For Immediate Release: For more information, contact: Carol Burris, NPE Executive Director, 718-577-3276, cburris@networkforpubliceducation.org

PRO-VOUCHER SPECIAL INTERESTS WORK TO FUNNEL PUBLIC FUNDS INTO UNACCOUNTABLE AND EXTREMIST NETWORKS

The Network for Public Education (NPE) calls for the immediate cessation of ESA voucher payments to homeschoolers and all other non-school-based “individualized” instruction programs based on the discovery of an online homeschooling network whose primary purpose is to teach young children to be Nazis. According to the report in the Huffington Post, its numbers thus far are in the thousands, but the greater threat is how its existence exposes the dangers of publicly-subsidized vouchers designed to fund extremist beliefs.  Such programs, including so-called micro-schools, operate with almost no curricular supervision or public fiscal oversight, allowing them to legally indoctrinate children with a distorted hate-filled curriculum directly supported by public funds.

NPE President Diane Ravitch stated, “Our nation fought a World War to defeat Nazism. Public funds should not be used to propagate hatred of our fellow citizens. Public education exists to foster mutual respect among all citizens. Our public dollars should be used to teach the shared values of democracy, especially the rule of law, the equality of every person, the importance of free and fair elections, and the value of education in pursuing a life of dignity and purpose.”

Seven states now fund programs solely supervised by families with no control over whether a sound academic curriculum is taught. Eight states have introduced legislation that would either start or expand such programs. 

“These ESA voucher programs, which are mislabeled as scholarships and saving accounts, have been subject to fraud and abuse,” said Dr. Carol Burris, NPE executive director. “NPE has long held concerns that funded at-home programs might teach children misinformation or a radical curriculum of hate. This Neo-Nazi homeschool network now confirms our deepest fears.”

Many ESA voucher laws do not require the parent to present evidence that the student has learned anything to receive thousands of dollars in public funds.

In states that have adopted voucher plans, the academic results for students who left public schools are “disastrous,” says Josh Cowen, a professor at Michigan State University and a veteran voucher researcher. In addition, 75-80% of voucher funding goes to students already enrolled in private or religious schools. 

NPE also calls on every state to carefully review its homeschool laws. Eleven states do not require homeschoolers to report that their child is homeschooled, making a mockery of state compulsory education laws. No states have laws that would prevent the teaching of hate curricula.

“As more states adopt laws that fund unregulated radical schooling arrangements, we must ensure that children’s emotional and physical well-being are guarded. While we cannot protect children from those parents who would fill their minds and hearts with hate, we can at least ensure that our tax dollars are not supporting such instruction,” Burris concluded.

The use of public funds to support extremist and anti-social agendas, unfortunately, has a long track record for the privatization community, especially as today’s unpopular modern school vouchers being pushed in legislatures across the country have evolved from the segregationist reaction to the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling.

The Network for Public Education (NPE) was founded in 2013 by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. Its mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools for current and future generations of students. We share information and research on vital issues that concern the future of public education. For more information, please visit: networkforpubliceducation.org

This post appeared on the Network for Public Education blog. It shows the common theme of vouchers in other states: They subsidize the students who are already enrolled in private schools. The legislation was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds.

Ed Tibbetts: Few Iowa families will have more choices with GOP ‘school choice’ plan

Ed Tibbetts substacks at Along the Mississippi. In this op-ed for the Iowa Capital Dispatch, he looks at the true cost of Kim Reynolds’ voucher plan.

He writes:

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says her plan to use taxpayer money to pay for private schooling gives people a choice to educate their kids where they want.

But that’s not what her plan says. Just look at the details: Only certain families with kids in public schools will get that choice.

What this plan really does is pay people who already are sending their kids to private schools.

Like many voucher programs, this one really sticks it to rural taxpayers.

Forty-one counties in Iowa have no private schools, according to the group Common Good Iowa. Another 23 counties only have one private school.

What choice do those kids and their parents have?

Not much.

What Reynolds’ plan really does is take their tax money and send it to families who live somewhere else.

But while this program may have an impact on taxpayers, its impact on students will be meager.

