Archives for category: Vouchers

Larry Lee is one of the staunchest supporters of public schools in Alabama. A few years ago, he criss-crossed the state and identified 10 rural schools that were doing everyday miracles for their children and their communities because of the hard work and dedication of teachers, principals, and families, all doing their best for their children.

He sent me the following urgent message:

These are dark days for public education in Alabama. Since the legislature changed hands in 2010, things have gone steadily downhill.

Take a look:

* A bill to have A-F school grades, a practice intended solely to be punitive and a practice that research does not support.

* The Alabama Accountability Act that has now diverted $72 million from the Education Trust Fund for vouchers for private schools. A law that failed utterly in its stated mission to “help; poor students stuck in failing schools by their zip code.

* A bill to establish charter schools which cuts into already under-funded public schools funding.

* A bill known as the RAISE Act that would have forced teachers to be evaluated with the highly controversial Value Added Model.

* A bill intended to set up Education Savings Accounts that would have diverted more funding from the Education Trust Fund.

Instead of seeking input from professional educators, legislators are listening to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Jeb Bush foundations and Alabama special interests. In fact, the Senate majority leader boasted after passing the Accountability Act in 2013 that this bill was purposely hidden from educators because “they would have opposed it.”

Now, to add insult to injury the state board of education, the body that should be the first line of defense for public education, has turned its back on our children by hiring an attorney from Massachusetts to be state school superintendent. They ignored Alabama code and even their advertised required qualifications and put their own ideology and political ambitions ahead of the 740,000 children in Alabama public schools

Because of this, a group of 40 plaintiffs, including former local superintendents, principals, teachers, school board members, parents, local elected officials, a former college president and a former U.S. Congressman have joined together to seek legal action against the state school board.

They have said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and formed the Alabama Public School Defense Fund to wage this battle.

Please join in standing up for our children by going to this site and contributing today.

Larry Lee
334-787-0410 (blog)

Education Is Everyone’s Business

Mercedes Schneider has written a book every summer for three years in a row, during her break from teaching high school English. Thomas Ultican reviews her latest book, School Choice: The End of Public Education?

The book traces school choice to libertarian economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Mercedes shows the centrality of school choice to the segregationist diehards in the South in the 1950s and 1960s.

There is a terrible irony in the fact that today’s advocates of school choice claim to be fighting for civil rights when they are promoting racial segregation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would not have allowed them to get away with this deceptive rhetoric.

Ultican notes that school choice has encouraged not only racial segregation, but class segregation as well. He tells this anecdote:

“Around 2003, a friend tried to convince my wife and I to send our daughter to High Tech High. This mother did not want her daughter to be exposed to all those bad influences at Mira Mesa High School. Mira Mesa High School is a quality school that graduates amazingly gifted students every year and sets them on to a course of academic and social success. But the new charter school that Bill Gates and Irwin Jacobs had put so much money into surely would not have all those feared “bad kids.””

Schneider’s book is the go-to book to understand the current vogue for vouchers and charters, as well as public ignorance of the ways that charter operators scam public funds. The most lucrative angle is in real estate; the charter operator buys the building, rents it to his charter school, charges double the going rate, and passes the bill to taxpayers.

Ultican urges you to buy the book, read it, and share it with friends.

In the previous post, I pointed out that the Nevada Supreme Court overruled the funding of vouchers.

Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education hailed the same decision as a major step towards educational “freedom,” meaning no more public schools.

Since there is zero evidence that choice produces better education but ample evidence that it intensifies inequity and segregation and destabilizes communities, you can consider the press release either an affirmation of rigid free market ideology or lunacy:


September 29, 2016 Contact: Press Office

Nevada Families One Step Closer to Educational Freedom

Today, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Education Savings Accounts (ESA) are constitutional. Nevada’s ESA program is the most expansive educational choice program in the nation.

Specifically, the court agreed with the state that the primary constitutional arguments brought by plaintiffs against ESAs are without merit. Although the court ruled against the state on a funding issue, it laid out a clear blueprint for addressing the funding technicality so that the 8,000 parents who have applied for an ESA are able to take advantage of greater educational opportunities for their children.

“The court’s ruling that ESAs are constitutional is a significant victory for Nevada families,’’ said Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) CEO Patricia Levesque.

