Archives for category: Ohio

Jan Resseger asks the ultimate cost about vouchers, in response to the Ohio legislature’s recent decision to expand vouchers to two-thirds of all school districts in the state, including high-performing districts.

Should public money be subtracted from public schools to underwrite vouchers for private and religious schools? The state’s public schools will be hit hard by the voucher law. And since research funded by the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute showed that kids lose ground in voucher schools, the expansion of vouchers will lower the overall quality of education in the state. Does Ohio have a death wish?

As Resseger shows, the expansion of vouchers is not about education; it is not about improving opportunities for poor kids. It is about damaging public schools and compelling the public to pay for religious education for children who never attended public schools, ever. All the blather about opportunity is blather.

She writes:

Wisconsin and Ohio were the pioneers, the states which launched school vouchers—public tax dollars covering private school tuition.  Wisconsin launched Milwaukee vouchers in 1990, and Ohio followed suit in 1996 with a Cleveland voucher program.

What are the problems with the idea of vouchers?

Vouchers have always been endorsed by their proponents as providing an escape for promising students from so-called “failing” public schools—as measured by test scores.  But research demonstrates (see here and here) that test scores correlate not with school quality but instead with the aggregate income of the neighborhoods where public schools are located and the families who live there.  Research demonstrates that ameliorating student poverty would more directly address students’ needs.

The idea that vouchers help students academically hasn’t held up either.  A study by the pro-voucher Thomas Fordham Institute demonstrates that in Ohio, voucher students regularly fall behind their public school counterparts.  But proponents of school privatization (including the Thomas Fordham Institute itself) regularly ignore the evidence.

In a recent summary published in The Nation, Jennifer Berkshire explains that while there is a lack of empirical evidence justifying vouchers, their proponents support them ideologically: “But the GOP’s true policy aim these days is much more ambitious: private school vouchers for all. In Ohio, students in two-thirds of the state’s school districts are now eligible for vouchers, a ballooning program that is on track to cost taxpayers $350 million by the end of the school year. And in Florida, school vouchers are now being offered to middle-class students, the latest gambit by conservatives in their effort to redefine public education as anything parents want to spend taxpayer money on. ‘For me, if the taxpayer is paying for the education, it’s public education,’ Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed earlier this year.”

In Ohio, based on state report card grades which legislators from both parties seem to agree are deeply flawed, vouchers are now to be awarded to students in so-called ‘under-performing’ schools in 400 of the state’s 610 school districts. The Columbus Dispatch‘s Anna Staver explains, “(T)he legislature has widened the definition of a low-performing school to the point of absurdity, expanding the list of districts with ‘under-performing’ schools from 40 in the fall of 2018, to 139 in 2019, and around 400—nearly two-thirds of all districts in the state—by 2020.”

And EdChoice, one of the Ohio’s four statewide voucher programs, takes the money through the deduction method, counting the voucher student as enrolled in the local school and then extracting $4,650 for each elementary school voucher and $6,000 for each high school voucherright out of the public school district’s budget. But a serious problem arises because in Ohio, state funding is allocated at different rates from school district to school district, and in many cases the vouchers extract more dollars per pupil from the local school budget than the state awards to that district in per pupil state aid.

This year’s state budget brought a new threat to public schools via an amendment quietly added and never debated. Until this year, to qualify for a voucher, an Ohio student must have been enrolled in the public school in the year previous to applying for the voucher.  But, secreted into the state budget last summer was an amendment providing that high school students may now receive a voucher even if they have never been enrolled in a public school…

What is rarely mentioned in the voucher debates is that no state legislature creating a voucher program has added a new tax to pay for it.  Instead the money always comes out of the coffers of the state education budget and, as in Ohio today, out of local school district budgets.

Please read the rest. As usual, Resseger is right on target with deep context and analysis, informed by her keen sense of social justice and equity.

