Archives for category: Vouchers

This Indiana teacher wants you to know what Governor Mike Pence did to the public schools on his home state. He didn’t do it alone. He had the help of Republicans who control the legislature, and he built on the anti-public school record of his predecessor Mitch Daniels.

The New York Times reviewed Pence’s record on education, noting his support for charters and vouchers and his efforts to undermine State Superintendent Gloria Ritz, who received more votes than Pence in 2012. All the sources the Times quoted are conservatives.

But the Indiana teacher, who is self-described as a conservative, calls out Pence for his ongoing attacks on the teaching profession.

In Indiana, small, rural schools are shutting down because funding has been cut, families are moving out of district, and whole communities are losing jobs where school corporations are the largest employers.

Inner-city schools, like Indianapolis Public Schools, are urban nightmares as charter schools take away public school funding, yet only meet the needs of a fraction of the population.

Cities like Indy, Detroit, and Chicago are the poster-children for big government in education. The corporate rich and politicians get the money, and the urban poor, of which have a racial bias, receive a sub-standard education.

This is what Pence brings to the Republican Party ticket if he follows the path he’s paved in Indiana. If you don’t think education effects all parts of society, then education has benefitted you. If you know what the school-to prison pipeline is, then I don’t need to explain anymore.

Gene V. Glass here reproduces the Republican platform on education. The Republican platform supports school choice, the public display of the Ten Commandments, merit pay, two-parent families, and a Constitutional amendment to keep government from interfering with parental rights over children. (I am reminded of the day in 2012 when Mitt Romney went into an all-black school in Philadelphia and spoke out about the virtues of two-parent families; the principal told him that few of the children had two parents, which left open the question of what educators are supposed to do in the face of reality.)

The Republican platform supports home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, early-college high schools, and vouchers. It does not mention support for public schools, except as a place where students should be permitted to pray. The platform also believes that military service is a better credential for teaching than any study or practice in a professional education program.

The platform does not acknowledge the growing body of evidence that vouchers and charters do not provide superior educations to poor children.

We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and further affirm the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities. We assert the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious, private, service, and youth organizations to set their own membership standards.

Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation.

We call for removal of structural impediments which progressives throw in the path of poor people: Over-regulation of start-up enterprises, excessive licensing requirements, needless restrictions on formation of schools and day-care centers serving neighborhood families, and restrictions on providing public services in fields like transport and sanitation that close the opportunity door to all but a favored few. We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children.

Education: A Chance for Every Child

Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a cultural identity. That is why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces from outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. They have done immense damage. The federal government should not be a partner in that effort, as the Constitution gives it no role in education. At the heart of the American Experiment lies the greatest political expression of human dignity: The self- evident truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations. We reject a one- size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our long- standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it. Their education reform movement calls for choice-based, parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of local control of our schools and it wisely sees consumer rights in education — choice — as the most important driving force for renewing education. It rejects excessive testing and “teaching to the test” and supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs. Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential.

We applaud America’s great teachers, who should be protected against frivolous lawsuits and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom. Administrators need flexibility to innovate and to hold accountable all those responsible for student performance. A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high school districts.

Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach in order to attract the best talent to the classroom. All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.

Academic Excellence for All

Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential. Republicans are leading the effort to create it. Since 1965, the federal government, through more than 100 programs in the Department of Education, has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with little substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates. The United States spends an average of more than $12,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $620 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2011-2012. Of that amount, federal spending amounted to more than $57 billion. Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free. More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance. After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers.

Choice in Education

We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits. Empowering families to access the learning environments that will best help their children to realize their full potential is one of the greatest civil rights challenges of our time. A young person’s ability to succeed in school must be based on his or her God-given talent and motivation, not an address, ZIP code, or economic status. We propose that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.

In sum, on the one hand enormous amounts of money are being spent for K-12 public education with overall results that do not justify that spending level. On the other hand, the common experience of families, teachers, and administrators forms the basis of what does work in education. In Congress and in the states, Republicans are bridging the gap between those two realities. Congressional Republicans are leading the way forward with major reform legislation advancing the concept of block grants and repealing numerous federal regulations which have interfered with state and local control of public schools. Their Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act — modernizing workforce programs, repealing mandates, and advancing employment for persons with disabilities — is now law. Their legislation to require transparency in unfunded mandates imposed upon our schools is advancing. Their D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country. We deplore the efforts of Congressional Democrats and the current President to eliminate this successful program for disadvantaged students in order to placate the leaders of the teachers’ unions.