“I look forward to Governor Brian Sandoval and the legislature addressing the funding mechanism for the state’s ESA program so that all Nevada parents have the right, as well as the resources, to choose the best education option for their children.”

ExcelinEd filed an amicus brief in the Nevada Supreme Court in support of the state’s position in the Duncan vs. State of Nevada case. The amicus curiae was prepared by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

Learn more about Education Savings Accounts:

Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation, which passed in 2015, provides parents of up to 450,000 eligible students in the state with the funding to select schools, tutors and other approved education services for their children, including necessary therapies for students with disabilities.

Since the first Education Savings Account (ESA) program was introduced in 2011 in Arizona, this policy has been changing education as we know it.

ESAs place state dollars designated for a child’s education into an account that parents can direct in a manner that is best for a child’s unique needs.

Account funds can cover multiple education options, including private school tuition, online education, tutoring and dual enrollment, and unused funds can be saved for future K-12 or higher education costs.

ESAs create an entirely flexible approach to education, where the ultimate goal is maximizing each child’s natural learning abilities.

The Nevada Supreme Court blocked the funding of the state’s sweeping voucher program, which would have given money to every student to spend anywhere. Despite the total absence of any evidence for the efficacy of such programs, the Nevada legislature undoubtedly will go back to the drawing board to devise another voucher giveaway that won’t improve education but will divert funding from the state’s underfunded
Unlicensed schools.

The Nevada State a Constitution has explicit prohibition against sending public money to sectarian schools, but that hasn’t stopped the anti-constitutional impulses of the Republican majority.

What part of the Nevada constitution does the legislature not understand?

The Constitution of the state of Nevada clearly states in Article 11:

Sec: 9.  Sectarian instruction prohibited in common schools and university.  No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.

Section Ten.  No public money to be used for sectarian purposes.  No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.
[Added in 1880. Proposed and passed by the 1877 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1879 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1880 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1877, p. 221; Statutes of Nevada 1879, p. 149.]

I was just in Nevada. I was taken aback by the luxurious hotels and promiscuous spending in Las Vegas. An additional 1% sales tax would be a boon to the public schools. But the legislature offers choice instead of resources.

Why won’t the legislature fund the education of the kids in public schools, as the Constitution commands?

Is it because they don’t care about the kids, the kids whose parents clean the hotels and wash dishes in the restaurants?

Or are they protecting the 1% who own the casinos, hotels, and restaurants?

Or they just don’t give a damn about the Nevada state constitution?

Jeb Bush has been advocating everything related to corporate reform for many years. As Governor of Florida, he imposed high-stakes testing, charters, simplistic accountability measures, letter grades for schools, and did whatever he could dream up to promote competition and choice. He tried to get vouchers, but was only able to get vouchers for special education (a program once described in a prize-winning article as a “cottage industry for graft”). He sought a constitutional amendment to make vouchers possible, and Michelle Rhee joined him to promote vouchers. But in 2012, voters said no by 58-42.

This fall, this hater of public schools will teach at the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance, which is supervised by voucher advocate Paul Peyerson. Students will no doubt learn that public schools must be replaced by a free market. They will learn that choice will create Mira Les. They will learn that families should schools just as they choose milk in the grocery store: whole milk, 2% milk, 1% milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk. No one will tell Jeb about Sweden and Chile.

Saddest of all is that he is giving the annual Godkin Lecture, an honor once reserved for distinguished scholars.

As the evidence piles up that choice is no panacea, do you think he will apologize for the schools and communities he has disrupted?

Glenn W. Smith, an experienced journalist in Texas, gives his analysis of the politics of school funding and the renewed drive for vouchers.

Smith wonders:

Is it just a coincidence that private school funding schemes are gaining steam as a far more diverse bunch of kids are sitting in our public classrooms? Less than 29 percent of our public school children are white, down more than a third from the year 2000. Hispanics now make up 52 percent of the Texas school population. African-Americans are 13 percent and Asians 4 percent of students.

The advocates, led by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, claim they want vouchers so “poor kids can escape failing schools,” but these people have never shown any interest in saving kids or their families.

