Archives for category: School Choice

Josh Cowan of Michigan State University has been studying vouchers for two decades. He started his studies believing that vouchers might help kids. He now believes they are a terrible mistake. He has not yet given up on charter schools, but that’s probably a matter of time. Michigan charters have a very poor track record. A very large proportion are run by for-profit organizations. Their results are poor. Michigan should rebuild its public schools and make them excellent for all students instead of funding escape hatches that lead nowhere.

He writes:

In recent years, nearly half of all states have created publicly funded private K-12 tuition plans, collectively known as school vouchers.

This summer, advocates of these plans are pushing to expand their reach, boosted by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makinthat states permitting vouchers may not exclude religious schools.

Arizona just expanded its already large voucher program; in Michigan, former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and allies have proposed a voucher scheme modeled on plans elsewhere. In June, GOP supporters in Congress reintroduced legislation to create federal funding for voucher programs.

Vouchers are dangerous to American education. They promise an all-too-simple solution to tough problems like unequal access to high-quality schools, segregation and even school safety. In small doses, years ago, vouchers seemed like they might work, but as more states have created more and larger voucher programs, experts like me have learned enough to say that these programs on balance can severely hinder academic growth — especially for vulnerable kids.

I am an education policy professor who has spent almost two decades studying programs like these, and trying to follow the data where it leads. I started this research cautiously optimistic that vouchers could help.

But in 2022 the evidence is just too stark to justify the use of public money to fund private tuition. Particularly when other choice options like charter schools and inter-district enrollment are available to families and have a better track record.

There’s also a moral case to be made against voucher programs. They promise low-income families solutions to academic inequality, but what they deliver is often little more than religious indoctrination to go alongside academic outcomes that are worse than before…

Vouchers fail to deliver for the kids who are often most in need.

The end of the Milwaukee evaluation coincided almost exactly with the circulation of a report showing shockingly bad early test score results for students in the Louisiana voucher program in the years following Hurricane Katrina.

Over time, those poor test score results for vouchers held up, and were replicated by other studies.

Too coincidently, a group of advocatesknown previously for supporting test scores in standards and accountability started pushing parental satisfaction, school safety, character and “grit” — seemingly anything to move the goalposts away from academic outcomes, which had had been disastrous under the voucher program in Louisiana.

Now, it’s true that as parents we want more for our kids than the reading, math and science skills we can measure on tests. And those of us who teach for a living want to give our students more, too. But not at a cost of catastrophic academic results. Especially not for kids struggling in school to begin with.

Today we know that those bad Louisiana academic outcomes were no fluke, and indeed were beginning to appear in places like Indiana and Ohio.

All of these results have a straightforward explanation: vouchers do not work on the large scale pushed for by advocates today. While small, early pilot voucher programsshowed at least modest positive results, expansions statewide have been awful for students. That’s because there aren’t enough decent private schools to serve at-risk kids.

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Dr. Charles Foster Johnson is hosting a conversation with Beto O’Rourke in Lubbock, Texas, on Zoom this Thursday.

4:30-6:00 pm CDT (central time).

They will discuss the future of public education in Texas.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-conversation-about-public-education-with-beto-orourke-tickets-384095880117

The event is free.

The courts are still dispensing justice! In West Virginia, if not in DC.

WEST VIRGINIA CIRCUIT COURT STRIKES DOWN UNCONSTITUTIONAL PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHER LAW

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel

skrengel@edlawcenter.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Charleston, WV – This morning, Judge Joanna Tabit of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County granted West Virginia parents’ request to halt implementation of the state’s expansive new private school voucher law. The hearing this morning in Beaver v. Moore resulted in Judge Tabit granting a preliminary injunction and permanently enjoining the program, which would have siphoned millions of public dollars from the state’s underfunded public schools to subsidize private education.

 

The Beaver plaintiffs are public school parents challenging the private school voucher law under the West Virginia Constitution. The President of West Virginia’s Board of Education and the State Superintendent are courageously standing with the parents in support of their request.

 

The state defendants and pro-voucher lawyers from the Institute for Justice had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Judge Tabit denied their motions.

 

“The judge clearly understood that the West Virginia Constitution does not allow for this voucher program,” said Tamerlin Godley, partner at Paul Hastings LLP, co-founder of Public Funds Public Schools, and lead lawyer for the case. “Stopping the voucher program was absolutely essential to protect the state’s students and their public schools.”

