Archives for category: Vouchers

The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that Governor Bill Lee’s voucher plan is unconstitutional.

The voucher plan was supposed to be installed only in Memphis and Nashville, over the objections of their representatives. The deciding vote was cast by a legislator from Knoxville, after he was promised that the voucher program would not include his district.

A victory for friends of public schools and communities in Tennessee!

Dr. Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of education in Indiana, is a hero of public education. She has steadfastly sided with public schools and defied her own party’s embrace of charters and vouchers.

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports that Superintendent McCormick has endorsed Democratic candidates who support public schools instead of members of her own party aligned with the Mitch Daniels-Mike Pence privatization agenda.

Hinnefeld writes:

There was a time when Indiana Republicans supported public schools; at least, they supported their local public schools. The shift came in 2011, when Gov. Mitch Daniels got the GOP-controlled legislature to adopt school vouchers and expand charter schools. Today, many Hoosier Republicans have come very close to embracing the late economist Milton Friedman’s vision of a “universal” voucher program of unrestricted state support for private schools.

But McCormick, former superintendent of Indiana’s Yorktown school district, has been an outspoken advocate for public schools. Every time she spoke out for public school districts, you could see Republicans edging further away. When she announced in 2018 that she wouldn’t seek re-election, she implied that she was being elbowed aside. Legislators promptly changed the law so Indiana’s governor will appoint the state’s next chief education officer, starting in 2021.

Yes, support for public schools used to be bipartisan. Indiana has a long tradition of valuing public schools. But party leaders followed the Pied Piper, Milton Friedman, and determined to promote private school choice while defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of the state’s children.

Meanwhile, Hinnefeld writes, McCormick has endorsed Democrats because they, like her, believe in the importance of public schools.

I hereby add Jennifer McCormick to the Honor Roll of the blog, for her principled support of public schools and the common good and for her uncommon courage.

Betsy DeVos lost the biggest fight of her tenure as Secretary of Education. Federal judges consistently rejected her legally binding rule requiring states to give private schools a share of the $13 billion Congress allocated for public schools and for needy students in private schools. DeVos wanted private schools to get a share of the federal money without regard to the need of their students. The judges said no.

After fighting for her position, DeVos admitted defeat and decided not to appeal the court decisions.

Some states have already given federal funds to private schools, using DeVos’ formula, and it is not clear whether that money will be clawed back.

Charter schools also received a share of the $13 billion in CARES funds, which they qualified for as “public schools.” Many charter and private schools also applied for and received millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program (public schools were not eligible for PPP). A study by Good Jobs Inc. determined that charter and private schools obtained SIX TIMES as much federal relief money as public schools.

In this brief video, Dr. Leslie Fenwick, former dean of the College of Education at Howard University, explains why the “schemes” of corporate reformers always fail. She doesn’t hold back about charters, vouchers, Broad superintendents, and Teach for America.

The video is part of a series of hundreds of interviews of educators, conducted by former teacher Bob Greenberg. He calls his series the Brainwaves Video Anthology. After you watch Dr. Fenwick’s wonderful interview, you should browse his collection. It’s very impressive.

Jan Resseger describes a grassroots effort to stave off the persistent assaults on public schools by the Republican-controlled legislature and state officials. Ohio has a large and low-performing charter sector, as well as a well-funded voucher sector that has produced no gains for students.

The privatization movement has harmed the public schools that most students attend without providing better schools. While the nation has struggled to survive the pandemic, Ohio’s legislators have remained focused on expanding their failed choice plans.

Resseger describes the work of the Northeast Ohio Friends of PublicEducation and their decision to create a website to educate the public.

Resseger writes:

In this leaderless situation with schools struggling everywhere, no matter their efforts to prepare, questions of policy have just sort of faded away—except that the privatizers are doggedly trying to co-opt the chaos in every way they can. In Ohio, the Legislature has taken advantage of the time while the public is distracted by COVID-19 to explode the number of EdChoice vouchers for private schools at the expense of public school district budgets, to neglect to address the injustices of our state’s punitive, autocratic state takeovers of the public schools in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland, and to put off for over a year discussion of a proposed plan to fix a state school funding formula so broken that 503 of the state’s 610 school districts (80 percent) have fallen off a grossly under-funded old formula.

In recent years, most Ohio school districts have been getting exactly as much state funding as they got last year and the year before that and the year before that even if their overall enrollment has increased, the number poor children has risen, or the number of special education students has grown. And all this got even worse under the current two-year state budget, in which school funding was simply frozen for every school district at the amount allocated in fiscal year 2019. That is until this past June, when, due to the revenue shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor cut an additional $330 million from the money already budgeted for public schools in the fiscal year that ended June 30, thus forcing school districts to reduce their own budgets below what they had been promised. With much hoopla in the spring of 2019, the new Cupp-Patterson school funding plan was proposed. A year ago, however, research indicated (see here and here) that—partly thanks to the past decade of tax cuts in Ohio and partly due to problems in the new distribution formula itself—the new school funding proposal failed to help the state’s poorest schools districts. The analysis said that a lot of work would be required to make the plan equitable. New hearings are planned this fall, but nobody has yet reported on whether or how the Cupp-Patterson Plan has been readjusted.

In this context, discussions in the Northeast Ohio Friends of Public Education focused on our need to help ourselves and the citizens in our school districts find our way. What are the big issues? What information will help us explore and advocate effectively for policies that will ensure our schools are funded adequately and that funding is distributed equitably? In Ohio, how can we effectively push the Legislature to collect enough revenue to be able to fund the state’s 610 school districts without dumping the entire burden onto local school districts passing voted property tax levies? How can we help stop what feels like a privatization juggernaut in the Ohio Legislature? And how can federal policy be made to invest in and help the nation’s most vulnerable public schools?