To ensure that all students have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ ability to advance in American society. We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach — the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease — empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception and believe that federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs. The federal government has pushed states to collect and share vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data. Much of this data is collected without parental consent or notice. This is wholly incompatible with the American Experiment and our inalienable rights.

We urge state education officials to promote the hiring of qualified veterans as teachers in our public schools. Their proven abilities and life experiences will make them more successful instructors and role models for students than would any teaching certification.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, one of the nation’s leading advocates for school choice, commissioned a study of Ohio’s voucher program. To what must have been their surprise and disappointment, the study concluded that students in voucher schools perform worse than students in public schools.

I was a founding member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation–now the Fordham Institute–and I will affirm that TBF told unpleasant truths, even to its own disadvantage and the disadvantage of its causes. I left the board in 2009, after I fell away from choice, competition, and accountability as answers to the needs of America’s students.

This is a study that does TBF proud, even though it disproves its foundational belief in school choice.

Here are the key findings:

There are now some 18,000 students receiving publicly funded vouchers in Ohio.

The voucher students are overwhelmingly low-income and minority, but somewhat higher-achieving and less economically disadvantaged than students who were eligible for vouchers but chose not to use them.

The public school students improved their performance, and the study attributes their improvement to the voucher program that they did not enroll in.

The effects: “The students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state exams compared to their closely matched peers remaining in public schools. Only voucher students assigned to relatively high-performing EdChoice eligible public schools could be credibly studied.”

The study was led by Dr. David Figlio of Northwestern University.

This study adds to the mountain of evidence that public schools in Ohio outperform the charter sector and the voucher sector. Does anyone think that policymakers and legislators in Ohio will do anything to support their much-maligned public schools?

The New York Daily News reports that the wealthy PAC that wants more charter schools has targeted four legislators for defeat because they defend public schools and oppose privatization.

A Super PAC pushing for enactment of a controversial education tax credit to benefit private and parochial schools is targeting Bronx Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and three Assembly Democratic incumbents in the upcoming Sept.13 primaries, records show.

The PAC, New Yorkers for Independent Action, has already reported spending nearly $256,000 of the $2.78 million it has raised since January on polling and campaign literature in the districts currently represented by Rivera and Assembly members Phil Ramos (D-Suffolk County), Pamela Harris (D-Brooklyn), and Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn).

The PAC reported it is supporting Councilman Fernando Cabrera against Rivera, Giovanni Mata against Ramos, former Assembly aide Kate Cucco against Harris, and City Councilwoman Darlene Mealey against Walker.

New Yorkers for Independent Action’s treasurer is Thomas Carroll, who is president of Invest In Education Foundation, an education reform group.

Tom Carroll started the Brighter Choice charter chain in Albany with the goal of replacing all public schools. Several of his schools closed because of academic deficiencies.

A pro-public education group called Educate Nevada Now issued the following statement: 

Dear Friends:


“On July 29, 2016, we will proudly support a group of parents who stepped forward on behalf of Nevada’s 460,000 public school students. These parents said, “No!” to vouchers for private education, and so did a Nevada judge. On July 29, Nevada Supreme Court Justices will hear why the state’s voucher program is unconstitutional and illegal.


“Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher program would siphon off critically needed funds from Nevada’s public schools – as much as $30 million a year! That money would be available to any Nevada family to pay for private education, even if that family already has the means to pay and currently affords private education for their children.


“Our public schools are already suffering from underfunding. Some schools don’t have enough money to fix air conditioning units or have working lockers. Others don’t have enough teachers or can’t afford the necessary programs for our growing population of English language learners.


“If the voucher program is implemented, vital school programs and services will be cut. More teaching positions will be cut. Class sizes will balloon.


“Your tax dollars contribute to Nevada’s public schools, and our state constitution mandates that those dollars go to public education FIRST—before roads, infrastructure, prisons, or any other state expense. Your tax money will be taken away from the public schools and instead used for private education expenses that could range from private schools to private tutors, from textbooks to transportation and more.


“There are many reasons why the voucher program doesn’t make sense for Nevada. Please visit our website to learn more about the unconstitutional and illegal nature of the program, and what it means for Nevada’s hardworking families and children:


“Nevada’s future depends on public schools that provide a quality education to every child. And the public money that Nevada’s taxpayers provide to our state should be used for those public schools – not for private purposes.


“Please join us in our fight to ensure that the voucher program is never implemented. Let’s work together to support our children, our public schools and the future of our state.