 

West Virginia’s 2021 voucher law authorizes the broadest voucher program in the nation, with eligibility for any student who attends public school for 45 days or is entering kindergarten, regardless of family income. Under the voucher law, the State deposits public funds in private accounts for use on a wide range of private education expenses. There are no accountability or quality safeguards. Over time, the law will force West Virginia taxpayers to subsidize all private and homeschooling in the state, totaling over $120 million a year.

 

“West Virginia has a proud history of prioritizing quality public schools for all the state’s children, and that commitment is enshrined in our constitution,” said Jack Tinney, co-counsel for the parent plaintiffs and a partner at Hendrickson & Long in Charleston. “We could not stand by and allow the voucher law to undermine West Virginia students’ constitutional rights.”

 

In the Beaver lawsuit, the parent plaintiffs highlight the numerous ways the voucher law violates the Education Clause of the West Virginia Constitution. The Legislature has no authority to fund a separate system of private schooling that infringes on its ability to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public schools.” The voucher law also violates the State Constitution’s prohibition against “special laws” that treat similar people differently because it excludes voucher students from critical protections afforded public school students against discrimination based on disability, religion, or LGBTQ status.

 

“In my view, the Legislature has violated its constitutional level obligations regarding public education and funding by enacting House Bill 2013 for the Hope scholarship fund,” Judge Tabit stated in explaining her decision.

 

The plaintiff families in Beaver v. Moore are represented pro bono by the law firm Paul Hastings LLP, Education Law Center, and the West Virginia office of the firm Hendrickson & Long. Education Law Center co-leads the Public Funds Public Schools campaign, which works to ensure public funds are spent on public education and not diverted to private schools. Paul Hastings partner Tamerlin Godley has spearheaded other successful PFPS efforts, including NAACP v. DeVos, which stopped former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos from diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in pandemic relief funds to private schools, and a 2016 lawsuit that permanently enjoined a similarly expansive voucher law in Nevada.

 

For more information, visit the Beaver v. Moore page on the PFPS website.

South Carolina’s public schools, teachers, and students are in for some tough times. Republicans went to the polls and selected a rightwing ideologue as their candidate for state superintendent. Ellen Weaver does not have the master’s degree that state law requires the state chief to have. She has signed up to get a master’s in “Christian Leadership” at Bob Jones University and expects to get her degree in eight months.

Weaver has made her hostility to public schools and professional teachers clear. She (and the SC media) refer to education professionals as “the education establishment.”

Ellen Weaver, president and CEO of the Palmetto Promise Institute, handily defeated teachers advocate Kathy Maness in Tuesday’s GOP primary runoff, a development with potentially major implications for the state’s public schools…

Weaver, who does not currently meet the statutory requirements to hold officebecause she lacks an advanced degree, has cast herself as a bold reformer fighting to eradicate liberal ideologies like so-called critical race theory that she claims are seeping into public education.

“The fight to save our schools is a fight to save that American dream for the next generation,” she said at a debate last week. “If we don’t stand in the gap for our kids and against the wokeism and sexualization agendas that are coming out of Washington, we have lost our country.”

Weaver will face Democrat Lisa Ellis, a Richland 2 teacher and student activities director, in the general election. Ellis, who is best known for founding the grassroots teachers organization SC for Ed, won the Democratic primary outright earlier this month.

Weaver refers to a master’s degree as “letters behind your name.” Presumably, at a better time, when politicians weren’t putting a wrecking ball to public education, they set that qualification there to assure that the state superintendent was an experienced educator, not an ideologue who is contemptuous of the state’s most important public institution.

Sadly, South Carolina got the kind of leader that the law was supposed to bar. Teachers are upset about what happens next, as well they should be.

South Carolina needs a leader who will fight for more funding, especially for its most vulnerable children. If Weaver beats her Democratic opponent, the state will have a leader who dabbles in nonsense about race and gender instead of improving the schools.

If you are a parent, a teacher, or a concerned citizen, help elect Lisa Ellis. She’s a teacher, she has experience, she knows what students need and will fight for it.

For several years, I have sponsored an annual lecture series about education policy at Wellesley College, my alma mater. We have had a number of distinguished speakers, including Pasi Sahlberg, Yong Zhao, Andy Hargreaves, and Eve Ewing.

This year, the invited speaker was Dr. Helen Ladd, one of the nation’s most eminent economists of education. Dr. Ladd is the Susan B. King Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University. She graduated from Wellesley in 1967, earned her M.A. at the London School of Economics and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has written extensively about school finance, equity, choice, and accountability.

Dr. Ladd discussed how charter schools disrupt good education policy.

Stephen Dyer, former legislator, writes that two of every three voucher students in Ohio’s Edchiice program this year never attended public schools.