Rural or urban, though, even the governor’s own proposal acknowledges relatively few people will get this money. About 33,000 Iowa kids go to private schools now, and the governor says when her plan is phased in, that number will nudge up to about 38,000.

That’s not much of a change: Just 5,000 kids.

Meanwhile, approximately 500,000 Iowa kids will remain in underfunded public schools.

Do the math: Her plan only pays for 1% of Iowa kids to go from public to private school, but the costs balloon to roughly $340 million a year when phased in – or 9% of the basic state aid going to public schools now.

And like the several voucher plans being rocketed through red state legislatures right now, the Iowa plan is being fast-tracked–quick, before the voters notice!

The plan also is being moved quickly. That’s because the governor knows the longer this lingers, the better people will be able to grasp the consequences. The longer a light is shined on it, the more people realize this plan isn’t supposed to enable them to make a choice, but to pay for people who already have made it.

In the meantime, it sucks money away from the vast majority of public-school students who will remain in classrooms where districts already struggle with rising costs while the state turns a blind eye; in schools where our state spends less per pupil than most other states in the country; in schools where teachers whose salaries lag will eventually go to places where their skills are better rewarded and they aren’t scorned in service of the culture wars.

Read the full piece here. 

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/blog-content/ed-tibbetts-few-iowa-families-will-have-more-choices-with-gop-school-choice-plan/

Keith Benson is a teacher in Camden, New Jersey. He is also President of the Camden Educators Association, an author, and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. He wrote the following article for the Newark Star-Ledger. He reminds us that when Republican governors and ideologues talk about “parental rights,” they assume that only white parents have parental rights. Black parents too have parental rights, and black and white and Latino and Asian students—all students— have the right to learn accurate, factual history.

To make sense of America’s fixation with the (non)existence of critical race theory (CRT) in schools and the ways by which CRT became a partisan flashpoint, we must consider this phenomenon as a contemporary manifestation of what Emory University professor Carol Anderson calls, “white rage.”

With corporate news media refusing to unequivocally point out that CRT, a complex legal theory, is not taught in K-12 schools but is taught in some graduate schools of education and law schools, allowed predominantly white grievants and Republican politicians to shapeshift CRT into anything American history-adjacent that offended their whitewashed sensibilities.

Republican lawmakers like Ron DeSantis and Glen Youngkin, along with a host of conservative pundits, Greg Abbott (Texas), and Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Arkansas), and astroturf “parent groups,” don’t want American children – which does include Black children – to learn, and in some cases making it illegal to be taught this history at all.

The decrying of CRT is part of a long American tradition of white backlash that is aided by a well-funded conservative messaging apparatus skilled in amplifying white rage for political gain based on misinformation in efforts to protect whiteness and the societal benefits it provides white Americans.

By exhaustively covering anti-CRT rallies at suburban school board meetings following President Joe Biden’s convincing defeat of Donald Trump in 2020, mass media platformed white grievance in response to an imaginary issue.

A complicit media apparatus, however, is not the only bad actor advancing CRT propaganda. As the organized effort attacking CRT is also bolstered by some of the same education reform advocates who champion school choice as the answer for, ironically, urban Black parents to receive a “better” education.

White backlash, the concept that greater equity achieved through increased political representation or economic opportunity for non-white ethnic groups results in a loss of social status among white Americans, has been ubiquitous throughout our nation’s history.

The passing of the Second Amendment, the amendment conservatives hold so dear – that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of students and school staff to preserve it in its entirety – was passed to pacify slave states by permitting them to arm militias consisting exclusively of white men, to crush efforts by enslaved Black people, if they chose to fight for their freedom as exhibited in the Stono Rebellion (1739) and Haitian Revolution (1791).

The enacting of Black Codes immediately following Emancipation and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, the nation’s first terrorist organization, founded soon after Black Americans gained access to the franchise; the establishment of school choice resulting from the Brown (1954) decision where white parents refused to integrate southern public schools, and instead began an alternative schooling system in protest of white tax dollars going toward educating Black children are not examples of CRT, but historic examples of how white rage impacts our society today.

