Answer #2 The fixed cost argument

February 28, 2015 by

The fixed cost argument: School choice would lower the revenue to public schools. Since public schools have large fixed costs, school boards will have to raise taxes to cover these costs.

Every business has fixed costs. Managing and controlling fixed costs is part of making a business efficient. There is an easy place for public schools to “cut fat” and reduce their fixed costs: non-teaching overhead.

In 2007 Texas public schools spent only 41% of their operating expenses on teacher salaries. (TEA Snapshot 2012 Summary) I would expect that the non-teaching 59% of the budget could be trimmed somewhere.

That is one of the big benefits of school choice, it will force public schools to economize rather than raising taxes for more administrators and administrative buildings.

Answers to School Choice Objections

February 28, 2015 by

In the next series of posts, I will answer various “problems” with school choice that opponents raise.

1. The “creaming” argument: School choice will allow private schools to cream off the best students, “leaving behind” the poor students in the public schools. Vouchers don’t create ‘choice’ for parents and kids; they create ‘choice’ for private schools at taxpayers’ expense.

2. The fixed cost argument: School choice would lower the revenue to public schools. Since public schools have large fixed costs, school boards will have to raise taxes to cover these costs.

3. No schools will accept the vouchers: Elite private schools are very selective and a voucher would not cover tuition. Many private schools would refuse vouchers if state accountability tests or standards were required.

4. The fly-by-night schools argument: Due to the huge sums of tax money that would be newly available under school choice, fly-by-night schools would open, looking only to make a profit.

5. The First Amendment argument: Spending public tax dollars for religious schools violates Texas state and US federal constitutional separation of church and state.

6. The “No Research Shows Vouchers Work” argument: No credible research shows that school choice raises student achievement.

Taxpayers Savings Grants SB276

February 25, 2015 by

The link below displays a bill that is a very simple and straightforward voucher bill.  It focuses on savings to the State by awarding 60% of the State’s cost per child and leaving the residual 40% with the State. There are no low income or failing school requirements.  In order to assure a savings to the State, students currently in private school are excluded. However, kindergarten and first grade students are allowed to enter and stay in the program. Therefore, after 12 years all students in both public and private school will have access to a voucher. Click the link below to see a copy of the bill.

_TxprSavAcctSB276

Daniel Henninger Observes Leftist Opposition To Education Reform

February 17, 2014 by

Late last week Daniel Henninger had a really good column in the Wall Street Journal. He was discussing President Obama’s latest faux-concern, the issue of “income inequality.” In a column which was subtitled “The left will never support the solution to income inequality,” Mr. Henninger was looking at the new mayor of New York City, progessive Leftist Bill de Blasio, and he closed his WSJ column this way:

Let’s cut to the chase: The real issue in the American version of this subject is the low incomes of the inner-city poor. And let’s put on the table one thing nearly all agree on: A successful education improves lifetime earnings. This assumes one is living in an economy with better than moribund growth, an assumption no one in the U.S. or Western Europe can make anymore.

If there is one political goal all Democratic progressives agree on it’s this: They will resist, squash and kill any attempt anywhere in the U.S. to educate those low-income or no-income inner-city kids in alternatives to the public schools run by the party’s industrial-age unions.

Reforming that public-school monopoly is the litmus test of seriousness on income inequality. That monopoly is the primary cause of America’s post-1970s social-policy failure. And that monopoly will emerge from the Obama presidency and de Blasio mayoralty intact. So will income inequality.

Congressman Paul Ryan Talks Education In WSJ

January 26, 2014 by

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin wrote a feature column in the Wall Street Journal this weekend to discuss the “war on poverty” as it turns 50 years old. Congressman Ryan, who worked extensively with the late Jack Kemp in the early 1990’s before becoming a Congressman, is advocating many of the ideals that Kemp spent a career fighting for, such as parental choice in education, and local leadership taking control and solving problems, rather than bureaucrats in Washington far removed from the situation.

The two excerpts below really highlight some smart, innovative thinking when it comes to education. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I think Congressman Ryan shining a light on these ideas in the WSJ is really important. I’m curious to know your thoughts.

One day at Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, a fight broke out between two students. The staff separated them, but one of the students, a young woman named Marianna, refused to relent. She continued to fight—now with the staff—and to cause a stir. Then a call went out over the school radio for “Lulu” to respond. Soon, Marianna began to calm down. Once she arrived, Lulu quickly defused the situation. Of all the people at Pulaski High—all the teachers and administrators—only one person got through to Marianna that day, and it was Lulu.

“Lulu” is Mrs. Louisa, one of five youth advisers in Pulaski High’s Violence-Free Zone program. Along with program head Andre Robinson and site supervisor Naomi Perez, they work as a band of roving mentors. On a typical day, you’ll find them walking the halls in black polo shirts. They chat with students, break up fights and help with homework. Most of them are recent alumni who grew up in the inner city, and they have the scars to prove it. They’ve been part of gangs. They’ve seen violence firsthand.