Yet legislators want to expand it.

No more nonsense about “saving poor kids from failing public schools.” The voucher program is simply a transfer of public funds to parents who never sent their children to public schools. It’s a giveaway of public dollars to parents whose children are in private schools.

And public schools are better than the private religious schools that get public money. The public schools have certified teachers, more advanced classes, a broader curriculum, and extracurricular activities that religious schools do not offer.

Dyer writes:

Ok. My jaw literally dropped when I read this bill analysis of House Bill 583 — a bill originally intended to help alleviate the substitute teacher shortage, but thanks to Ohio Senate Education Chairman Andrew Brenner, is now a giveaway to school privatizers.

Tucked away on page 7 of this analysis, I read this:

… (R)oughly 33% of the new FY 2022 income-based scholarship recipients entering grades 1-12 were students who attended a public school the previous year.

That’s right.

2 of every 3 EdChoice Expansion recipients this year never attended a public school before they received their taxpayer-funded private school tuition subsidy…

And remember that families up to 400% of poverty qualify. How much is that? For a family of 4, $111,000 qualifies as 400% of poverty That would qualify about 85% of Ohio households for this taxpayer funded private school tuition subsidy.

Oh yeah, the bill also eliminates the prorated voucher for EdChoice Expansion. What’s that mean? Well, until this bill, families between 250% and 400% of poverty would qualify for a subsidy, but at a reduced rate from the $5,500 K-8 voucher or the $7,500 high school voucher.

Not anymore. Under HB 583, those prorations go away. What else goes away? The recipient’s loss of a voucher if their income grows beyond 400%.

That’s right.

Someone could make $100,000 one year, qualify their kids for a full, $5,500 Grade 1 private school tuition subsidy, change jobs, make $200,000 a year or more for the next 11 years and keep the full voucher as long as their kid was in school.

Look, I don’t need to keep repeating this, but I will: In nearly 9 of 10 cases, kids taking a voucher perform worse on state testing than kids in the public schools they leave behind. Not to mention the racial segregation the program exacerbates.

Yet here Ohio lawmakers go and dump another $13 million or more of public money into a program that will undoubtedly subsidize the private school tuitions of wealthy, disproportionately white families whose kids never attended public schools.

Who loses? The 90% of kids who don’t take a voucher because the money comes out of their schools’ budget.

I am tired of rightwing politicians distorting our language to suit their bigoted ideology.

They have the nerve, for example, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 and said he hoped for the day when his children would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Dr. King was projecting a vision of a world without racism, when people would see each other as friends, neighbors, and fellow human beings.

But rightwing politicians twist his words to insist that we should ignore racism right now, stop teaching about it, and pretend it does not exist. They use his words to justify prohibitions on teaching about or discussing the racism in the here and now. They use his appeal for an unrealized future to blind us to a cruel present.

I propose that we make a conscientious effort to reclaim the plain meaning of words.

One of the hot-button words that has been appropriated by rightwing politicians is “woke.” They are trying to turn it into a shameful word. I looked up the definition of WOKE. It means being aware of injustice and inequality, specifically when referring to racism. I strive to be aware of injustice and inequality and racial discrimination and to do whatever I can to change things for the better. Shouldn’t we all do that?

My acronym for WOKE is “Wide Open to Knowledge and Enlightenment.”

What would you say about someone who is not WOKE? They are “asleep,” “unconscious,” “indifferent.” They are “Mind Closed, Mouth Open.”

Yes, I am WOKE. I want Dr. King’s dream someday to be true. It is not true now.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida believes it is terrible to be woke. He demeans those he says are woke. He claims that the woke are politically correct and are intimidated by organized efforts to reduce racism in schools and the workplace. He thinks that being woke is so dreadful that it must be made illegal.

He urged the Florida legislature to pass “anti-woke” legislation in March. And they did. The so-called STOP WOKE” Act means “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act.”

This legislation is intended specifically to silence discussions and study of racism. It bans the teaching of critical race theory in schools and colleges and bans diversity training in the workplace.

Governor DeSantis doesn’t want people to be opposed to injustice and inequality. He doesn’t want them to be opposed to racism. Such awareness makes some people feel uncomfortable, he says. We should teach nothing that makes anyone uncomfortable.

Who is uncomfortable when racism is discussed? In my experience, the people who don’t want any discussion of racism are either racist or are embarrassed by their acts of racism in the past.