In its place, Republican lawmakers are calling for the teaching of white supremacist “classical” “patriotic” history and social studies curriculum that uncritically celebrates American history that lionizes the “founding fathers,” and uncritically champions capitalism.

Aside from conservatives and lawmakers’ commitment to derail students’ understanding of history, is the collection of individual groups like the Center on Educational Excellence, National Charter School Alliance, and National Parents Union who supported those Republican governors’ rise to power in advocacy, or in their silence against lawmakers’ campaign of miseducation

For decades, education reform advocates, consisting primarily of wealthy ideologues and representatives from the business community, publicly lamented the shortcomings in public education as evidenced by test scores and graduation rates.

They argued that privatizing education in the form of school vouchers, charter schooling, online education, and now homeschooling are answers to “underperforming” public schools — a message targeted principally toward Black parents.

While much could be unpacked regarding the nonsensical nature of that argument, through massive funding of “think tanks” and foundations, combined with sustained lobbying of lawmakers of both parties, the goal of shifting collective responsibility of educating all of America’s children through its public schools to that of a private endeavor where parents focus only on what impacts their child directly, has been achieved.

Significant expanses of the country see their public institutions deliberately dismantled and replaced with more voucher and corporate charter schools.

Where is the prominent pushback from the reform community from the likes of KIPP, Teach For America, the Broad Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, and National Charter Schools Conference, to the deliberate miseducation of America’s students, including the Black students to whom these organizations appealed for decades?

As Republican lawmakers endeavor to pass more choice legislation while simultaneously mandating the whitewashing of American history, we have to ask: Do Black parents have a choice in the type of history their child will learn, or is the concern for Black parents’ choice matter only to conservatives and reformers when weaponized to attack public education?

Keith E. Benson is the author of Education Reform and Gentrification in the Age of #CamdenRising: Public Education and Urban Redevelopment in Camden, NJ (2018) available on Peter Lang Publishing at www.peterlang.com. He is the President of the Camden Education Association, a board member of the Network for Public Education and co-founder of Working Together, LLC.

Christopher Mathias wrote at Huffington Post about a group called Dissident Homeschool that provides resources for parents who want to teach their children to be Nazis. Through research and inquiry, he found the names of the couple who administer the site. Many of the states enacting voucher plans include payments for homeschooling. If you live in one of those states, your tax dollars might be subsidizing the training of Nazis.

Please read the entire article. It’s too long to repost in its entirety. It is awful that parents would do this, and worse that it is subsidized by public funds in many state voucher plans.

Mathias writes:

On Nov. 5, 2021, a married couple calling themselves “Mr. and Mrs. Saxon” appeared on the neo-Nazi podcast “Achtung Amerikaner” to plug a new project: a social media channel dedicated to helping American parents home-school their children.

“We are so deeply invested into making sure that that child becomes a wonderful Nazi,” Mrs. Saxon told the podcast’s host. “And by home-schooling, we’re going to get that done.”

The Saxons said they launched the “Dissident Homeschool” channel on Telegram after years of searching for and developing “Nazi-approved material” for their own home-schooled children — material they were eager to share.

The Dissident Homeschool channel — which now has nearly 2,500 subscribers — is replete with this material, including ready-made lesson plans authored by the Saxons on various subjects, like Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (a “grand role model for young, white men”) and Martin Luther King Jr. (“the antithesis of our civilization and our people”).

There are copywork assignments available for parents to print out, so that their children can learn cursive by writing out quotes from Adolf Hitler. There are recommended reading lists with bits of advice like “do not give them Jewish media content,” and there are tips for ensuring that home-schooling parents are in “full compliance with the law” so that “the state” doesn’t interfere.

The Saxons also frequently update their followers on their progress home-schooling their own children. In one since-deleted post to Telegram, they posted an audio message of their kids shouting “Sieg Heil” — the German phrase for “hail victory” that was used by the Nazis.

Over the past year, the Dissident Homeschool channel has become a community for like-minded fascists who see home schooling as integral to whites wresting control of America. The Saxons created this community while hiding behind a fake last name, but HuffPost has reviewed evidence indicating they are Logan and Katja Lawrence of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Logan, until earlier this week, worked for his family’s insurance company while Katja taught the kids at home.