But they don’t have education degrees or state certification. They have something more important: credibility. The youth advisers understand what the students are going through because they’ve had the same struggles. That credibility creates trust, and so the students listen to them. In the two years since the program started, suspensions at Pulaski High are down by 60%, and daily attendance is up by nearly 10%. Fourteen gangs used to roam the school grounds; today, they’ve all but disappeared. The school tried all sorts of things to keep students safe—more police presence, more cameras. But only this program worked.

Mrs. Louisa, Mrs. Perez and Mr. Robinson aren’t just keeping kids in school; they’re fighting poverty on the front lines. If you graduate from high school, you’re much less likely to end up poor. According to the Census Bureau, a high-school graduate makes $10,000 a year more, on average, than a high-school dropout, and a college graduate makes $36,000 more. Ever since that day at Pulaski High, Marianna has improved her grades and now she is looking at colleges. Yet for all its professed concern about families in need, Washington is more concerned with protecting the status quo than with pursuing what actually works.

Later:

• In education, give teachers more control, and give parents a choice. Some of the most exciting work in education has occurred in Indiana. Three years ago, then-governor Mitch Daniels shepherded through the legislature several bold reforms.

Before the reforms, union-negotiated contracts required teachers to earn compensation based on seniority, not performance, and the contracts dictated all aspects of the classroom experience, from the humidity level in the school to the number of hours a teacher must spend with students. Under the new laws, teachers’ pay is based on performance. In exchange, they have more control over the classroom. Collective bargaining covers only wages and benefits, so teachers can tailor the curriculum to the needs of their students.

Low-income families are also now eligible for tuition vouchers on a sliding scale, and the reforms allow parents unhappy with a low-performing public school to turn it into a charter school with the approval of their local school board.

If You Can’t Get More Public School Money Legislatively, Ask The Courts.

January 18, 2014 by

Kansas Democracy Lesson

A test of whether judges can overrule elected officials on taxes and spending.

Jan. 16, 2014 7:07 p.m. ET

If there’s one certain conclusion from the last 30 years of education reform, it is that more money doesn’t yield better student results. But you wouldn’t know it from the debate in Kansas, where activists are trying to get the state Supreme Court to overrule the legislature and spend at least $500 million more a year on schools.

This is a test of democracy with national resonance. The Kansas Constitution requires that “the legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” In 2005 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in a similar challenge that state aid to local school districts was insufficient and must rise to $4,400 per student. This is in addition to the $3,000 state aid per student for special ed and other programs and on top of what local school districts spend.

Eight years later spending has risen but test scores are flat, and now union activists allege that funding under Republican Governor Sam Brownback has fallen. That is only true if you include the one-time infusion from the Obama stimulus in 2010 and 2011. Apart from the stimulus, which was never meant to be permanent, Kansas school appropriations have risen slowly but steadily every year.

Judicially imposed school spending is a familiar strategy when unions lose in the legislature. Courts in about half the states mandated additional funding in the 1980s and ’90s after lawsuits alleged that spending was inequitable or inadequate.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Associated Press

In 1985 a Missouri judge took partial control of the Kansas City public schools on grounds of insufficient funding for minority schools. The judge ordered the state to spend $2 billion over 12 years. Per student funding more than doubled (to about $25,000 per student in today’s dollars) and the student-teacher ratio fell to 13 to 1.

The state built 15 new schools with computer and robotics centers, Olympic-sized swimming pools, and even a wildlife sanctuary. If money produces student achievement, it would have shown up in Kansas City. But as a Cato Institute study documented, a decade later black student achievement had not improved and even the judge admitted it was a failed experiment.

A study in 2009 by scholars Alfred Lindseth and Eric Hanushek examined public school performance in Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wyoming—the four states with the largest increase in funding due to court orders. They found that in three of the four states, “notwithstanding these dramatic spending increases, we found that student performance has languished.”

Test scores in these states have “not measurably improved relative to other states that did not have anywhere near the same influx of new school money.” The only improvement was in Massachusetts because its reforms included tough “non-financial” accountability standards.

Kansas school funding is more than adequate, with the state and local school districts combined spending about $11,776 per student on average. The state now spends about 50.5% of its budget on K-12 schools, which ranks fourth among states. If the lawsuit succeeds, the state would have to spend about 62%.

That would leave little for other priorities like roads or higher education unless the state raises taxes, which is probably the lawsuit’s real goal. Mr. Brownback and the GOP legislature cut taxes across the board in 2012, reducing the top income-tax rate to 4.9% from 6.45% and the tax on numerous small businesses to zero.

The plaintiffs claim there would be plenty of money for schools if not for the tax cut. But the Kansas Policy Institute, a local think tank, argues that the lawsuit’s spending could require a 23% income-tax increase or a 20% rise in local property taxes. Mr. Brownback’s tax cut is already attracting business to the state from its neighboring states, and a tax increase would undercut that economic progress.