To protect the tender sensibilities of white people, we must avoid any discussion that makes them or their children uncomfortable. We must not take the risk that they or their children might feel uncomfortable for terrible things that happened long ago. So don’t talk about them. Don’t read books that discuss slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, or segregation. Don’t mention the distant past or the wrongs of the present. Don’t dare to talk about discrimination against black people, or the passage of laws that impair their right to vote, or the persistence of racially segregated schools.

Not only is it wrong to be woke, in the eyes of those who prefer to stifle all recognition of racial discrimination, it is absolutely forbidden for teachers or professors to examine the causes of racism and its persistence today in our laws and policies. Making a conscientious effort to understand the causes of racism and to seek remedies is called “critical race theory” (CRT).

The attacks on critical race theory are intended to intimidate teachers and to prevent students from learning about racism, past or present.

In states that have banned the teaching of critical race theory, the legislators can’t define CRT, so they make it illegal to teach “divisive concepts” or anything that makes some students “uncomfortable.”

When a white supremacist massacred ten Black people in Buffalo, New York, teachers in anti-CRT states were not sure if they were allowed to teach about what happened. Would they lose their jobs if they taught the truth?

The states that prohibit the teaching of critical race theory are banning the teaching of honest history, for fear that someone might be uncomfortable when they learn the facts about what was done to Black people in our history. Some states have explicitly banned Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The 1619 Project,” because it might make some white people uncomfortable. I may be wrong, but I can’t recall a state that ever passed a law censoring a single book. This book is obviously very powerful and very frightening to those who feel the need to ban it. It cannot be refuted by the DeSantis faction so it must be banned.

The same states that want to ban honest teaching about racism are also banning books about gender identity and sexuality. The legislatures in Republican states think that the schools are filled with pedophiles. The rightwing zealots claim that teachers are “grooming” their students to become gay or transgender. They pass laws like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teaching about gender identity and sexuality in grades K-3 (where gender identity and sexuality are not taught) and tolerate only “age-appropriate” discussion of gender identity and sexuality in other grades.

Like the STOP WOKE law, the “Don’t Say Gay” law is vague, which makes teachers fearful of teaching anything related to gender or sexuality. If schools can’t teach about gender identity, then they cannot teach about married couples of any gender. If you take them literally, you should not refer to Moms and Dads, men and women. Dare we teach young children about heterosexuality? Apparently not, if you follow the letter of the law.

The groups that are behind these attacks are familiar to us. They are Moms for Liberty, Moms for America, Parents Defending Freedom, and a bevy of other groups funded by rightwing billionaires.

Not coincidentally, these are the same groups that are fighting to pass funding for charter schools and vouchers.

What is their motive? They want to destroy not only freedom of thought but public schools.

Recently, I watched the far-right provocateur Chris Rufo give a speech at Hillsdale College. He called on his audience to act in a speech titled “Laying Siege to the Institutions.” (Please watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8Hh0GqoJcE). Rufo claims credit for making CRT a national issue. He boasts that a few years ago, CRT had virtually no public recognition. Thanks to his lies and distortions, most people have heard of it and some think it is a radical, Marxist plot to destroy America by turning race against race. Because he says so.

This is absurd.

For the past four decades, CRT was known as a law school study of the origins of systemic racism and the extent to which it is embedded in our laws and institutions. Its founder was Derrick Bell of Harvard Law School. He was a friend of mine. He was not a Marxist or a radical. He was a great American who wanted America to live up to its promises. Unlike Rufo, he didn’t believe in gag orders and bans. He believed in study, scholarship, debate and discussion.

Chris Rufo offers one solution to all the problems he sees: school choice.

To him, the public school is the most dangerous of all institutions, because it teaches equality, justice, and critical thinking. It teaches students to respect others. It teaches them to abhor racism and other forms of bigotry. It teaches students about American history without censoring the unpleasant and horrifying parts. The laws passed to ban CRT and to gag teachers have one purpose: Teach lies, not honest history.

Here is what I suggest.

Fight censorship.

Fight privatization of our public assets.

Read without fear.

Read “The 1619 Project,” which will open your minds. Read critiques of “The 1619 Project” by reputable scholars, not by rightwing ideologues.

Think about it. Discuss and debate the issues.

Say gay.

Stand up to the craven politicians who attack your freedoms.

Vote against them when you have the chance.

Fearlessly defend the freedom to read, the freedom to teach, and the freedom to learn.

Work towards the day when we treat each other with respect.

Wake up.

