publicly funded charter schools. Competition, both sides agreed, would strengthen schools.  And the introduction of charters, this contingent believed, would empower parents as consumers….”

Now with Biden’s election, many are looking for a turn by prominent Democrats back to the urgent needs of the public schools as a new COVID-19 recession compounds funding problems lingering in state budgets from the Great Recession a dozen years ago and as school privatization through charter school expansion and vouchers continues to thrust public schools deeper into fiscal crisis. Senator Jon Tester believes Democrats can rebuild support in rural America by attending to the needs of rural public education.

Tester’s new book folds policy ideas into memoir, with the back story a tribute to small town public schooling.  An indifferent high school student, Tester was encouraged by a debate coach, “who taught me how to articulate political arguments” and “taught us how to structure speeches to build an arc of suspense. He taught us the importance of clarity and simple language.”  Tester was elected student body president at Big Sandy High School: “For Government Day, on behalf of Big Sandy’s students, I invited one of our area’s most familiar elected leaders to visit with us about his long career in public service… Senator James was a tall, soft-spoken old farmer who accepted my invitation graciously and visited with us Big Sandy students for the better part of a day. He made the art and war of state politics sound fun.”

A trumpet player and college music major, Tester taught elementary school music at F.E. Miley Elementary School but was forced to resign when the paltry salary, even on top of what he could earn from farming, made it impossible for his family to get by. Tester ran for the local board of education and served for nearly a decade, including stints as vice chair and chair: “To this day, I’m asked about my most difficult job in politics. Without a doubt, my answer is the nine years I spent on the Big Sandy school board; it seemed everyone had strong opinions about public school policies, disciplinary actions, money, pay, taxes, ethics, graduations, grades, teacher performance, coaches, bullies, scholarships—it was a nine-year roller-coaster ride, and I loved every twist and turn.”

There is more. Open the link and read the rest of her piece about this wonderful Senator from Montana.

Last spring, when the pandemic began crippling the economy, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). It was a rare moment of bipartisan action. Included in the act was the Paycheck Protection Program, which offered $660 billion to help small businesses weather an economic catastrophe in which many would be forced to close their doors and lay off their employees. The PPP would enable these businesses to pay their employees and survive the pandemic.

However, in the inevitable lobbying, someone added nonprofits to the list of organizations eligible to receive government aid under the PPP.

The PPP grants are called loans, but they are forgivable if used for payroll, rent, heating, and other expenses. It’s unlikely that any will be repaid.

Public schools were not eligible to apply for PPP, because they received a fund of $13.2 billion, which they were required to share with charter schools. Charter schools, however, were eligible to apply for PPP as “nonprofits,” meaning they could double dip into both funds. Over 1,200 charter schools got very generous payouts, with some collecting more than $1 million. The average public school received $134,500 from the CARES Act.

Private and religious schools flocked to the PPP and collected far more than public schools. An organization called Good Jobs First created a website called Covid Stimulus Watch to see who got the money. They estimated that private, religious, and charter schools collected nearly $6 billion from PPP, about six times more per school than public schools.

While the federal PPP was scooped up by charter schools, private schools, and religious schools, more than 110,000 restaurants closed, ending the employment and income of many hundreds of thousands of employees, while wiping out the life savings of thousands of owners.

To understand how incredibly generous the Treasury Department was in handing out PPP money to private and religious schools, you should review the list of grants that are attached, representing awards in four states: New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Michigan. You will be stunned to see the amounts collected by religious schools and elite private schools. The data were collected by Mellissa Chang of Good Jobs First. If you are wondering about your own state, you can contact her at mellissa@goodjobsfirst.org.

You can get the pdf for the New York data here.

You can get the pdf for the Massachusetts data here.

You can get the pdf for the Ohio data here.

You can get the pdf for the Michigan data here.

Tracee Miller, a member of the St. Louis Board of Education, writes that she was shocked and dismayed to discover that a proposal to raise taxes for early childhood education was actually a disguised effort to divert more public money to charter schools. The truth leaked out:

Emails exposed via public records requests revealed that not only did the proposal lack specificity around fund distribution, but also that the funds could be redirected to economic projects unrelated to ECE. These articles also named local individuals and organizations affiliated with the deceit, illustrating the depth and breadth of political corruption connected with one ballot measure. Only it isn’t just one ballot measure.

