Tag: school choice

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I’m running for the Illinois General Assembly and one of my main issues is changing the way Illinois pays for education. I’ve been looking around for programs that give a bigger role to parents and am drawn to Nevada’s Educational Savings Account. I’d like to hear from any Ricochetti who are Nevada residents to get […]

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American Jewish Committee Endorses Abolishing Public Schools?

 

shutterstock_345233993In response to calls at the Republican National Convention for more school choice, the American Jewish Committee’s spokesperson announced that not only do they oppose the taxpayer subsidy of private schools, but they even oppose public schools. See for yourself:

For more than 50 years, school choice has been a contentious issue for American Jews. Decades ago, mainstream Jewish organizations were vociferous in defending the separation of church-and-state, worried that if the government got involved in funding religious schools in any way, it could lead to infringement on Jewish religious freedom. Those fears, according to American Jewish Committee associate general counsel Marc Stern, remain today.

“The Jewish community has long been concerned that government not be in the business of supporting private education,” Stern said. “Communities that want to maintain religious schools should pay for them on their own without government support. People shouldn’t be taxed to support things they don’t agree with.”

The New York Times Misrepresents Charter School Research

 

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a front-page story purporting to show that “betting big” on charters has produced “chaos” and a “glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students.” (One wonders how many of those low-income families are upset that they have “too many” options.). However, the article’s central claim about charter school performance rests on a distorted reading of the data.

The piece claims that “half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.” This is a distortion of the research from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Although the article actually cites this research – noting that it is “considered the gold standard of measurement by charter school supporters across the country” – it only does so to show that one particular charter chain in Detroit is low performing. (For the record, the “gold standard” is actually a random-assignment study. CREDO used a matching approach, which is more like a silver standard. But I digress.) The NYT article fails to mention that the same study found that “on average, charter students in Michigan gain an additional two months of learning in reading and math over their [traditional public school] counterparts. The charter students in Detroit gain over three months per year more than their counterparts at traditional public schools.”

There’s No Such Thing as a “Public” School

 

shutterstock_356921591Perhaps the most pervasive myth about our nation’s education system is the notion that “public schools have to take all children.” Last year, when criticizing charter schools that she claimed, “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids,” Hillary Clinton quipped, “And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody.” In fact, they do not. At best, so-called “public” schools have to take all children in a particular geographic area, although they can (and do) expel children based on their behavior. They are more appropriately termed “district schools” because they serve residents of a particular district, not the public at large. Privately owned shopping malls are more “public” than district schools.

This wouldn’t be a serious problem if every district school offered a quality education but, in fact, they do not. Rather, the quality of education that the district schools provide tends to be highly correlated with the income levels of the residents of those districts. As Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation and I noted last year, our housing-based system of allocating education leads to severe inequities:

There is a strong correlation between these housing prices and school performance. In nearly all D.C. neighborhoods where the median three-bedroom home costs $460,000 or less, the percentage of students at the zoned public school scoring proficient or advanced in reading was less than 45 percent. Children from families that could only afford homes under $300,000 are almost entirely assigned to the worst-performing schools in the District, in which math and reading proficiency rates are in the teens.

A Victory for Religious Liberty and Educational Choice in Nevada

 

School ChoiceDismissing a challenge from the ACLU, yesterday Las Vegas District Court Judge Eric Johnson ruled that Nevada’s education savings account (ESA) program is constitutional. Nevada parents who opt out of the public school system can receive ESAs into which the state deposits a portion of the funding that the state would have provided had their child attended a public school. Parents can then use the ESA funds on a wide variety of approved educational expenses, including private school tuition, tutoring, text books, homeschool curricula, online learning, educational therapy, or even college courses.

The ESA program was set to go into effect this year, however, it is still on hold due to a second lawsuit in which a judge issued an injunction halting administration of the program. That case is currently pending before the Nevada Supreme Court, and it is possible that the two legal challenges will be merged.

The ACLU challenged the ESA law on two central grounds, claiming that it violated the Nevada Constitution’s “uniformity” clause and the state’s historically anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment. Siding with the state of Nevada and the Institute for Justice, the court rejected these claims.

On Religious Liberty, the Bathroom Wars, and Educational Choice

 

shutterstock_112057673Every now and then, Thomas Sowell writes a column titled “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene” where he offers up gems like “Stupid people can cause problems, but it usually takes brilliant people to create a real catastrophe.”

I’m no Thomas Sowell, but here are a few of my own (much less pithy or clever) random thoughts the passing education policy scene:

Montana Department of Revenue: Religious Families Need Not Apply

Shake Off the Trump Blues and Advance School Choice

 

imageWith Trump on the verge of coronating himself King of the GOP, the conservative movement is in disarray. Unsurprisingly, the Ricochetti themselves are a microcosm of the movement generally. There are postmortems, dire warningspredictions of doom, expressions of hopecalls to fall in line, the burning of GOP registration cards, plenty of acrimony, pleas for civility, and even explanatory pop-culture allegories.