The idea of a website emerged, with the idea of highlighting four core principles—with a cache of information in each section: Why Public Schools? Why More School Funding? Why Not Privatization? and Why Educational Equity? Although we have noticed that much public school advocacy these days emphasizes what public school supporters are against, we decided to frame our website instead about what we stand for as “friends of public education” even though our opposition to charter schools and private school tuition vouchers is evident in our website.

Educating the public is a crucial step in reclaiming the narrative from entrepreneurs, libertarians, and cultural vandals.

The Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance is led by Professor Paul Peterson, an advocate for school choice. It would not be off the mark to say that PEPG exists to promote the DeVos agenda. Soon after she was confirmed, PEPG invited her to speak, and her speech was disrupted by Harvard students not affiliated with PEPG. Peterson has been the mentor for a generation of pro-school choice academics, including Jay Greene (University of Arkansas, Department of Education Reform), Patrick Wolf (same, also served as “independent evaluator” of Milwaukee and DC voucher prigrams), and Martin West (Harvard Graduate School of Education). Peterson recently appeared at the White House to support Trump’s call to reopen schools and co-wrote an oped with Dr. Scott Atlas (both are senior fellows at the rightwing Hoover Institution). Dr. Atlas supports Trump’s views that mask-wearing should not be mandatory, that children and adolescents don’t get the virus, th ast schools should reopen without delay, and that lockdowns are unnecessary. In many articles about Dr. Atlas, Peterson is his reliable defender.

The event today asks whether teachers unions can be part of the solution. Michelle Rhee and George Parker. Parker was head of the Washington Teachers Union when Rhee was chancellor. When he stepped down, he went to work for Rhee. He now works for a charter school lobbying group. More than 90% of charters are non-union.

Fall 2020 Colloquium Series: Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?

The PEPG Colloquium series continues Thursday, Sept. 24, with “Can Teachers Unions Be Part of the Solution?,” a talk by Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO, StudentsFirst, former Chancellor for District of Columbia Public Schools, and George Parker, Senior Advisor, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, former President, District of Columbia Teachers Union.

Thursday, Sept. 24
12-1:15 p.m.
Register to attend the Zoom webinar

Have you ever wondered what really goes on in the courtroom? Would you like to have a front-row seat as lawyers argue for and against vouchers before the South Carolina Supreme Court?

Here is your chance.

Tonight at 7:30 pm EST, I’m having a Zoom conversation with University of South Carolina professor Derek Black. He will talk about his new book, Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, and about the case discussed in this video.

Please sign up here and join us. It’s like a seat in a graduate seminar in vouchers and school choice, offered by a top-notch constitutional lawyer.

Nancy Bailey writes here about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ contempt for the time-honored tradition of separation of church and state. She has made clear her strong preference for religious schools and her low opinion of public schools. We have never in our history had a Secretary of Education (or before the Education Department was created in 1980, a Commissioner of Education) who was so flagrantly hostile to public schools. Reagan’s second Secretary of Education Bill Bennett was a cheerleader for “choice,” but in the early 1980s, he didn’t have the wind behind his back nor did he have Betsy’s billions to advance the cause.

The United States is a very diverse nation, where people are associated with scores of different religions or none at all. The Founders wrote the First Amendment to prohibit the establishment of any official religion and to protect the free exercise of religion. They knew the dangers of state-sponsored religion. In our time, rightwing libertarians and anti-government ideologues are using their political clout to support government funding for religious schools.

It’s worth noting that every state referendum on vouchers for religious schools has gone down to a decisive defeat, most recently in Arizona, where 65% said no to vouchers.

DeVos has taken advantage of the pandemic to divert billions of dollars to private and religious schools, usually at the expense of public schools, which enroll the students with the greatest needs.

One good reason to vote for Joe Biden is to send DeVos home to Michigan.

He can’t possibly appoint anyone worse than DeVos.

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Adequacy and Equity, reports on the cost of school choice, relying on the data compiled by former legislator Steve Dyer. This is interesting because polls regularly show that the public is fine with choice if the money does not get subtracted from local public schools. It does. It always comes right out of the budget of local public schools. School choice always means budget cuts for public schools. There is no separate pot of money for charters and vouchers.

Bill Phillis writes:

Charters and vouchers took away over one-half billion in local revenue from school districts in school year 2019-2020

$525,187,286* in local revenue was deducted from school districts for privately-operated alternatives to the public common system. Columbus property taxpayers subsidized charter and voucher students to the tune of $76, 548,933* during the 2019-2020 school year.

Article VI §2 of the Ohio Constitution requires the state to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled four times that the system is unconstitutional. Yet the state removes hundreds of millions of dollars from school districts to fund the state’s pet projects. Incredible!

*Steve Dyer’s analysis

Please sign up and join the discussion between Steve Suitts and me on Zoom on Wednesday September 16. We will be talking about Steve’s new book Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement. You will be amazed to learn of the true history of school choice. It is definitely not the “civil rights issue of our time,” as Trump and DeVos claim.

Steve has been involved in civil rights work throughout his career. He was founding director of the Alabama Civil Liberties Union; executive director of the Southern Regional Council; and vice president of the Southern Education Foundation. He is also the author of a biography of Hugo Black, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice who played a large role in history.

You can sign up here.

Steve and I will talk for an hour, and then we will open the floor for your questions.