“Educate Nevada Now ”

Our mailing address is: 

Educate Nevada Now powered by The Rogers Foundation

701 S. 9th StreetLas Vegas, NV 89101

Larry Lee reports here about the departure of StudentsFirst and the Black Alliance for Educational Options from Alabama.

They set up camp in Alabama to advocate for charters and vouchers. Not to advocate for children, but to advocate for alternatives to public schools.

They met with some success. The appeal of charters and vouchers in the Deep South is a restoration of segregation, while claiming it is “all about the children.”

They left. They packed their bags and went away. They had no roots in Alabama. They didn’t stay to advocate for the children.

Christopher Lubienski reviews two recent voucher studies on behalf of the National Education Policy Center in this post. (The post summarizes the findings and contains links to Lubienski’s report.)

The two studies under review purport to show the success of vouchers. One was prepared by the pro-voucher Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, whose role is to cheerlead for vouchers. The other comes from the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. Lubienski concludes that neither proves the success of vouchers.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and retired New York State high school principal, reviews Samuel Abrams’ Education and the Commercial Mindset. To sum up, she loved it! It gives an important overview of today’s privatization movement, which attempts to make schools function like businesses.

Carol writes:

Kate Zernike of The New York Times recently wrote a scathing report of what school choice has done to the city of Detroit. The report, which appeared on June 28, tells the story of how an already strained public school system was further beaten down due to the influx of for-profit charter chains eager to grab a share of the market at any cost. Although the promise of choice was to improve all schools through competition, the outcome for Detroit has been a total collapse.

There is no better book to help explain the reasons why such a collapse would occur than Education and the Corporate Mindset, recently published by Harvard University Press. Author Samuel Abrams does a remarkable job tracing choice and market-based school reforms from their early beginnings in the for-profit Edison Schools, to the contemporary choice systems today.

Abrams, a former high school teacher of history and economics and the present Director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, is exactly the right author to help the public understand why market-place reforms are doomed to fail when imposed upon schools. His thoughtful, scholarly arguments are easy to understand. Sam Abrams makes the complicated clear.

The book begins with a history of Chris Whittle’s for-profit Edison Project that sought to impose the rigors of business on what Whittle perceived to be a poorly run and inefficient education system. The beginning chapters take the reader from Edison’s philosophical beginnings, through its marketing and implementation, its transformation from Edison Schools to Edison Learning, and to its eventual demise. Although Edison may be gone, its story is still important. Despite its failure, its influence continues because both ideas and players moved from Edison to the present charter school and online learning world. And of course Edison was the door through which Wall Street first walked to enter the business of school reform.

After telling the Edison story, Abrams pulls from his background in economic theory to explain why market-place reforms like Edison do not work in schools. Because students are both an “input” as well as a customer in the “production function” of schools, the rules of the marketplace are a bad fit. He also argues that good schooling must serve the needs of both the individual and the collective, and to meet the needs of both, shared investments and sacrifices are needed—an ethos not aligned with commercial interests.

Chapter 9 focuses on the emergence of the Charter Management Organization (CMO) as the replacement for the for-profit model. The profit motive may have disappeared (although as Abrams points out, some of the charter leaders receive compensation similar to business CEOs), however, the corporate language, marketing and management styles are very much a part of the CMO model. This is not surprising given that key Edison people—Scott Hamilton, Donald Fisher, John Fisher and Richard Barth moved from Edison to KIPP.

Abrams’ critical analysis of KIPPs’ scores, as well as the advantages that result from a more selective student body and philanthropic support, are well worth the read. In Chapter 10, Abrams frankly discusses the problems that CMOs face–teacher burnout, attrition, student exodus and the exacting code of discipline in the “no excuses” schools that drives both students and teachers out the door.

His most powerful arguments against market-based reforms, however, are left for the end. In Chapters 11 and 12, Abrams contrasts the school reform visions of two Nordic nations —Sweden and Finland. The first followed the course of choice and vouchers. The second followed equity-based public reforms.

In the late 1990s, Abrams explains how Sweden embarked on a course of privatization as the driver of school reform. The country embraced choice, corporate reforms, vouchers and privatization. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and current Louisiana state education Superintendent John White were, not surprisingly, fans of the Swedish model of reform. Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools, visited to see how Swedish schools put self-paced curricula on computer tablets with minimal instruction provided to students by teachers.