This is also a test of the state Supreme Court. Four of the seven Justices were appointed by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius, of ObamaCare fame, and nominees are chosen by a commission dominated by the State Bar Association. The commission selects three potential nominees, and the Governor must choose one of the three.

This gives the lawyers’ guild effective control of the judiciary, creating a conflict of interest and pushing the judiciary to the left. Kansas Republicans want to change this selection process and let the Governor nominate state Supreme Court judges subject to state Senate confirmation, following the federal model. If the Justices impose an undemocratic tax increase, the GOP should move swiftly to reform judicial selection.

In 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court in Horne v. Flores reversed a judicial funding mandate in Arizona because “the weight of the evidence” indicates that accountability reforms, “much more than court-imposed funding mandates, lead to improved educational opportunities.” The Kansas Supreme Court should take that logic and precedent to heart.

Copyright 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

National School Choice Week is coming!

January 7, 2014 by
Register for rally today at  www.schoolchoicetrain.com

Register for rally today at www.schoolchoicetrain.com

Louisiana Voucher Assault, Round 2

December 3, 2013 by

Justice’s lawsuit takes a bizarre turn to keep kids in rotten schools.

Dec. 1, 2013 6:45 p.m. ET

The Justice Department campaign against Louisiana school vouchers gets curiouser and curiouser. Attorney General Eric Holder’s troops are now trying to prevent black parents from joining the case by amending their original lawsuit to block the vouchers in 22 districts.

Some Republicans in Washington, D.C., interpreted this motion as Justice dropping its lawsuit, but no one should be fooled. Justice now wants federal courts to establish what would essentially be a preclearance process letting DOJ approve every voucher.

Under Louisiana’s voucher law, only students from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line and who attend schools with a C grade or below are eligible for vouchers. Black kids received over 85% of the 6,800 vouchers this year, and 93% of their parents express satisfaction with the program.

But that doesn’t matter to Mr. Holder’s prosecutors, who sued in August on grounds that vouchers may lead to segregation under judicial orders dating to the 1970s. The original lawsuit literally claims, for instance, that black kids who use vouchers to attend private schools could leave public schools more white.

This objection has proven to be unfounded. Boston University political scientist Christine Rossell, who has spent 40 years studying school desegregation plans, has analyzed the Louisiana voucher data. She concluded in a study last month that vouchers overall had “no negative effect on school desegregation” and substantially improved integration in St. James and Lincoln parishes.

In September, parents of voucher students represented by the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options sought to intervene in the case. Justice at first argued that parents didn’t have a direct interest in the litigation since Justice was not “seeking to end the [voucher] Program,” though the department was seeking a permanent injunction.

That looked like a loser, so now DOJ says it wants federal Judge Ivan Lemelle to approve a “process to ensure that the State provides necessary information and complies with its desegregation obligations.” The goal here is to put the federal bureaucracy in charge.

Justice wants to review data on all voucher applicants including their race, public school district, whether and why they are granted a voucher and the private school to which they were assigned. And it wants that info at least 45 days before parents are notified that their kids will get a voucher. Why? Because the feds don’t want parents to know if the feds knock their kids from the voucher list.

DOJ is also claiming federal jurisdiction over the entire state, not merely the 22 districts under desegregation orders. Justice says it wants information on all voucher applicants, “including those in school districts not operating under federal desegregation orders, in order to review compliance with this Court’s [desegregation] orders that apply to private schools.” Translation: DOJ is threatening to audit private schools that admit voucher students. Shaking down private schools is another way to stunt the program.

At a November hearing, Judge Lemelle expressed skepticism of Justice’s case. Vouchers are “promoting racial balance in the school system,” he said, and “I don’t want to do anything to thwart that.” The judge has given the state and feds 60 days to agree to a review process. The Obama Administration should take this time to drop its morally offensive assault on the education of minority children.

Copyright 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Texas Battle of the School Choice Lobbying Powers

November 14, 2013 by

There are two lobbying organizations that are battling over School Choice legislation in Texas.

The current heavy-weight is “Raise Your Hand Texas”, and it opposes all School Choice legislation.

The up-and-comer is “Texans for Education Reform”, which supports limited School Choice legislation and opposes  “Raise Your Hand Texas”.  TER currently supports expansion of student access to online courses paid for by the state, removing the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, and enacting a strong “parent trigger” law.  Follow this link for an explanation of the “parent trigger”.  I hope that after TER succeeds with these limited goals, it will move on to more the aggressive goals, tuition scholarships and tuition tax-credits.

We need to support TER.  Like their Facebook page!  It wants to defeat “Raise Your Hand Texas”, school choice’s big bully.

The Softer Side of “No Excuses” at KIPP Academy

October 25, 2013 by

There are many excellent charter schools in Texas, but KIPP Academy, being one of the oldest “No Excuses” charter schools, has had the most said about it, both positive and negative.  This Education Next article is an accurate look inside a KIPP Academy in New Orleans.

Enjoy!


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