Among rightwing think tanks, none has more intellectual firepower than the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, due to its leading thinker Chester E. Finn Jr., who has an Ed.D. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and worked in the administrations of Reagan and Nixon, as well as working for Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Lamar Alexander.

The Institute, formerly a foundation, is based in Washington, D.C., where it has a large voice in Republican politics, but its actual (if not physical) home is Ohio, because the money came from a Mr. Thomas B. Fordham, who lived in Ohio.

TBF is very influential in Ohio, where it recently wrote the state’s academic standards. TBF has been a loud cheerleader for the Common Core standards, having received millions from the Gates Foundation both to evaluate them and advocate for them.

Fordham looms large as an advocate for charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing, and punitive policies towards teachers and principals. I was an original member of the TBF board, when it was launched, and resigned in 2009, when I realized that my views were no longer aligned with those of TBF. One of the projects I disliked intensely was a “manifesto” funded by Eli Broad, which argued that one did not need to be an educator to be a school principal. I disagreed. I also disagreed with the TBF decision to accept Gates’ funding, since it would hamstring TBF’s role as an independent think tank and put it in the debt of Gates. It was also unnecessary, since TBF had $40 million in the assets at the time. Since I left TBF, it has accepted many, many millions from Gates, Broad, Walton and other external funders.

Who was Thomas B. Fordham? How did his fortune become the founder of a rightwing think tank?

Mercedes Schneider here reviews an analysis of the origins of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, based on a paper by Richard Phelps. 

As I have often stated, I was an original member of the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. I objected to two major policy positions: one, the decision to become an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio, which I believed was not the role of an independent think tank. I lost that vote. As I recall, almost every one of the charters authorized by TBF either closed or failed or both. I also objected to accepting money from the Gates Foundation, as it would impair our independence and make it impossible to criticize Gates when it was wrong. And TBF didn’t need the money, it had assets of $40 million. I lost that vote too. I left the board in 2009, since I no longer supported either choice or the TBF vision of accountability. I later heard that “my seat” (the girl) was awarded to the CEO of a Gulen charter chain in Los Angeles. So there.

Peter Greene writes here about Ohio’s headlong expansion of vouchers for private and religious schools. 

The enlarged voucher program will hurt the budgets of some of the state’s best school districts.

The only evaluation of Ohio’s voucher program, carried out at the behest of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute, determined that kids who took the vouchers actually lost ground academically as compared to their public school peers.

No matter.

Remember when voucher promoters claimed that they wanted to “save poor kids from failing schools”? No more. Now they want to give public money to kids who never attended a public school, ever.

Ohio has quietly been working to become the Florida of North when it comes to education, with an assortment of school choice programs that are like a cancerous growth gnawing away at the health of the public school system. But now, due to a collection of lawmaker choices, the privatized schools of Ohio have dramatically advanced their bid to consume public education. And somer lawmakers have noticed.

“Hey! I would like to speak to a manager!”

Ohio has followed the basic template for implementing choice– get your choicey foot in the door with some modest programs that are strictly to “save” poor, underserved students from “failing” schools. Then slowly expand. Only, somehow, somebody screwed up the “slowly” part.

Next year, the number of “failing” districts in Ohio will jump from 500 to 1,200. The voucher bill for many districts will jump by millions of dollars. (If you like a good graphic, here’s a tweet that lays it out.) And the list of schools whose residents are eligible for the EdChoice program include districts that are some of the top-rated districts in the state.

It might not matter that top districts are now voucher-eligible– after all, parents can just say, “Why go to private school when my public school is great?”– except for one other wrinkle. Next year ends the requirement that voucher students be former public school students. In other words, next year parents who have never, ever sent their children to public schools will still get a few thousand dollars from the state. Districts will lose a truckload of money without losing a single student.

He writes that the only thing that worries Ohio legislators is that they acted too quickly and

may potentially alarm too many people to whom legislators might have to actually listen. Again, nothing about this expansion is out of line with a voucher rollout as a matter of substance or policy; the only problem is the speed with which it’s barreling into Certain Neighborhoods. Someone cranked up the heat on that pot of frogs a little too swiftly.