While conservatives work all that out, I have a suggestion: Shake off the Trump Blues and keep pushing ahead with liberty-friendly policies at the state level. One of the most important policies conservatives should be working to advance is school choice.

The Evidence Is In: School Choice Works

Should a Policy’s Racist History Matter?

 

shutterstock_54864934It’s funny. Left-wing opponents of school choice frequently carp about the fact that some segregationists thought school vouchers would be a swell way to avoid sending their kids to school with blacks, as though that’s a reason to oppose them today, even though research shows that school vouchers foster racial integration and their primary beneficiaries tend to be black and brown kids.

If so, why isn’t the extremely racist history of the minimum wage also relevant?

Progressives originally designed the minimum wage to keep racial minorities out of work. As Princeton Professor Thomas C. Leonard, author of Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era, detailed in the LA Times, progressives in the early 20th century proposed the minimum wage as a solution to the supposed problem of “race suicide,” the idea that immigrants and racial minorities were working for cheap wages, thereby undercutting the wages of American-born whites, who in turn had fewer children rather than lower their standard of living. (You hear echoes of this in the modern alt-right’s complaints about “white genocide.”) In the long run, these eugenics-enamored progressives feared that “inferior races” would “outbreed and displace their white Anglo-Saxon betters.”

Government Regulations Block Child from Attending School of Choice Because He’s Black

 
1409263130986

Segregated water fountains in North Carolina, 1950. (Photographer: Elliott Erwitt)

It’s a story that’s almost impossible to believe in 2016. Edmund Lee, a third-grader attending a charter school in St. Louis, recently learned that he would no longer be able to attend his school after his family moved to St. Louis County. Their new location isn’t the problem — other students from that area are allowed to attend Gateway Science Academy. He can’t attend his school of choice because he’s black:

Watching the Education Policy Watchmen

 

shutterstock_47640616Earlier this week, respected researchers from two universities released a four-part study on the effects of Louisiana’s school voucher program. Yet even though the researchers provided a layman’s summary of their findings, media coverage of their study varied significantly.

What makes for better or worse coverage of new research? Well, first the reporter needs to tell us what the study found and why it’s important. She should also provide context for those findings. Are they consistent with or divergent from the findings of previous research? Particularly in the latter case, good reporting will also explore the underlying causes of the findings, especially as the study’s authors understand them. And since reporters rarely have a background in policy research, they should consult with multiple experts who have different views about how to interpret the study’s findings or what their implications are. This being the 21st century, online reporting should contain a direct link to the study so that readers can easily access it to learn more. Finally, because the “tl;dr” crowd often sees only the headline, the headline should be accurate. (Note: editors usually choose the headline, not the reporters.)

Based on those criteria, I came up with the following, quick-and-dirty rating system to determine the quality of reporting on new research. As with other rating systems, results will vary depending on the weight given each criterion. But like speed limits, although the precise levels of points assigned are ultimately arbitrary (why not 67.5 miles per hour?), I nevertheless believe they reasonably reflect the relative importance of each criterion.

A Free Society Requires Educational Freedom

 

shutterstock_81053836Over at the Washington Post’s essential Volokh Conspiracy blog, David Kopel retells the fascinating and important story of how, in 1922, the US Supreme Court came to recognize the right to teach one’s children in a language other than English — an extension of the general right to raise and educate one’s children according to one’s conscience.

In 1919, Nebraska outlawed teaching students younger than 9th grade in any language other than English. Like the Blaine Amendments, such laws were primarily directed at Catholic and Lutheran schools, which often taught religious studies in the native tongues of children’s immigrant families. When Robert T. Meyer, a schoolteacher at a Lutheran school, was arrested for teaching in German, he appealed his conviction all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Meyer’s lawyer, Arthur Mullen, argued that the Nebraska law violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of liberty, which he explained included “the right to study, and the right to use the human intellect as a man sees fit… [M]ental liberty is more important than the right to be physically free.” In response to pushback from Justice James Clark McReynolds during oral arguments, Mullen argued that the freedom of parents to educate their children in their religious tradition and values is central to freedom generally:

How Congress Should — and Shouldn’t — Bolster School Choice

 

School ChoiceThis week, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on “Expanding Education Opportunity through School Choice.” As I’ve written before, there are lots of great reasons to support school choice policies, but Congress should not create a national voucher program:

It is very likely that a federal voucher program would lead to increased federal regulation of private schools over time. Once private schools become dependent on federal money, the vast majority is likely to accept the new regulations rather than forgo the funding.

When a state adopts regulations that undermine its school choice program, it’s lamentable but at least the ill effects are localized. Other states are free to chart a different course. However, if the federal government regulates a national school choice program, there is no escape. Moreover, state governments are more responsive to citizens than the distant federal bureaucracy. Citizens have a better shot at blocking or reversing harmful regulations at the state and local level rather than the federal level.