The Anonymous Comrades Collective, a group of anti-fascist researchers, first uncovered evidence suggesting the Lawrences are behind Dissident Homeschool. HuffPost has verified the collective’s research.

The Lawrences did not respond to repeated requests for comment made via phone calls, text messages and emails. A HuffPost reporter also left a message in the Dissident Homeschool channel asking Mr. and Mrs. Saxon for comment about the Anonymous Comrades Collective’s research. That message was immediately deleted by the channel’s administrators, who then disabled the channel’s comment and chat functions.

A short time later, Katja Lawrence deleted her Facebook page.

Although the Lawrences will now surely face some public scorn and accountability, it’s likely their neo-Nazi curriculum is legal. A concerted, decades-long campaign by right-wing Christian groups to deregulate home schooling has afforded parents wide latitude in how they teach their kids — even if that means indoctrinating them with explicit fascism.

Meanwhile major right-wing figures are increasingly promoting home schooling as a way to save children from alleged “wokeness” — or liberal ideas about race and gender — in public and private schools. As extreme as the Dissident Homeschool channel is, the propaganda it shares targeting the American education system is just a more explicit and crass articulation of talking points made by Fox News hosts or by major figures in the Republican Party.

“Without homeschooling our children,” Mrs. Saxon once wrote, “our children are left defenseless to the schools and the Gay Afro Zionist scum that run them….”

Nazi Groomers

A post from Dissident Homeschool, a channel on Telegram where neo-Nazis learn to indoctrinate their children.

Mr. and Mrs. Saxon appeared to be thrilled to see their Dissident Homeschool channel gain a larger following. When the channel reached 1,000 subscribers, Mrs. Saxon posted a Nazi-era photo from Germany of uniformed schoolchildren throwing up fascist salutes. “It fills my heart with joy to know there is such a strong base of homeschoolers and homeschool-interested national socialists,” she wrote to mark the occasion. “Hail victory.”

Mrs. Saxon does the bulk of the posting in Dissident Homeschool, and developed extensive lesson plans that other neo-Nazi parents could use for their children. These lesson plans — about Christopher Columbus, the history of Thanksgiving and German Appreciation Day, as well as a “math assignment” about “crime statistics” that is meant to teach kids which “demographics to be cautious around” — are deeply racist.

One lesson plan about Martin Luther King Jr. tells parents to teach their kids that the revered civil rights leader was “a degenerate anti-white criminal whose life’s work was to make it impossible for white communities to protect their own way of life and keep their people safe from black crime.”

“Typically speaking,” Mrs. Saxon wrote in a post, “whites build societies whereas blacks destroy them.”

Included in the lesson plan is a copywork assignment for parents to print out, so that their kids can practice cursive while writing out a racist quote by George Lincoln Rockwell, the infamous American neo-Nazi.

Jeffrey Fleishman of the Los Angeles Times describes the assault on librarians by rightwing groups and parents who want to ban books. Across the country, but especially in red states, librarians are vilified as “the arm of Satan” by those who want to control what books are on the library shelves. If you want to read a concise summary of book-banning, read my book The Language Police, published by Knopf.

He writes:

In her time as a Texas school librarian, Carolyn Foote watched the image of her profession veer from “shrinking violets behind spectacles” cataloging titles to “pedophiles and groomers” out to pollute the minds of the nation’s youth.

“Librarians came from a climate of being so appreciated to hearing this message that we’re reviled,” said Foote, co-founder of Freadom Fighters, an advocacy group for librarians that has nearly 15,000 Twitter followers. “It was an astonishing turn of events.” A lot of librarians are asking themselves whether they want to remain in the profession, she added. “At least five people I know have retired early.”

Once a comforting presence at story circle and book fairs, librarians have been condemned, bullied and drawn into battles over censorship as school and library boards face intensifying pressure from conservatives seeking to ban books exploring racial and LGBTQ themes. Those voices have grown stronger in red states since the pandemic, when parental groups opposed to mask mandates expanded their sights and became more involved in how and what their children were taught.