Jan Resseger describes here the ideology and shamelessness behind the expansion of vouchers for religious schools in Ohio.

She shows how the plan was cooked up by legislators who are contemptuous of public schools and public school teachers.

They don’t care that nearly 90 percent of the parents in Ohio send their children to public schools.

This action will drain resources from the public schools that enroll the vast majority of students.

Let’s hope it comes back to bite the representatives who refuse to represent the public schools and students in their home districts.

Senator Matt Huffman told O’Donnell that one reason he is such a devoted supporter of vouchers is that many private schools spend less per pupil than public school districts spend once state and local dollars are combined.  A high school EdChoice voucher costs the school district $6,000. Huffman explained: “The $6,000 is a better deal to the taxpayers than $12,000.”  What Huffman ignores is that the vast majority of the students taking a voucher never intended to enroll in the public schools; their parents have chosen religious education.  Now, however, Ohio’s public school districts are being required by the state to absorb the full cost of educating a whole group of additional students whose families  always intended to enroll their children in private schools.

Let’s hope Senator Huffman’s constituents remember him when they go to the polls next November and remember that he transferred money away from their public schools to pay for students who never attended public schools.

Remember in November!

Bill Phillis in Ohio sent out this message. 

Cyber charters have a very poor record, both academically and financially.

The former head of the now-closed virtual charter school Akron Digital Academy misused $167,753 of school money through a shell vendor, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

“This is a very serious abuse of taxpayer dollars and we will seek to recover every penny,” Ohio Auditor Keith Faber said in a news release. “Abuse of public trust has a rippling effect on communities and will not be tolerated by my office.”

The school, burdened with financial problems relating to improperly tracking enrollment, quietly closed in June 2018. At the time, it was housed at 133 Merriman Road, the former home of Temple Israel owned by the Akron Hebrew Congregation, which moved to Bath in 2011.

From December 18, 2009 to February 8, 2013, the school issued payments totaling $167,753 to a vendor known as Individual Development and Education Achievement Services (IDEAS), supposedly for professional development services, according to the news release issued by the state auditor’s office. IDEAS would send invoices directly to Lashawn Terrell who signed them, signifying receipt of services.

On July 1, 2013, the state auditor’s Special Investigations Unit received a complaint alleging embezzlement. Auditors examined the bank activity of Terrell and the owner of IDEAS, Danielle Lumpkin, the news release said.

They identified 78 withdrawals totaling $137,575 issued from the IDEAS checking accounts that corresponded to deposits totaling $65,735 and $71,840 in Lumpkin and Terrell’s personal bank accounts.

Additionally, auditors found $30,160 in expenditures issued from the IDEAS checking accounts comprised of checks issued to Lumpkin for cash and debit card activity in merchant stores for personal purchases, the news release said.

Auditor Faber issued a finding for recovery for $167,753 against Lumpkin and Terrell.

The school closed last year after repayments to the state involving not properly tracking enrollment became too much of a burden on the virtual charter school’s budget, the school said at the time. .

The school’s monthly payments on the $2.8 million the state said it owed created a negative financial outlook through the next school year, said Linda Daugherty, the schoool’s former executive director said at the time. .

Akron Digital Academy was founded in 2002 by former Akron Education Association President Neil Quirk. The new school was meant to provide an alternative for Akron Public Schoolsstudents who were leaving for other charter schools and wanted more digital learning. It served students in grades 6-12.

Akron Public Schools was the sponsor until 2013, when Superintendent David James proposed closing the school for a range of issues. The school continually posted low academic scores. And enrollment had dipped to about 600 students as competition crept in from other charter schools, which were springing up in Akron.

James served on Akron Digital Academy’s board of directors at the time. The other board members blocked his attempt to close the school. And the district severed ties with the academy a month later by dropping its sponsorship agreement.

Bill Phillis posted this powerful letter on his blog for the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.