The individuals peddling their agenda under the guise of education equity will continue to steer public dollars toward private programs and gain political capital unless we decide that public education is too important to jeopardize for the sake of private gain. We will all be complicit in the perpetuation of inequity if we choose to let this continue when we know the reality. I feel compelled to ensure, to the extent that I am capable, that the public is as aware of the even broader reach of these local actors. In reading about my experiences, I hope that St. Louis citizens will gain further awareness of the corruption at play in our education system and choose to eradicate that corruption once and for all. The same shadow groups who publicly say one thing yet do another behind-the-scenes, as they did with the ECE proposal, are working to restructure our city’s entire public education system without input from the larger community. It is incumbent upon residents of the St. Louis region to fully unearth the far-reaching influence of these groups, to assess the impact of their operating with impunity for so long, and to ensure that the community leads the way in making decisions that will impact the city’s children and its future.

Because of intense personal pressure, both public and behind-the-scenes, I spent countless hours trying to better understand the connections between groups and the strategies they were using. What I learned will strike fear into the heart of any public education advocate. Since 2018, The Opportunity Trust has funded new charter founders, has steered these founders to specific charter sponsors, and has paid for start-up and strategic planning costs to launch new charter schools or expand existing networks in St. Louis City. They do this even as St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) struggles with under-enrollment and the possibility of school closures. This work has been executed through tactics similar to those used in their attempt to push through the tax increase allegedly for ECE, and for similar self-serving purposes.

In addition to their work in the charter sector, The Opportunity Trust has launched numerous local non-profits and supported three cohorts of fellows, including many individuals connected with the SLPS district and Board of Education (BOE), to study other school systems that have implemented similar reforms. The Opportunity Trust is not a home-grown Missouri organization, and it and its associated organizations are not here to solve Missouri problems. The Opportunity Trust is the local arm of a national organization, The City Fund, whose model seeks to expand the number of charter schools, increase charter enrollment, fund the election of school choice advocates to elected school boards, divide public school districts into factions by treating schools as independent entities that function without the oversight of an elected board, and fund the election of school choice advocates to elected school boards, including at least one current member of the SLPS BOE. The City Fund does not make it clear when it is investing in a city, actively maneuvering funding through non-profits and PACs so that the money and their motives are harder to track.

Who might these “shadow groups” and individuals be? As Miller says, “The Opportunity Trust” is the St. Louis branch of the national group called “The City Fund.” The City Fund started life with $200 million from billionaires John Arnold (Texas) and Reed Hastings (California). It took a few minutes of scouring its web pages to find its list of “investors,” which include familiar names: The Walton Family Foundation; the NewSchools Venture Fund; the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; and other less familiar names, such as the California-based Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation, which supports innovative approaches to teaching, such as Teach for America; also George Roberts, San Francisco-based billionaire and founder of the powerhouse investment fund KKR.

Their agenda is to demand more charter schools, more scrutiny of public schools, and less scrutiny of charter schools. They are there to destroy public schools, not to help them.

Miller writes:

These organizations have made a practice of using distorted data to fundraise and garner support from individuals and organizations who champion the school choice movement. A salient example of this unethical use of data is the past year’s presentation hosted by ednextstl in collaboration with WEPOWER, EdHub STL, Equity Bridge, Forward Through Ferguson, and The Opportunity Trust. The data presented at this community event, where the audience was primarily composed of charter school employees, philanthropists, and self-named equity advocates, was so slanted that a third-party representative subsequently presented on that bias during a meeting of the SLPS BOE.

It is also critical to consider the motives of WEPOWER’s education advocacy campaigns. While budget transparency and community engagement should be pillars of any public education system, these tenets are not specific to traditional public school districts, though WEPOWER treats them as such. As recipients of public tax dollars, charter schools also have a responsibility to the community they serve, yet the group has not included any charter school in the demands they have issued; to-date, SLPS has been the sole target of WEPOWER’s demands. If what they seek to achieve is truly high-quality education for all students, this same level of scrutiny must be extended to charter schools as well. Instead, they have worked harder to push their agenda than they have to truly advance the quality of education in St. Louis, as was made evident in the ECE tax proposal.

Really, it is quite disgusting to see these elites circling the neglected and abused public schools of St. Louis with their discredited solutions that have such an empty track record. Their propaganda is powerful; their track record is abysmal. Will they trick another urban district into abandoning its public schools?

Tom Ultican writes here about the charter vultures descending on St. Louis to pick over the bones of their once glorious public schools. He notes that student enrollment in the district has fallen precipitously since the mid-1960s, when it was 115,543. The drop accelerated since then and it is now under 20,000. Ultican tells the sad story of the reformers who wasted money and opened charters to further enfeeble the district.