Recent polls suggest most Americans are not in favor of banning books. But concentrated pressure by politically connected parental groups, said Peter Bromberg, a board member at EveryLibrary, a nonprofit library advisory group, “has librarians facing a great deal of stress. There are signs on people’s lawns calling librarians pedophiles.” They face pressure from principals and administrators over book displays, and “neighbors talk about them being an arm of Satan.”

Books are displayed at the Patmos Library

The Patmos Library in Jamestown, Mich., which lost public funding after a campaign by conservatives, forcing it to rely on donations.

(Joshua Lott / Washington Post via Getty Images)

Some librarians are fighting back; others have lost or left their jobs. The culture wars over books come at a time when about 27% of public libraries have reduced staff because of budget cuts and other reasons, according to a 2021 national survey. Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozado, president of the American Library Assn., said librarians’ problems are compounded by attacks that are part of an effort “seeking to abolish diverse ideas and erode this country of freedom of expression. I see it as the dismantling of education.”

::

A number of school board meetings in recent years have become explosive and emblematic of the country’s political animosities. Parents yell, boo, shake fists and hold up sexually graphic images in dramas that play out on social media. Similar scenes have erupted at public libraries, including at the Patmos Library in western Michigan, where at least two librarians have quit amid pressure and harassment from residents demanding the removal of LGBTQ books and young adult graphic novels.

(Joshua Lott / Washington Post via Getty Images)

At the library’s December board meeting, librarian Jean Reicher denounced critics a week after the building closed early over fears for the staff’s safety. She said that signs around town labeled her a pedophile and that she’d received abusive phone calls and had iPhones pointed at her. Her emotional retort came a month after a campaign led by conservatives succeeded in defunding the library, forcing it to rely on donations.

“We have been threatened. We have been cursed,” said Reicher. “How dare you people. You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. You have said I’ve sexualized your children. I’m grooming your children.”

She raised her hands. Her anger welled.

“I have six grandkids out there,” she said, ticking off the offenses aimed at her. “I moved to this town 2½ years ago, and I regret it every day for the last year. This has been horrible,” she continued. “I wasn’t raised this way. I believe in God. I’m a Catholic. I’m a Christian. I’m everything you are.”

School and library boards are encountering demands from conservative lawmakers and parental groups, such as Moms for Liberty and Mama Bears Rising, and in a few instances the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, to scour libraries of what they consider upsetting pornographic and LGBTQ depictions. Many conservatives criticize schools as overrun with progressive ideas that are confusing children about race and gender.

“By exposing our children to adult concepts such as gender identity we are asking them to carry a load that is much too heavy for them,” Kit Hart, a Moms for Liberty member, said in a video posted last year from a school board meeting in Carroll County, Md. “A 10-year-old should not be reduced to his sexuality.”

A video posted on the Moms for Liberty website shows another one of its members outlining her concerns at a public meeting in Mecklenburg, N.C.: “Parents beware of terms like social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion. Those inherently good things are being used to disguise a biased political agenda,” she said. “Our schools are becoming indoctrination camps and a breeding ground for hatred and division.”

Florida and other states have placed tougher restrictions on books that schools can stock. A Missouri law passed last year makes it a crime for a school to provide sexually explicit material to a student. After a discrimination complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a Texas school district after a superintendent directed librarians to remove LGBTQ-related books.

“We have been thrown to the forefront of the cultural wars whether we want to be there or not,” said Amanda Jones, a middle school librarian in Livingston Parish, La., who last year broke out in hives and fell into depression after she was threatened for speaking against censorship. “It’s not fun to be vilified in your small town or the country at large. It’s all related to their using political fear and outrage. And they’re using children to do it.”

Jones was skewered by conservative activists, including Citizens for a New Louisiana, after she warned at a library meeting that “hate and fear disguised as moral outrage have no place in Livingston Parish.” A picture of her appeared online with a red circle around her head — resembling a target — and she was called a pig and a supporter of teaching anal sex to 11-year-olds. Someone suggested she should be slapped.

Martha Hickson, a high school librarian in Annandale, N.J., endured similar stress and said she lost 12 pounds in one week after she was accused by a parent at a school board meeting of being a groomer by providing graphic novels and memoirs, such as “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, that could influence children toward “heinous acts.”