These same policymakers refused to accept billions in federal Medicaid reform dollars, leaving millions of the less fortunate without adequate health care. Now we discover that the maternal death rate in Texas has skyrocketed, especially among poor African-American women. In addition, as the Houston Chronicle reported last week, the state abandoned hundreds of thousands of special needs children by arbitrary cuts to special education.

Also, we shouldn’t forget the refusal of Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders to entertain statewide increases in the minimum wage. Low-wage workers should be happy to eat the stale cake their superiors deign to give them.

The policymakers responsible for these atrocities are the same ones telling us their school privatization plans are intended to help the very people they are punishing in every other major policy area — from health care to political representation to economic opportunity.

Smith predicts that Patrick’s voucher plans will fail, mainly because of resistance by rural Republicans:

In 2017 Patrick might push some of his schemes through the state Senate that he controls. But this is one issue in which rural lawmakers, many of them conservative Republicans, are allied with moderate or liberal urban representatives.

Public schools remain critical centers of life in many rural communities. Folks there lived through the “Wal-Marting” of their towns as the giant retailer drove the mom and pop stores out of business. They aren’t about to let that happen to their schools. They aren’t going to sit by as the Little Red Schoolhouse is turned into the Great Big Red State Profit Center.

Patrick’s plans appear to call for the creation of two K-12 school systems, one public, and one private. This is also giving many conservatives pause. Texas can’t afford that. Various estimates put the tab in the billions.

Let’s hope that Smith is right, and that the good sense of rural Republicans and urban Democrats will save public education in Texas.

Right-wingers in Texas want vouchers, but they have been stymied again and again by a coalition of rural Republicans who support their community public schools and urban Democrats who don’t want to destroy public education.

So now the right-wingers want “education savings accounts,” so parents can use public money to pay for other options, such as private school.

Advocates of the so-called school choice movement want the state to give each Texas student who no longer wants to attend public school an education savings account. The student would use the account to pay for other education options, such as private schools, tutors, curriculum for home schooling or college credit courses, giving students more choice in their education, according to proponents.

Public school supporters aren’t buying it. They say education savings accounts are masquerading as private school vouchers, diverting money from cash-strapped school districts to private schools without holding them to the same standard of accountability.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You can call a voucher something else, but it’s still a voucher,” said Charles Luke of the Coalition for Public Schools, which opposes using public funds to support private and religious schools. “We need to invest in our community schools rather than create a completely separate, parallel system and expand government.”

What the Republican right fringe doesn’t realize is that when everyone has his or her own choice, no one is responsible any more to support all children. Taxpayers won’t pass bond issues. Why should Mr. Brown pay for Ms. Jones’ son to go to private or religious school?

Alan Singer writes here of Trump’s proposal to let federal funds follow students to the school (or the computer) of their choice, which would put a knife into public education, which has been a central institution in American democracy.

He writes:

Donald Trump has never had much use for public schools, or for that matter, his own children when they were younger. As a boy The Donald attended the private (and expensive) Kew-Forest School in Queens, New York. Because of “behavior problems” there, he completed secondary school at the New York Military Academy, a private (and expensive) boarding school. Sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. were shipped out to attend and live at the private (and expensive) Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, while daughter Ivanka went to the private (and expensive) Chapin School in New York City and then the Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut. At Hill the tuition for 2015-2016 school year was $54,570. Choate is currently a relative bargain at $48,890 a year. Tiffany Trump escaped with her mother, Trump’s middle wife, to Calabasas, California, where she attended the private Viewpoint School. The youngest Trumpster, Barron, age 10, still lives at home and attends the private (and expensive, annual tuition is over $45,000) Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

All of this makes The Donald as much an expert on public education as he is on the military, foreign policy, or life on the economic margins. But that isn’t stopping Trump from promoting his education plan, one designed to destroy public education in the United States. The basic Trump proposal is to divert $20 billion in federal grants from public school districts to charter, private, parochial, and online schools, effectively bleeding public school systems to death.

Trump calls his school plan choice, as if ordinary Americans will ever be able to choose the kind of schools he chose for his kids. He demands that Americans trust him and boasts they should give him a chance because he will be a great president. The thing is, we already know Trump’s school plan is a recipe for disaster.

