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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Tommy Schultz, CEO-elect of the American Federation for Children (AFC). They discuss how COVID-19 school closures have increased the interest in alternatives to public schools, and what AFC’s polling shows on shifts in attitudes toward school choice options in both urban and rural communities. He shares predictions for school choice policymaking in the Biden administration and the largely Republican-controlled state legislatures. They explore the past successes of the left-right coalition in K-12 education reform that delivered charter schools, testing, and accountability, but has since splintered, and how the remnants of that coalition might respond to the teachers’ unions. Tommy offers insights into how advocates will need to communicate and mobilize state-by-state over the next five years to dramatically expand private school choice programs like vouchers, scholarship tax credits, and education savings account programs, which currently serve approximately 550,000 out of 56 million total K-12 students.
Stories of the Week: A new Pioneer Institute report on Boston’s only vocational high school (which also received coverage in The Boston Globe) calls for improved alignment between course and co-op offerings, and actual employment opportunities. New research from EducationNext raises concerns about over-diagnosis of Black and Hispanic students in special education programs. In some school districts, students are continuing remote learning, even while playing on sports teams – is this the right message to send about academic priorities?