The Honorable Michael DeWine

77 S. High Street, Suite 30

Columbus, OH 43215


Dear Governor DeWine,

The headline of an article in the October 27, 2019 ​Youngstown Vindicator ​reads: “DeWine Says HB70 Must Be Replaced.”


We are happy to learn that you want to maintain local control of public schools, and that you are not a supporter of House Bill 70, the state legislation allowing state takeover of public schools with failing grades, as Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland have experienced. However, we are concerned with your statement that a “remedial plan” or “outside consultants” may be needed, as stated in the ​Vindicator ​article.


We are the Northeastern Ohio AFT retiree chapter, NEO-AFT #279-R. We have over 1,000 members in our group, and are members of the state and national affiliates, the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. Our membership includes retired teachers, administrators, speech/language therapists, school psychologists, guidance counselors, librarians, and paraprofessionals from all over northeastern Ohio.


We–educators and related-service personnel–are the experts you can rely on. ​We represent a rich range of educational training, knowledge, and experience.


We know from research and experience that:


Parental income is the single most influential factor in a child’s academic performance.


Let us repeat:


The single most important influence on a child’s academic performance is their parents’ income.


Therefore, it is understandable that most children in high-income suburbs get higher test scores and better grades, and more children in poor districts get lower scores and lower grades. This is the case for the Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland School Districts, where ​100% of the children enrolled are living at or below the State Poverty Level. ​However, the children’s low performance on standardized tests is not due to bad teachers, bad schools, or bad local Boards of Education.


Many children living in poor neighborhoods start school handicapped on their very first day. Poverty is a major contributing cause of frequent absenteeism, psychological trauma, health problems including mental health issues, poor nutrition, limited social skills, and much more.


What is needed to combat the effects of poverty are wrap-around school programs including tutoring, and social services including medical, dental, visual, psychological/counseling services, 
during and after the school day.

The Cincinnati Public Schools are an excellent model. They have successfully created Community Learning Centers (CLC) in all their schools. Since launching their program in 2002, their CLC model has drawn national attention for successfully engaging community partnerships in school buildings.


Another model is the Say Yes to Education program. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is in its first year of Say Yes to Education Cleveland. This dual-approach program provides the incentive of last-dollar post-high school scholarships for students, along with the essential wrap- around social supports for students and their families from preschool through graduation.


Providing these services to struggling districts like Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland would require additional school funding from the state and/or other entities, but would pay off in significant academic and social gains for these communities.


Educators can and should be involved in developing any remedial plans. They are the experts, and they know what their students and families need.


We recommend:


• End HB 70 completely;
• Add additional health and social services, such as medical, dental, vision, counseling;
• Add additional academic support services;
• Add wrap-around programs, such as robust after-school programs including tutoring and physical activities.


Our public schools are one of the last democratic institutions in America, and we do not want to lose this valuable part of our nation. Most American Nobel prize winners are graduates of their local public schools. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French diplomat, political scientist, historian, and author, wrote in his famous book, ​Democracy in America, ​about the wisdom of local community decision-making as a unique characteristic of American towns.


We hope you use this information as a guide to ending HB70.


Sincerely,


Lois Romanoff, M.Eds., Ed.S. Retired School Psychologist, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and NEO-AFT 279-R Member
Teresa Green, President, and the Executive Council of the NEO-AFT 279-R

 

Three years ago, the pro-charter, pro-voucher Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a study of Ohio’s voucher program. The study, conducted by David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik of Northwestern University is called “Evaluation of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program: Selection, Competition, and Performance Effects.”

The study concluded that the voucher program was failing to improve student achievement.