“What really stung was that my name was used in that context,” said Hickson, 63,who in 2020 received the American Assn. of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award. “It was devastating. I broke down and I couldn’t stop crying.” She couldn’t catch her breath, she said, and “couldn’t speak in full sentences. I cracked two teeth from grinding and was fitted with a night guard. I go to the pool now and swim three times a week. It washes the stress away.”

Jessica Brassington, head of the Texas-based Mama Bears Rising, which advocates for increased parental oversight in education, said her intent is not to rebuke librarians or teachers but to get stricter state guidelines on selecting school books in what she sees as a broader war against her Christian faith.

“We want to protect our children. We’ve seen the dark side of what can happen beyond the book. Suicide. Alienation,” said Brassington, whose organization has pressed for the removal of books in school districts and warned against children being indoctrinated by an “evil” sexual agenda. “We want to know what books are available to our children. … The parents are being bypassed.”

::

Calls to ban certain books in schools have arisen for generations among liberal and conservative parents, educators and activist groups. Classics such as Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” have been pulled from reading lists. Books deemed to be obscene such as “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Tropic of Cancer” were censored for decades. In the 1980s, well-funded and organized groups like the Christian right Moral Majority condemned books on secular humanism.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed laws to restrict school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.

(Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Those battles echo today and have accelerated as religious conservatives and right-leaning politicians, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have backed bills to limit school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation. Of the 1,648 titles banned in schools across the country in the 2021-22 school year, according to a PEN America study, 41% had prominent LGBTQ characters or explicitly explored LGBTQ themes.

“It’s hard to compare this to anything other than the Red Scare in the 1950s,” said Foote, a retired high school librarian of 29 years who was named a Champion of Change by President Obama. “There’s nothing else remotely close to this.”

Open the link and read the rest of the article. It might be behind a paywall. I subscribe to the Los Angeles Times. It’s a terrific newspaper.

In a taped conversation, a lobbyist for vouchers in Utah said what everyone suspected: “I can’t say this is a recall of public education, even though I want to destroy public education. I can’t say that. The Legislature can’t say that because they’ll be just scraped over the coals.”

She said the quiet part out loud.

She was supposed to say that vouchers would give every child a chance to get a better education.

She forgot to say that vouchers would enable EVERY child to get a great education “regardless of their zip code.”

She forgot her talking points.

She said what she and her team say when there are no reporters or recorders around. The goal is “to destroy public education.”

When the story was published, the lobbyist apologized for saying what she believed.

No freedom in Florida! The state where personal privacy goes to die! Soviet-style mind & body control! I’m guessing the purpose of this diktat is to check to make sure no trans women are competing in women’s sports. But there are worse things at stake her. Privacy. Freedom. An intrusive state, a government that counts your menstrual cycle. Gross!

#DictatorDeSantis

Now that Florida is a red state, the legislature plans to offer vouchers to every student. The legislators expect to do maximum damage to public schools, which will inexorably lose funding and students. Nothing has been said about how to pay for the proposal. Voucher schools in the state are mostly religious and are completely unregulated. Neither their principals nor their teachers need to be credentialed. They are also free to discriminate on any grounds.

The Miami Herald reports:

Florida Republican lawmakers this year will consider offering every K-12 student thousands of dollars each year for their families to spend on education.

Parents would have access to state-funded accounts and use them to pay for private school tuition plus a wide variety of school-related expenses.

The proposal, if approved, would make the state’s school voucher program bigger than ever. But one key fact about the pitch remains elusive: its cost. It could total billions of dollars.

House Speaker Paul Renner said last week he plans to make the proposal, House Bill 1, a priority during the annual legislative session, which starts March 7.

The measure is already being fast-tracked. It will have its first committee hearing Thursday morning in Tallahassee.

So far, the measure carries no financial impact statement. That’s despite the knowledge that hundreds of thousands more children would be eligible for annual payments of about $8,000 each.

The cost, according to the staff analysis, is “indeterminate.” And that “is not reasonable,” said Norín Dollard, a senior research analyst at Florida Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on quality of life issues for Floridians. The group issued a report on voucher funding in September.