 From 2000 to 2020, the student population in St. Louis has again fallen by more than half from 44,264 to 19,222. Some of that decline can be attributed to the continuation of migration to the suburbs which now includes Black families. However, a large portion of the drop is due to the growth of charter schools. The charter school enrollment for 2020 was at least 11,215 students which represents 37% of the district’s publicly supported students. 

Like the national trend, the privatized schools chartered by the state, educate a lower percentage of the more expensive special education students; charters 11.4% versus SLPS 15.1%.

The “reformers” have had their “fun” with the St. Louis public schools. The one thing that they have not done is to improve them. They are raiders of the public schools.

Because of declining enrollment, 11 additional public schools are on the chopping block, candidates for closure. In a recent article in Medium, St. Louis parent Emily Hubbard called on politicians and civic groups to take some pro-active steps to save these 11 schools and what remains of public education. In case they didn’t know how to help the struggling public schools, she offered some ideas:

Here are some suggestions:
* Demand commitments from all your big donors to create an endowment that will fund north city schools for years to come
* Use your strength and connections to demand that county entities pay a white flight/greenlining/educational reparations tax (perhaps that can fund the endowment?)
* Demand a charter school moratorium; refuse to sponsor or delight in these entities that play such a big part in SLPS’s struggles
* Get right to the root cause of another of SLPS’s struggles and provide universal basic income for district families
* Before giving us coats and backpacks, make sure all the parents in the district are being paid fair wages at a job that doesn’t take hours to get to
* Create more non-slummy housing for families that need three bedrooms
* Demand whoever is in charge of it to create a more equitable funding situation than property tax 
*refuse to let charter schools get access to tax breaks and capital that SLPS is unable to access because they are just a plain ol’ public school district
* do what it takes to re-do the de-seg order so that the majority of Black children are able to benefit
* Put your children in St. Louis Public neighborhood schools (and not just the majority/plurality white ones) in a demonstration of solidarity with the families you claim to speak for.
* work out a deal with the city to do something about the unused buildings, free the district from the millstones
* If you want to dismantle the public school system, please just go ahead and say so instead of being all devious 
* if you think your family is too good for SLPS, please just go ahead and say so, instead of dancing around the issue
* repent publicly for not doing the things that you should’ve to care for the children in SLPS’s care, and for doing things that harm the children in SLPS’s care

Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? Will the leaders of the city allow the Wall Street bankers, the hedge funders, and billionaires from California and elsewhere to buy the public school system and close it down?

Jan Urhahn writes in Jacobin about the negative effects of the Gates Foundation’s efforts to promote a Green Revolution in Africa and to reduce hunger. Bill Gates, I presume, means well. Butt all too often his bold ideas fail, as they have in American education, because he imposes them instead of listening to those who do the work.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation promised Africa a “Green Revolution” to fight hunger and poverty. It hasn’t worked — but it has upped corporate agriculture’s profits. Local farmers are being left empty-handed, and hunger is rising.

Bill Gates created the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to improve agricultural productivity, but things have not gone well.

AGRA was established in 2006 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Deploying high-yield commercial seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides as its main weapons, the program is meant to help Africa unleash its own Green Revolution in agriculture to fight hunger and poverty. At least, that’s the promise.

Upon its foundation, AGRA set out to double the agricultural yields and incomes of thirty million smallholder households, thereby halving both hunger and poverty in twenty African countries by 2020. To achieve this, the “alliance” funds various projects and lobbies African governments to implement structural changes that would set the stage for its “Green Revolution.” Since its foundation, AGRA has received contributions of about $1 billion, mainly from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Large grants have also come from the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and other countries.

From these donations, AGRA has awarded grants of more than $500 million across the continent. African governments support AGRA’s goals with public funds through so-called farm input subsidy programs (FISPs), with which farmers are expected to purchase the seeds — mostly hybrid — and synthetic fertilizers promoted by AGRA. The state subsidies for small farms provide an incentive to introduce the bundle of farming technologies AGRA counts as part of its Green Revolution. FISPs have been introduced on a significant scale in ten of AGRA’s thirteen “focus countries” including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Zambia, and Tanzania.

But fourteen years after AGRA was founded, it’s safe to say that the initiative has failed to meet its goals. Rather than combat hunger and poverty, hunger has actually increased by 30 percent in the AGRA focus countries — meaning that thirty million more people are suffering from it than when AGRA started. By 2018, agricultural yields in the focus countries had increased by only 18 percent, as opposed to the 100 percent AGRA promised. In the period before AGRA, yields in these countries had grown by 17 percent. The increases in yields with and without AGRA were therefore almost identical.