He says, “Trust me.” Why should we? Like the students who were defrauded at Trump University? No, thanks!

Merryl Tisch stepped down as chair of the New York State Board of Regents at the end of her term in the spring of this year.

She recently gave an interview where she expressed her support for nonpublic education. Her view was similar to the plan put forward later by Donald Trump: The public should pay for religious and private schools. The story appeared originally in, which is behind a paywall.

Tisch calls for increased charter, parochial school affordability

By KESHIA CLUKEY 09/07/16 02:57 PM EDT Updated 09/07/16 03:25 PM EDT

Former state Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch touted the need for school choice and increased access to charter and parochial schools on Wednesday, even in the form of an education tax credit.

Tisch told John Gambling on “AM 970 THE ANSWER” that politics often impede good practice, saying there needs to be a “more affordable” option. “[L]et choice be charter choice, be parochial choice, give families the opportunity to move their children forward, give them the opportunity to have a real ability to access high quality education for their children, and these communities will rise up,” she said.

Tisch, who championed the roll out of the Common Core learning standards, stepped down after 20 years on the board when her term ended in March.

She said Wednesday there is a need for healthy competition for public schools, and described the success some of the well-funded charter school networks are having in terms of student results. “The charter schools in New York City are outpacing the educational gains from around the state,” she said.

However, spots at charter and parochial schools can be difficult to get, charter seats being determined through a lottery system and parochial spots being a matter of affordability. Tisch told a story about a mother she met who had twins, and only one of them was able to get a spot in the charter school. A report from the New York City Charter School Center released Tuesday found that nearly 45,000 city students are on charter school wait lists.

“This notion that we deny choice when the choice is so stark between performance and non-performance to me is criminal,” Tisch said.

She mentioned current tax credit legislation as a possible option. That legislation would provide a credit for donations made to public and nonprofit schools and scholarship funds. The measure, however, has failed to make it through the teachers’ union-aligned, Democratic-lead state Assembly.

Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Republican-lead Senate have pushed for the credit, though their versions vary, with the Senate’s, for example, including donations made to charter schools.

Regardless of the type of school, Tisch said schools need to be made affordable so parents, especially those in struggling communities, can chose what is best for their children.

“To deliberately go out of your way to force a family to send a child to a school which, more often than not, has failed not only that child, but also the parents of that child, and to just continue to allow it to go on like this to me is a real crime,” Tisch said.

Listen to the full interview here:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated what the tax credit legislation under consideration would do. It would provide a credit for donations to public and nonprofit schools, as well as scholarship funds.

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As readers know, I met Hillary Clinton at a fund-raiser on August 28. It was not the in-depth meeting I had hoped for, but it was better than nothing.

I endorsed Hillary after she secured the Democratic nomination. I assured you that I would support the winner of the Democratic nomination. I consider Trump to be an ignorant buffoon and a danger to our nation and the world. I wrote an even stronger endorsement in July.

As I watch this bizarre campaign unfold, I feel even stronger about the importance of stopping Donald Trump. His admiration for Putin, who murders journalists, stifles a free press, harasses homosexuals, invades another nation, and is re-establishing a dictatorship–makes me feel that what Trump admires in leadership is a disrespect for human rights, a commanding style that censors opposition: in short, dictatorship. Nothing in Trump’s background is reassuring. He should return to reality television to rant and boast.

So, I reiterate, on every issue that matters, I’m with her. Given Trump’s desire to turn $20 billion of federal spending into support for school choice, I now am certain that she will be far better than he on education, even if she doesn’t stand up to fight all forms of privatization

Valerie Strauss invited me to elaborate on my brief meeting with Hillary, which I did here.

As the response from the campaign makes clear, she is walking a fine line between major donors who support charters and the teachers’ unions, which know that the charter movement is meant to demolish them (90% or more of the nation’s charters are non-union).

As I have said to readers on many occasions in the comments, I don’t know what Hillary will do on education, although after Trump revealed his full-throated support for school choice, I am sure that Trump will be a wrecking ball for public education. She said that she would stop federal funding for for-profit charter schools, and that would be a big step forward.

But on every other issue, from climate change to gun control to civil rights to Supteme Court appointments to international relations, I support her enthusiastically and without reservation.