It said in its conclusions:

There appears to be positive selection, as measured by prior academic performance and family advantage, among voucher-eligible students into private schools as part of the EdChoice program. Although a substantial majority of the students participating in the program, as well as their peers remaining in public schools, tend to be from low-income backgrounds, those students leaving for private schools under the program tend to be more advantaged and higher performing than their peers who were eligible to participate in the program but who remained in public schools…the evidence regarding the effects of EdChoice program suggests that while higher-performing students tend to leave public schools to attend private schools under the EdChoice program, the students who remain in the public schools—at least, those public schools that were comparatively high achieving—generally perform better on statewide tests as a consequence of EdChoice vouchers being available to students in a school. On the other hand, those students who leave these comparatively high-achieving public schools to go to private schools appear to perform worse than they would have had they remained in the public schools (which we estimate to have improved as a consequence of the introduction of EdChoice). Together, it appears that EdChoice has benefitted the majority of students, but the students who actually left the public schools—at least those on the margin of eligibility—perform worse on statewide tests. Although test performance is only one measure of educational success, these findings suggest that a detailed exploration of the possible causes of the negative test-score results (for instance, which private schools participate in the program, policies on school-grade retention, test-curriculum alignment, and the like) may be warranted.

Thus, the students eligible to leave with a voucher do better if they stay in public school; the students who use the voucher, who come from more advantaged backgrounds, do worse in school.

This is the only statewide evaluation of the Ohio EdChoice Program, and not what one would call a ringing endorsement since those who use the voucher do worse in school than those who stay in public school and don’t use the voucher.

Such research did not impress the Ohio legislature. Under the  prodding of State Senator Matt Huffman (R.-Lima), the state has expanded the voucher program, so that students in two-thirds of the districts across the state are now eligible to get state funding to attend a religious school.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer wrote that the voucher expansion will hit the budgets of school districts hard, districts that in the past were not part of the voucher program.

A year ago, no students in the Parma school district used Ohio’s main tuition voucher program to attend private schools.

This year, thanks to changes in state law, 359 students are using vouchers.

For families paying tuition to send their kids to Parma-area private Catholic schools like Padua or Holy Name, a $6,000 tax-funded voucher toward tuition is a huge help.

For the district, it’s a $2.1 million hit to the budget that impacts teachers, books and supplies for its schools.

Parma isn’t alone in facing new or increased costs to help students attend private schools. Changes to state law, have more than tripled the number of districts declared part of the voucher program, from 40 in 2018-19 to 139 this school year.

Next year, the program meant to help students escape being stuck in failing schools will grow further, to more than 400 districts, which represents more than two-thirds of the districts in the state.

Even Solon, always at the top of state test score rankings, has a school considered failing and whose students are now eligible for vouchers. Next year, add a school in each of the high-scoring Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Mayfield districts.

The change has school officials protesting and gathering to find ways to seek relief…

The use of vouchers within school districts is also increasing. The Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools saw 500 more students use vouchers this year than last year, mostly to attend Jewish schools. The district’s voucher bill increased by $3 million.

That change, said district Treasurer Scott Gainer, has the school board seeking a higher tax increase than planned this spring.

Shaker Heights Superintendent David Glasner, whose district is seeing a small bill this year, but faces a larger one next year, complained to the state school board last week about the hit that school district budgets are taking.

“There are school districts that are now expecting to lose millions of dollars in the course of one year as a result of the EdChoice [voucher] expansion,” Glasner said. “These are losses for which districts were unable to forecast or prepare.”

State Sen. Matt Huffman, one of the strongest supporters of vouchers in Ohio, said some of the rules are subtle and have changed a few times. But districts should have known, he said, and should be blaming themselves for not improving their schools…

Ohio has four “scholarship” or voucher programs that provide tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools, almost all of which are Christian schools. There is one program just for Cleveland, which was started in 1996, so Cleveland is not affected by the current changes.

The biggest is called EdChoice. Created in 2005 for students attending “underperforming” schools or who would be assigned to them, EdChoice has a student’s home district pay $4,650 toward tuition for kindergarten through eighth grade and $6,000 for private high schools.

Stephen Dyer, a former legislator in Ohio who writes a blog about education, called “BS” on Huffman’s claim that school districts should have known and should have been prepared.