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Last week’s Snowmaggedon brought out the usual zombie-apocalypse furor in my New Jersey township. Before the storm, every checkout aisle at the store was ten persons deep and the shelves were cleared of bottled water and rock salt. People white-knuckled their grocery carts and had that “I’ll go mano a mano with you for that […]

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What School Choice Supporters Can Learn from the Conservative Response to Trump

 

photo1This is National School Choice Week and Donald Trump appears poised to capture the GOP presidential nomination. What do the two have to do with each other? Absolutely nothing. But it seems the only way to get any attention these days is to talk about Trump, and who am I to argue?

Seriously though, I think there is a lesson for school choice advocates in how elements of the conservative movement are responding to the Trump phenomenon. One healthy conservative response has been self-reflection and self-criticism, particularly concerning the effectiveness of conservative messaging and the importance of understanding first principles. That’s something school choice advocates should do as well.

Perhaps the most concerning sign that large portions of the GOP base don’t fully embrace or understand conservative principles was the poll showing that GOP voters’ positions on key issues varied significantly depending on whether the pollster said that Trump supported it. Worse, the voters’ fickleness was not confined to obscure issues like the Export-Import Bank or the Federal Reserve, but rather the most hot-button issues of the Obama presidency.

amelia-hamiltonRicochet Editor-in-Chief Jon Gabriel and KTAR-FM’s Jim Sharpe welcome writer Amelia Hamilton to explain the impact of school choice on Big Education and liberals’ unhinged reaction to her updating of “Little Red Riding Hood” for the NRA. Jon and Jim also discuss Planet 9, polonium-210, and the delicious Pollo Asado combo platter at El Chapo’s Mexican Hideout.

You can subscribe to the podcast here.

Music is “Step On” by Happy Mondays, Photoshop by Jon, and thanks to KTAR for the kind use of their studio.

Markets & Curriculum

 

shutterstock_258757268The education system in the United States has been slipping lower and lower over time, despite massive increases in expenditures per student. This has made the case for school choice stronger than ever, especially in the era of the Internet. An education market is the best way to spark innovation, discover new ways of imparting information to students, and lower costs. And its biggest beneficiaries would be poorer, mostly minority, students who currently have the fewest options.

However, I want to focus on one particular aspect of market-based education that is often either overlooked or put in a wrong way: Educational choice shouldn’t be just about how — or how well — schools teach, but also about what they teach. One of the advantages of having an education market is that it’s more perceptive to changes in society (for example, the rise in importance of computer science) than top-down alternatives. This is important.

Even when a conventional system wants to evolve and succeed, its artificial attempts to reallocate capital and make changes will always lag further behind society than those of a freer market. Furthermore, a bureaucracy’s attempts to perceive what society needs — instead of society deciding itself — ultimately leads to the education system reflecting the bureaucracy’s values much more than the those of the people it’s supposed to serve.

Arizona Governor’s End Run Around Education Unions

 

1409113012000-Doug-DuceyArizona Governor Doug Ducey is not your typical politician. He rose to prominence as the CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, turning a sleepy local chain with a handful of stores into an international brand with nearly 1,500 locations in 31 countries. Having mastered business, he entered state politics, spending four years as Arizona’s treasurer until his landslide election as governor one year ago.

Since his inauguration, Ducey has already fulfilled several of his campaign promises, but his trickiest pledge remained: How could he give more money to classrooms without raising taxes? For decades Arizona has led the nation in school-choice initiatives, but a years-long court case mandated more money for the K-12 education. This summer, a judge ordered that an additional $336 million be spent at once and perhaps as much as $1.3 billion in back payments in the near future. As I note in my article for The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Gov. Ducey knows how to wheel and deal while keeping his promises to the taxpayers:

Reviewing several poor options, the governor’s office noticed something curious about the results of the 2000 [schools] tax increase. Education spending had gone up 41%, but the share of funds eaten by non-classroom expenses, such as plant operations and student support services, had grown every year for the past nine. The state auditor’s office calculated that in 2013 Arizona spent only 54% of school funds in the classroom, compared with 61% nationwide. Several academic studies have shown a direct correlation between that figure and student achievement, so it’s no surprise that Arizona ranks near the bottom in educational success, too.

Will New Data Nudge Democrats to Change Their Minds on Universal Pre-K?

 

twenty20_2550bff8-ceb5-404b-b988-0db7b62e480e_Preschool-e1445890691432I sense Ezra Klein did not enjoy writing this piece about new pre-K research:

Perhaps preschool doesn’t help children as much as we thought — or hoped. A new study by Mark Lipsey, Dale Farran, and Kerry Hofer finds that children who were admitted to Tennessee’s pre-K program were worse off by the end of first grade than children who didn’t make the cut.

The study is beautifully designed — it takes advantage of areas in Tennessee where demand for the program outstripped supply, so entrance to the program was decided randomly. That means researchers could compare outcomes for kids who randomly got in with outcomes for those who randomly didn’t, and isolate the effects of the program. What they found should worry advocates of universal pre-K.

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As news broke of Oregon allowing 15-year-olds to receive tax-payer funded sex change surgery without parental notification, school choice still remains a controversial issue in the state. Some states in the forefront of educational reform have charters, ESAs, tax credits, and even vouchers for the needy.  Neither ESA nor tax credit legislation has ever made it to […]

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