Reader Christine Langhoff sent a warning that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is poised to take control of the Boston Public Schools. This would be a mistake. No state takeover has ever led to better education. The state is not wiser than the city. If anything, the state education department is far removed from daily practice, as it is simply another bureaucracy. The current board is dominated by advocates of choice. Apparently they are unaware that the root cause of low test scores is poverty. The best the board could do would be to reduce class sizes and to promote the creation of community schools, which makes the school the hub of valuable services for children and families. Such proven strategies are unfamiliar to choice advocates. They prefer a failed approach.

Christine Langhoff wrote:

It seems that MA DESE is poised to place Boston’s public schools under receivership, perhaps by a vote as soon as May 24. Doing so would fulfill the Waltons’ wet dream which has been frustrated since the defeat of ballot Question 2 in 2016, which would have eliminated the charter cap.

The board is appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, whose donors are, of course, the Waltons and the Kochs. Four members of the board have day jobs tied to the Waltons: Amanda Fernández, Latinos for Education; Martin West, Education Next; Paymon Rouhanifard, Propel America; and Jim Peyser, New Schools Venture Fund and the Pioneer Institute. Baker is a lame duck, which may explain the haste to pull this off.

No state takeover has yet been successful, and once a system enters receivership, there is no exit. BESE has pointed to low MCAS scores to say our schools are failures, but Boston’s scores, invalid as they may be during the covid pandemic, are higher that in the three districts the state runs: Lawrence, Holyoke and Southbridge.

The Boston Teachers Union has an action letter if anyone is so inclined to support public education in the city where it originated:

Governor Gregg Abbott has endorsed vouchers, which have repeated failed to pass the legislature. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is a voucher fanatic, and Senator Ted Cruz says that school choice is the most important issue in the nation. Pastors for Texas children has worked with a bipartisan coalition of legislators to stop vouchers.

Despite the enthusiasm of the state’s top elected officials, a new independent poll shows that the people of Texas don’t want vouchers.

Prepping for a war over private school vouchers in Texas, public school advocates are out with a new poll that shows the majority of likely voters oppose voucher programs that would hurt funding for public schools, and the opposition is deep in rural Texas.

The poll released Tuesday showed that 53 percent of likely Texas voters are against taxpayer-funded private school vouchers when hearing vouchers mean less money for their local public schools. And 71 percent of voters in rural areas said vouchers wouldn’t do anything to help them…

“These poll results show that Texas parents support their public schools, have confidence in their teachers, and are demanding investment in all of our students’ education,” said Julie Cowan, co-chair of Texas Parent PAC, which opposes private school voucher programs. “They do not support a blank check for private school voucher giveaways and charter school CEOs.”

The results come just over a week after Abbott declared in San Antonio that he was ready to make another run at passing a private school voucher plan that he insists won’t take money from public schools — a claim critics have questioned….

The poll released on Tuesday is from Change Research, a San Francisco-based firm. The poll surveyed 1,083 likely Texas voters. It had a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

“Texas parents want to be absolutely clear to Governor Greg Abbott and every politician in office — don’t mess with our public schools,” said Dinah Miller, another co-chair of Texas Parent PAC.

Pro-voucher groups counter with a poll of Republican voters after the March 1 primary:

In the March 1 primary, Republican voters were presented a non-binding question previewing the school voucher fight. About 88 percent of GOP voters said yes to: “Texas parents and guardians should have the right to select schools, whether public or private, for their children, and the funding should follow the student.”

The wording of the question matters. Voters should be asked how they feel about taking money away from their local public school to pay for private and religious schools.

Here’s a copy of the poll results that should cause Governor Abbott to cut back on his support for vouchers.

Scholar Christopher Lubienski at Indiana University reviewed a report from the Hoover Institution offering strategies for making choice equitable. His review was published by the National Education Policy Center.

The Hoover Institution (where I was a Fellow until 2009) is very pro-school choice. (It’s also a wonderful repository for materials about war and peace, the Russian Revolution, and international politics). Many educators, regardless of their views, have given their papers to the Hoover archives, including me.

The report reviewed by Lubienski was written by Paul Peterson, who is an enthusiastic proponent of school choice.

The official overview says:

A report from the Hoover Institution seeks to offer evidence-based guidance for policymakers in shaping more equitable outcomes from school choice programs. This review examines the report’s claims, its representation of the research, and its use of research in forming those recommendations. The review finds that although the report is useful as a snapshot of the current status of choice programs in the United States, its use of research is often problematic. Some of the research is misrepresented, many claims are made without citations to evidence, and some of the recommendations bear no connection to the evidence provided in the report. As such, the report is, as intended, a political guidebook for conservative policymakers that fails to offer evidence-based guidance on making choice more equitable.

Another way to describe the interaction between choice and equity: Choice, almost by definition, exacerbates inequities.