Dyer says that the state rigged the grades and school report cards to produce failure and make more schools voucher-eligible.

This is where I call BS.

How can I do that? Simple: Over the last decade, the state report card grades upon which these new voucher building designations are being based have been deliberately and artificially deflated for the state’s school districts. And I’m increasingly convinced it was for this sole purpose: to ensure more districts and buildings are deemed “failing” by the state so more public money can be poured into private, mostly religious schools.

Don’t believe me?

Look at school districts’ overall grade performance since the 2012-2013 school year — the first for the A-F state report card system.

Notice anything? Like a massive jump in D and F grades between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015?

Let me ask you a question: Does anyone — and I mean ANYONE — actually believe that between the 2013-2014 school year and the 2014-2015 school year school districts became more than twice as likely to “fail” kids?

Of course not.

This is a classic case of grade manipulation by state lawmakers. You’ll also notice a steady decline in the rate of Fs since the high point of 2015-2016. Why were these grades so much worse? Because the state kept changing standardized tests. So teachers and students had no idea what the testing expectations were. Since they’ve remained the same, you can see a steady and precipitous decline in the rate of F grades, though the percentages of D and F grades remain far higher than the 2012-2013 school year.

To add insult to injury, a study examing the test performance of students who take vouchers found they did worse on state tests after taking the voiucher than before … according to the pro-voucher Fordham Institute. But that doesn’t matter to Huffman, whose hero is apparently the Titanic captain who kept plowing ahead, damn the iceberg.

Anyway, here’s where Huffman struck gold for those who are taking a public subsidy to send their kids to private, mostly religious schools — only 2 out of the three years’ grades count to have your building designated “failing” from 2013-2014, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. And once the building is eligible for vouchers, every student who gets a voucher gets to keep it forever, even if the public building becomes the highest-performing in the state…

But it’s all been a plan from the beginning:

1) Deliberately deflate district report card grades

2) Get as many buildings as possible eligible for vouchers

3) Market them like crazy to families in these districts so the rest of us taxpayers can subsidize their choices with our local tax dollars and/or fewer opportunities for our kids who remain in local school districts.

That’s not a district performance problem.

It’s Huffman’s plan.

****************************************

Last Saturday I was on Meryl Johnson’s radio show, based in Cleveland, where she was a teacher in the public schools for many years. Meryl is an elected member of the Ohio State Board of Education, and she is very concerned about the explosion of vouchers. She alerted me to this disaster. I pointed out that there is one possible silver lining. Until now, the suburban districts in Ohio could ignore vouchers and assume they affected only Ohio’s urban districts. Now the cost of vouchers will hit their school budgets and their taxes will  have to go up so that a few students can go to religious schools, where they are likely to get a worse education than the one offered in their local  public schools. Their own schools will now feel the pinch caused by vouchers. Maybe this is the wake-up call that is needed to create a statewide coalition to stop defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of students in the Buckeye State.

Meryl sent me a screen shot of the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Will this wake up the citizens of Ohio? Will they realize that they must raise their taxes to pay for vouchers for the small number who leave their public schools? Do they know that the students who leave for religious schools will lose ground academically?

IMG_20191208_113121

 

 

 

This article about charter real estate dealings was written by Professors Preston Green III, Bruce Baker, and Derek W. Black.

They argue that lax state laws allow charter operators to reap profits while maintaining an ostensibly “nonprofit” status.

While critics charge that charter schools are siphoning money away from public schools, a more fundamental issue frequently flies under the radar: the questionable business practices that allow people who own and run charter schools to make large profits.

Charter school supporters are reluctant to acknowledge, much less stop, these practices.

Given that charter schools are growing rapidly – from 1 million students in 2006 to more than 3.1 million students attending approximately 7,000 charter schoolsnow – shining a light on these practices can’t come too soon. The first challenge, however, is simply understanding the complex space in which charters operate – somewhere between public and private.