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS NEW STUDENTS WOULD BE ELIGIBLE

About 266,000 Florida children attend private schools without using any current state scholarship or voucher, Dollard notes. All would be eligible for education savings accounts under the proposal. In addition, approximately 150,000 children receive home schooling.

HB 1 would provide accounts to as many as 10,000 of them in the first year, with more to come in following years. Conservative back-of-the-napkin math suggests that if just 25% of the newly eligible students participate, and those currently in the program remain, the added cost would reach $600 million, Dollard said.

As participation grows, the total could approach $4 billion or more within five years, she added. If that’s the policy decision in leadership, so be it, Dollard said. But it needs to be funded somehow.

A RECURRING FINANCIAL OBLIGATION

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, focused on that issue during a hastily called Monday evening Zoom meeting to discuss the measure with public education advocates.“

“We have very, very serious concerns,” Eskamani said during an interview. “This is an annual shift of money. Where is it coming from?”

When unveiling the measure at a news briefing, Renner said it was too early to know how much money might be needed. Much depends on how many children want to avail themselves of the vouchers, he said, and where the Legislature sets per-student funding for the year.

At the same time, Renner stressed his goal is to further open school choice so “no one is left out.” The bill would eliminate most eligibility restrictions, though it would prioritize children whose family income is at or below 185% of the federal poverty level — or $55,500 for a family of four.

It also would broaden uses of the money beyond private school tuition to include education expenses such as tutoring, testing and college courses. It would allow students to bank up to $24,000 for those uses, and further permit children already attending private schools without state support to request a share of the funds.

“To effectively deliver a quality education, policy makers and education advocates must accept that every student has unique learning needs, that education dollars belong to the student and not a system, and that public school choice offers every student an opportunity to customize their own education,” Renner said Tuesday, when asked about the associated costs.

A SPIKE IN PARTICIPATION IS EXPECTED

Dollard and others said they anticipate wide interest in participation, with much of it coming from families already paying for private schools. In Arizona, which has a similar education savings account program, the state reported 80% of applicants never attended public schools.

That flips the idea of money following the student on its head, Dollard suggested, because those students never had their education covered by state money in the first place.

School district finance officers said they understood the leadership’s position that the details aren’t firm enough to know the full financial impact.

But using the state’s most recent voucher expansion plan as a guide, they had concerns that this initiative would take money away from district budgets and leave them little ability to plan.

That’s what happened the last time the state expanded vouchers in 2021 with the taxpayer-funded Family Empowerment Scholarship. Officials touted the program as adding $200 million for vouchers, allowing 61,000 more children to afford private school.

Districts saw some money go out the door, but nothing like what happened in 2022. Halfway through the 2021-22 school year, school budget officers across the state learned that three times the amount of money they had set aside to send to voucher programs would be required, based on updated attendance figures from the state.

In some counties, such as Pasco, efforts to provide employee raises were derailed as the money officials expected to use was diverted to the vouchers. All told, the cost had grown to $1 billion.

The current year has provided similar sticker shock. The Legislature approved a budget with no specific amount set for the scholarships. By the second education funding calculation in July, the price tag had increased to $1.3 billion.

That meant the Miami-Dade County school district would have to send $225 million from its budget to the voucher program, for example, and the Hillsborough County school district would send $75 million.

When the third calculation came out this week, districts learned they would be losing even more. If the state lifts the eligibility restrictions, Pinellas County Schools chief finance officer Kevin Smith predicted, it will become even more difficult to predict the financial impact.

He suggested the state should at least consider taking the money out of the public education funding program and create a separate line item.

That way, schools would know what to expect and they could budget appropriately. In recent years, the DeSantis administration has taken the position that unexpected changes in enrollment can pose a financial strain on local school districts.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article271630112.html#storylink=cpy

This is one of Peter Greene’s finest posts. He explains the real reason that Republicans have fallen in love with vouchers. They want to eliminate public schools and in time shift the financial burden of schools to parents, not taxpayers. One of the loudest voucher advocates, who got his doctorate from the University of Walton….the University of Arkansas’s so-called Department of Educational Reform, where they teach the doctrine of school choice, posted a photograph of himself and a woman whom I assume was his wife at a funeral, celebrating the death of public schools. When we go high, they go low.