AGRA’s results are devastating for small-scale farmers. Most AGRA projects primarily entail selling them expensive inputs such as hybrid seeds and synthetic fertilizers via agrochemical companies. These inputs are extremely costly and thus drastically increase farmers’ risk of falling into indebtedness. Examples from Tanzania show that small-scale farmers have not been able to repay seed and fertilizer debts directly after the harvest, even forcing some to sell their livestock.

The AGRA formula — “doubled yields equal doubled incomes” — simply does not pan out in practice. In the AGRA model, any short-term increases in yield have to be bought at great expense with seeds, fertilizer, and often pesticides — an arrangement that only boosts the incomes of seed and fertilizer companies.

Moreover, freedom of choice is restricted: in AGRA projects in Kenya, small-scale farmers are not allowed to decide for themselves which corn seed they plant and which fertilizers and pesticides they use on their fields. The managers of AGRA projects assume that participating agrochemical companies make the best decisions for the farmers. AGRA’s focus is on a few food crops such as corn or soy, causing traditional nutrient-rich foods to be neglected and even displaced.

Statistics for the thirteen AGRA focus countries show that production of cereals has fallen by 21 percent since the initiative was launched. A yield decline of 7 percent was recorded for root and tuber crops. All in all, AGRA reduces the diversity in farmers’ fields and thus also the variety of seeds being used. This development in turn makes agriculture even more vulnerable to the consequences of the climate crisis.

Mercedes Schneider urges states to follow Montana’s example and ask for a waiver from the federally mandated standardized tests.

She writes:

This is a school year fraught with quarantine disruption, turnstile attendance, distancing and sanitizing burdens, and spotty internet capabilities.

The very idea of conducting tests in the midst of this chaos is “bureaucratic lunacy,” she says.

Lovers of standardized testing say it’s important to find out whether children have “fallen behind.”

It’s important to know how useless the annual tests are. I’ll say this again and again. The teacher is not allowed to seethe test questions or, if she does, to discuss them, even after the tests. The questions are proprietary materials that belong to the testing company. The teacher is not allowed to know how individual students did on specific questions. They learn nothing about what their students know or don’t know.

The scores are returned 4-6 months after the testis given. The students no longer have the same teacher. The new teacher finds out which students are “advanced, proficient, basic, or below basic.” These are subjective terms, subjectively defined. The students are ranked from best to worst. The scores are highly correlated with family income and education.

Some defenders of the tests say they are needed for “equity” or to “close the achievement gap.” This is nonsense. Tests measure gaps, they don’t close them.

Imagine going to a doctor with a severe pain in your stomach. The doctor gives you a series of tests and says he will get back to you in 4-6 months. When he does, you are either dead or cured. What he tells you is not what ailed you, but how you compared to other people with the same symptoms of your age and weight.


Useless! Absolutely useless.

Steve Hinnefeld warns that Republican legislators in Indiana are laying the groundwork to expand the state’s failed voucher program. The research on vouchers in many states has been consistent: Students who use vouchers fall behind their peers in public schools. Those who continue to push vouchers are either ideologues, religious zealots, or paid to do so. We know that they don’t help students. Increasingly the students who take vouchers already attend religious schools or planned to, and they are getting public money to pay private tuition.

Indiana legislators like to fund failure.

Don’t be surprised if lawmakers try to expand Indiana’s already generous private school voucher program in 2021. They’re signaling their intention with the issues surveys they send to constituents.

At least eight House Republicans include this question in their surveys, which are posted on their internet sites: “Do you support increasing the income eligibility for Indiana’s CHOICE scholarships, giving more low- and middle-income families the option to send their children to the school that best meets their needs?”

Note that the question contains a falsehood. Increasing the income eligibility for vouchers, officially labeled Choice Scholarships, won’t change anything for low-income families. They already meet income qualifications for the program, which provides state funding for private school tuition.

Under current law, students can qualify for vouchers if their family income is less than 150% of the threshold for reduced-price school meals. They remain eligible if their family income rises to 200% of the reduced-meal level. For a family of five, that’s $113,516, two times Indiana’s median household income.

In other words, low-income families and many middle-income families already meet the income requirements. According to the 2019-20 Indiana Department of Education voucher report, a quarter of voucher recipients came from families that made over $75,000 and 7% made over $100,000.

The suggestion in the survey that vouchers let families choose schools that meet their children’s “needs” is also questionable. Surveys have found that many voucher parents choose private schools primarily because they provide religious training, not because their children have unique needs. Research has shown that voucher students who leave public schools for private schools typically fall behind academically.