Unregulated competition

Charters were founded on the theory that market forces and competition would benefit public education. But policy reports and local government studiesincreasingly reveal that the charter school industry is engaging in the type of business practices that have led to the downfall of other huge industries and companies.

Charter schools regularly sign contracts with little oversight, shuffle money between subsidiaries and cut corners that would never fly in the real world of business or traditional public schools – at least not if the business wanted to stay out of bankruptcy and school officials out of jail. The problem has gotten so bad that a nationwide assessment by the U.S. Department of Education warned in a 2016 audit report that the charter school operations pose a serious “risk of waste, fraud and abuse” and lack “accountability.”

Self-dealing

The biggest problem in charter school operations involves facility leases and land purchases. Like any other business, charters need to pay for space. But unlike other businesses, charters too often pay unreasonably high rates – rates that no one else in the community would pay.

One of the latest examples can be found in a January 2019 report from the Ohio auditor-general, which revealed that in 2016 a Cincinnati charter school paid $867,000 to lease its facilities. This was far more than the going rate for comparable facilities in the area. The year before, a Cleveland charter was paying half a million above market rate, according to the same report.

Why would a charter school do this? Most states require charter schools to be nonprofit. To make money, some of them have simply entered into contracts with separate for-profit companies that they also own. These companies do make money off students.

In other words, some “nonprofit” charter schools take public money and pay their owners with it. When this happens, it creates an enormous incentive to overpay for facilities and supplies and underpay for things like teachers and student services.

Many millions of dollars of public funds that were intended to educate children are squandered, they say.

It is called “legal graft.”

 

Perhaps you laughed, perhaps you were astonished when you read that Republicans in Ohio in the House voted for a law that would allow a student’s religious beliefs to give the wrong answers on science tests.

Peter Greene shows that the proposed bill is even worse than we thought.

He begins:

It’s called the “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019” and it sets out to accomplish a few things:

It removes the limits on exercising expression of student religious beliefs. The old, struck-out language  said the board of education could limit said expression to lunch period or other noninstructional time. That’s the piddly stuff.

Under the new language, “religious expression” (the stuff no longer limited to non-instructional time) includes prayer, gatherings (clubs, prayer groups, etc), distribution of written materials, and, well, anything religious, actually, including wearing religious gear or “expression of a religious viewpoint” (as long as it’s not obscene or indecent or vulgar). Cue the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster and the local Satanic Temple; if a student offers a prayer to Satan in the middle of English class and some Christians in the class find that indecent and vulgar, can it be suppressed? Congratulations to the first batch of lawyers and judges that are going to have to sort this out. Double congratulations to whatever government body ends up being responsible for determining which religions are state-certified to be protected under this law.

Students hall have access to school facilities before, during and after school that school hours to the same extent that secular activities may do so. Place your bets now on how many schools will simply ban all before and after school activities in order to sidestep this.

Forget about separation of church and state. The Good News evangelicals will convene their meetings in the middle of math and science classes.

The Founders were wiser than we when they sought to separate church and state, to be sure that every individual was free to practice their own religion (or lack thereof) in their own way outside of the public school.

Thus continues our nation’s slide into a pit of religious intolerance and invasions of religious liberty, all–ironically– in the name of religious freedom.

We are entering into a strange era where religious belief is being permitted to trump scientific fact.

Ohio legislators in the House passed legislation allowing students to receive credit for wrong answers on science tests if their answer is based on their religious beliefs.

Does anyone think that actions such as this one will prepare students to live and thrive in the modern world? Will students so ill prepared with knowledge and understanding of the scientific method be prepared for careers in science, engineering or technology or any other field that requires a firm grasp of evidence and reality? Will they even know how to think critically about history and current affairs?

Every Republican in the House supported the bill. It now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Ohio legislature is also enthusiastic about charter schools and vouchers.

Former Governor John Kasich presents himself to a national audience as a “moderate” but it was under his leadership that this kind of zealotry took root in Ohio.