Greene writes:

The new wave of voucher bills being rammed through red state legislatures all demonstrate a truth about school voucher policies– vouchers are not about choice. They’re about peeling people away from the public school system in order to defund and dismantle that system.

What makes me think so? Here it is. Sometimes it’s not about what people say, but about what they don’t say.

If the concern were really and truly choice for every student, then voucher fans would be addressing some of the real obstacles to school choice.This door doesn’t lead where they told you it would.

For one, they would be addressing discriminatory and exclusionary policies. Yet when have we ever heard a voucher supporter say, “These discriminatory policies have to stop. LGBTQ+ students deserve just as much school choice as any other students.”

The closest thing we ever get is “Well, then they can start an LGBTQ-friendly school of their own.” Yet when that happens, pro-voucher politicians target that school with terms like “perversion.” And of course in some states, such a school can never happen because talking about LGBTQ students or Black history has been outlawed. And voucher laws are written to hold the private school right to discriminate as it wishes inviolable.

If someone were serious about voucher based choice, they would also address cost. Vouchers are typically far too small to pay for tuition to top schools in the state. If voucher supporters were really interested in making sure that, as Jeb Bush says, “each and every…student can access the education of their choice,” there would be a robust discussion about how to bridge the gap between meager vouchers and expensive schools.

Yet we never hear voucher advocates saying, “We need to find the way to fully fund vouchers so that they provide a real choice to students.” Choice advocates like to point at the inequity of the public system–parent choice is limited by their ability to buy an expensive house in a wealthy neighborhood. But the current crop of voucher programs doesn’t change that a bit–a voucher offers little to change the fact that how much “freedom” you get depends on how wealthy you are.

It has been done. But when Croydon, NH set up a school choice program, a voucher-like system that bore the full cost of sending a student to the school of their choice, local libertarians tried to shut it down because they wanted lower taxes.

Voucher fans love the idea of school choice; they just don’t want to actually pay for it.

If these folks were serious about school choice via vouchers, we would have calls for oversight and accountability. It would make a choice system that much more attractive for parents to know that all the available options have been vetted and screened and will be held to some standards, just like shopping in a grocery store where you can rest easy in near-certainty that whatever you pick, it’s not going to actually poison your family.

And yet not only do voucher fans not call for oversight and accountability, but they actively block it with language that hammers home that nobody can tell vendors what to do or how to do it.

Voucherphiles like to call their system child-centered, but in fact it is vendor-centered, with “protections” for the service providers written into the law, and protections for the students non-existent. Parents are left to navigate an unregulated system of asymmetrical information that favors the businesses– not the families.

Please open the link and finish the post. And while you are at it, subscribe to Peter’s wonderful blog.

After especially awful massacres, the public expects Congress to take meaningful steps to limit access to guns. Sandy Hook. No action. Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Florida. No action. The Pulse Nightclub. No action. The Las Vegas music festival massacre. No action. Uvalde. No action. The recent massacres in California? What do you think? Why no action? The Republicans block every attempt to enact meaningful restrictions.

CNN posted a summary of where America stands internationally a day before the killing of 11 people in Monterrey Oark, California.

CNN) – Monterey Park. Atlanta. Orlando. Las Vegas. Newtown. Parkland. San Bernardino. Uvalde.

Ubiquitous gun violence in the United States has left few places unscathed over the decades. Still, many Americans hold their right to bear arms, enshrined in the US Constitution, as sacrosanct. But critics of the Second Amendment say that right threatens another: The right to life.

I insert here that my understanding of the Second Amendment is that it pertains not to the right of every individual to “bear arms,” but to the maintenance and arming of a “well-regulated militia.”

For a time in the 1990s, the Supreme Court agreed, and let stand a decade-long ban on assault weapons.

The 2nd Amendment says:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The CNN article continues:

There are 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey (SAS). No other nation has more civilian guns than people.

More guns than people!

Read the article.