Over a decade of Swedish market-based reforms, however, proved to be a flop. In 2011 the model came under fire. Abrams describes scandals and bankruptcies, grade inflation due to school marketing, higher costs, increased segregation, and patterns of clear advantage for the children of savvy parents. The municipal schools were left to educate the neediest children—an unequal system had gotten much worse. The country went into “PISA shock” when Sweden was the only nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to see its scores decline every time on that international test since PISA began in 2000.

Finland, in contrast, chose equity reforms and a very different course. The Finns rejected privatization and chose smaller class sizes, higher teacher pay, no curriculum tracking until Grade 10, schools as a community centerpiece, free hot lunch for all students, strong university-based teacher preparation programs, the elimination of “school inspections” and the limiting of testing to “micro-samples” across all areas of curriculum including music and the arts. Finnish students consistently earn top or near top scores on PISA in reading, math and science. They outscore their Nordic neighbors, including Sweden, even though they have demographically similar populations.

When speaking with teachers and parents, I often find them bewildered by the rapid pace of school privatization coded as “school reform”. The allure of “choice” has brought false promise, along with a host of unintended negative consequences for their neighborhood schools. And yet, despite the evidence, the commercial mindset of choice and market practices continues to drive school change. If not stopped, the democratically governed school, anchored in a neighborhood in which parents and community have voice, will be a relic of the past. One only has to look to Sweden or Detroit to see the corruption, problems and failure that will result when the commercial mindset is in charge.

Education and the Commercial Mindset deserves to be at the top of your summer reading list. It connects the dots and sheds much needed light on the origins of corporate reforms. It makes a sound, research-based argument for why the commercial mindset has no place as a driver of change in our schools.

The arrogance of the charter industry is getting to be boundless. They want the authority to expand without limits, with no accountability or transparency.

If the Democrats don’t stand up to this brazen effort to privatize public education, who will?

Steven Singer writes here about the latest raid on the public treasury in Pennsylvania.

Singer writes:

Fund my charter school.

Come on, Pennsylvania.

Let me just swipe tax dollars you set aside to educate your children and put them into my personal bank account as profit.


I’ll be your best friend. Or at least I’ll be your legislator’s best friend.

Chances are, I already am.

That’s why lawmakers in Harrisburg are once again looking to pass a school code bill (House Bill 530) that would let charter schools expand exponentially almost completely unchecked and without having to do any of that nasty, sticky accountability stuff you demand of your traditional public schools.

Sure there are a few provisions in there to make charters fill out more paperwork, but the benefits for privatization and profitization of your child’s education are huge!

For me, that is. For your child, not so much.

For instance, the proposed legislation would set up a charter school funding advisory commission. This august body would have many duties including the ability to authorize charter schools in your local school district.

No longer would prospective charter operators have to come before your duly-elected board members and plead and beg to set up shop and suck away hard to come by education funding. They could just appear before the commission and sidestep your local democracy completely.

Who will be on this commission? I’m glad you asked.

We’ve got eight legislators. Got to give THEM a voice. But they’re usually pretty cheap. A few bucks in the re-election campaign and we’ll be golden. We’ll also have the state secretary of education and the chairman of the state board. We’ve got to make the thing look legit, right?

But here’s the best part! We’ll have four public education representatives and FIVE representatives of the charter school industry!

Isn’t that great!? There are significantly more traditional public schools throughout the state, but they’ll have less representation on the commission! It’s stacked with charter friendly votes! The forces of privatization have a built-in majority! Ring the dinner bell, Baby! Once this bill gets passed, it’s charter school time all across the Commonwealth!

Once a charter school is authorized, it can expand as much as it wants, without the local district’s permission. It can even enroll students from outside the district and charge the district!

Worse, the bill authorizes “education savings accounts,” a euphemism for vouchers.

Is the Pennsylvania legislature is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALEC and the privatization movement.

The Network for Public Education is encouraging people who live in Pennsylvania to be informed and get involved. Don’t let them destroy public education that your community paid for. The schools belong to the public–or they should. Don’t let the privatizers take them away.

If you live in Pennsylvania, please, contact your legislators and ask them to oppose this terrible bill. The Network for Public Education has made it very easy. Just click HERE and you can shoot off a letter to your representatives in moments.

Oppose HB 530. Fight for public education.

I posted last night that Governor Pat McCrory plans to appoint a man to the state board of education who has little experience in public education, but is known for his strong support for removing a book taught in a high school English honors class.

North Carolina teacher Stuart Egan points out that the nominee has a conflict of interest. His wife ran/runs a school that receives state-funded vouchers.


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