Archives for category: Vouchers


Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, has been studying the spread of the fake “reform” efforts across the nation (aka the Destroy Public Education Movement).

In this post, he reviews the damage done by authoritarian education “leaders” who have robbed students and teachers of the joy of learning while attacking public schools. He names names.

He begins:

For more than two decades, bureaucratic style top down education “reform” has undermined improvement efforts by professional educators. For budding teachers, beginning in college with the study of education and their own personal experience as students, an innate need to better education develops. However, in the modern era, that teacher energy to improve education has been sapped by the desperate fight to save public education from “reformers,” to protect their profession from amateurs and to defend the children in their classrooms from profiteers. 

Genuine advancements in educational practices come from the classroom. Those edicts emanating from government offices or those lavishly financed and promoted by philanthropies are doomed to failure...

Sadly, every business and government sponsored education innovation for the past 40 years has resulted in harm to American schools. Standardized education, standardized testing, charter schools, school choice, vouchers, reading science, math and reading first, common core, value added measures to assess teachers and schools, mandatory third grade retention, computer based credit recovery, turnaround schools, turnaround districts, and more have been foisted on schools. None of these ideas percolated up from the classroom and all are doing harm.

Paul Dorr is a little-known figure who has led numerous successful campaigns against bond issues in rural America over the past 25 years. He opposes public education. He believes that all education should be centered in religion and the church. Dorr is also active in opposing abortion and supporting gun rights. He burns books that he does not approve of.

A viral Facebook video offers some clues. It shows Paul Dorr, father of Aaron, Ben and Chris Dorr, burning books he checked out from a local library. 

It turns out the elder Dorr educated his 11 children at home, and took them along to protest outside abortion clinics as part of Operation Rescue.

Like his sons, Paul Dorr is active in politics. He’s developed a reputation as a fierce opponent of public schooling and works as a hired gun to help defeat school bond referendums across the Midwest.

But as Paul Dorr says, his reason for attacking public schools is “almost always not my client’s reason.” His clients may simply want to keep property taxes low.

But Paul Dorr’s plan is to eliminate public education entirely – to see the public education system “one day be gone, and restore education back into the hands of families, the parents and the Christians.”

This article describes his efforts to defeat a school bond issue in Worthington, Minnesota, intended to build a new high school.

Paul Dorr is:

a vehement opponent of public schools and supporter of religious-centric home-schooling who’s led campaigns that have helped defeat scores of bond issues in nine states — mostly in the upper Midwest — for the past 25 years. “Public education is a sin against God,” he has said. 

In the election season three years ago, Dorr was working as the communications consultant for a group called the Worthington Citizens For Progress Committee. It had created the flier. 

Dorr would eventually sharpen the anti-school-bond group tactics with a Facebook page, website, videos and memes to target local businesses, politicians and media. 

The material accused the school district of exaggerating the harm if the bond didn’t pass. It claimed the school board was mismanaging money and was incompetent, even deaf. The committee encouraged people not to eat at restaurants where school bond information was displayed and wrote critically about business leaders who supported the new school.

Dorr, who doesn’t live in Worthington — or in Minnesota, for that matter — was deploying tools of attack that seemed more fitting for political combat on a national stage, not a school bond vote in the American countryside. People were stunned.

Two months after the first signs of Dorr at King Turkey Day, the district lost its referendum vote — the first of four failed attempts between the fall of 2016 and the winter of 2019 to raise taxes for a new school.

David R. Taylor is a veteran teacher and blogger. He asks the important question of what to expect the consequences to be for public education if Trump is re-elected.

Very likely, it means four more years of Betsy DeVos and her crusade to destroy public education and shower federal money on charter schools, private schools, and religious schools.

Taylor reviews some of her worst actions, such as favoring predatory lenders and favoring for-profit colleges that rip off students. Such as, abandoning the kids who need her most by downplaying civil rights complaints and stripping transgender students of any protections. Such as, trying to starve her own department of funding.

Between the return of DeVos and a voucher-loving majority on the Supreme Court, public schools are in for a rough ride. We can’t change the composition of the Supreme Court (unless there is a genuine effort to expand it and add balance), but we can vote to make sure Betsy goes back to Michigan and her ten yachts.

For the past thirty years, school choice advocates have claimed that the best way to improve education was to give families public money to send their child to a private or religious school. The very fact of “privateness,” they said, meant better quality. This turns out not to be the case. Students never receive a voucher that is enough to pay for elite private schools. Typically, the voucher schools are lesser quality than the public school the cHold leaves, because voucher schools are not required to have certified teachers. In recent years, numerous studies show that children who leave a public school and go to a voucher school lose ground academically.

This study was published in 2018. Its findings are consistent with studies of voucher effects in the District of Columbia, Ohio, Indiana, and other states. Voucher schools are free to teach scientific nonsense and fake history. In Florida and elsewhere, they are free to discriminate against groups of people they don’t like.

Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, Parag A. Pathak, and Christopher R. Walters write in the Journal of the American Economic Association that participation in Louisiana’s voucher program “lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and also reduces achievement in reading, science, and social studies. These effects may be due in part to selection of low-quality private schools into the program.”

Despite the negative effects of vouchers, Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, and a host of school choice advocacy groups have continued to demand more and more funding for low-quality, unaccountable voucher schools. This funding is subtracted from public school funding, through a variety of schemes. Whether it’s a tax creditor a “scholarship,” individuals and corporations are diverting money to private schools that belongs in the state coffers to support public schools.

This is an excellent and comprehensive explanation of why Governor Bill Lee’s voucher plan has been rejected by two levels of the state judiciary. Lee is closely tied to Betsy DeVos, and he really wants vouchers but they are stalled. The legislature decided to put them only in Memphis and Nashville, against the will of the local governments. It seems there are some constitutional principles that matter more than the Governor’s wishes.

We hold that the ESA Act is local in effect and applicable to Davidson and Shelby counties in their governmental capacity,” the court wrote in its opinion.

As a result, the court found that the Legislature violated the Constitution by not allowing required referendums or votes of the county commissions when it approved the ESA program in 2019.

The court also found Metro Nashville and Shelby County had standing to file the lawsuit because county commissions are charged with funding local school systems.

The Legislature approved $25 million in this year’s budget for the program even though the governor decided to put it on hold after the Chancery Court found ESAs unconstitutional.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, said the Legislature needs to refund taxpayers for the voucher program and the Achievement School District, which has cost about $1 billion to run mostly charter schools in Memphis.

The state is likely to take the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court, but Parkinson said it is time to stop “wasting” money on the program.

The Attorney General’s Office said it is reviewing the ruling and consulting with the governor on its next steps.

“I think they should put this one to rest, go ahead and bury it and then bury the ASD right beside it and put up on the headstone: ‘We tried,’” Parkinson said.

The attorney for Nashville said the program not only violated home rule but would cost the district $111 million by year five.

Remember when Republicans supported local control?

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.