Posts Tagged ‘Vouchers’

Mr. President, What’s Up with Superman?

October 6, 2010

Here’s another great WSJ editorial, “Speak Up on D.C. Schools, Mr. President“, about Obama and education reform.  Some highlights:

That deafening roar you hear—that’s the sound of Barack Obama’s silence on the future of school reform in the District of Columbia. And if he doesn’t break it soon, he may become the first president in two decades to have left Washington’s children with fewer chances for a good school than when he started.

The mayor who appointed [DC’s] reform-minded schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, went down to defeat.  Even now, when Ms. Rhee’s fate—and that of D.C. school reform—hangs in the balance, Mr. Obama remains mute.

“All he has to do is to say two simple sentences. First, ‘I support anyone who gives D.C. parents more options and more accountability.’ Second, ‘We need to keep D.C. on the path of reform with a schools chancellor like Michelle Rhee,'” …says Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform.

“All presidents have the bully pulpit,” says Mr. Chavous, head of the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunity. “This president in particular has the power to change hearts and minds instantly.”

But will he?

Vouchers Go Bipartisan in Pennsylvania

September 8, 2010

The WSJ reports good news from Pennsylvania. Both the Republican AND Democratic candidates are supporting school vouchers. Highlights:

Last month, and to widespread surprise, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato came out in support of school vouchers for underprivileged kids.

[In] November Pennsylvania voters will get to choose between two candidates who are on record in support of a statewide school voucher program.

The Obama Administration … refuses to acknowledge that vouchers can play a role in reforming K-12 education. But states and cities are the real engines of reform, and the Pennsylvania developments are another sign that the school choice movement is alive and well.

Chicago Democrat Embraces Vouchers

February 25, 2010

A fascinating WSJ article about Rev. James Meeks, a black pastor, who is also a leading voice for the Illinois Democratic Party, choosing to force reform on the Chicago public schools.

Read this quote by Rev. Meeks to understand his wisdom.

The voucher movement seems to have been born, or seems to have been started as a Republican idea. That’s the way Democrats look at it. That’s the way black lawmakers look at it. This is a Republican idea. This is what the Republicans want to push on us. . . . We don’t seem to see public schools not working in your area.

How does “the Reverend Senator” plan to get enough Democrats on his coalition to get [vouchers passed]?

“I’m banking on the difficulty Democrats will have telling these parents, ‘No, you’re not going to have choice. Your kids are locked into these failing schools.'”

More Evidence of ‘What Works’ for American Education

February 8, 2010

Three highlights from an excellent WSJ article about research in favor of vouchers.

“In 2008 the graduation rate for voucher students was 77% versus 65% for the nonvoucher students…”

The voucher students receive less than half the public funding that the public students receive.

“The Milwaukee program has survived for 20 years despite ferocious political opposition, and it would have died long ago if parents didn’t believe their children were better off for it.”

Sasha Sidorkin’s Hyper-Vouchers: Analysis & Comparison to Other Proposals

July 20, 2009

This is an editorial by Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Sidorkin from the Dallas Examiner.com.   Dr. Sidorkin also has a book entitled Labor of Learning and a blog entitled “The Russian Bear’s Diaries”.

Hyper-Vouchers: A Radical Solution for American Education

Both New York City schools and Washington, DC schools have pilot programs that pay students to learn. Mexico and Brazil have programs that pay families whose kids go to school. This is, by far, the most radical, and the most promising solution to the educational underperformance of American kids. In my view, these programs are not radical enough, because the sums paid to kids are nowhere near to what the public spends on education.

In the fiscal year 2006, school districts in the United States spent an average of $9,138 per student. New York State’s average is almost $15,000, although the City’s expenditures are a little lower, at about $12,000 in the 2004/2005 academic year (the last available year). We’re talking very serious money. Just imagine that the money would be paid not to schools but to the families directly, if the children can demonstrate learning. If the family has the skills and motivation to teach their own kids, they pocket the whole $15,000 a year. If they cannot, they may hire a tutor or sign up with a school of some sort, and share the learning income with those schools or tutors. Pass a test – get paid.

This would put the incentives to where they belong – with students themselves. We can provide all kinds of incentives to teachers, but if children are not motivated, it is not going to work. Education is not consumption; it is hard work, and it benefits us all more than it benefits about half of all K-12 students. This is why we’re subsidizing it in the first place. We should treat learning as any other job: if the society as a whole benefits from basic education, and is willing to pay money for it, why not pay directly to those people who actually need to learn?  For the educational system to become more efficient, we must stop paying for attempting to teach, and start paying for proven learning.

Is it possible to implement? You bet. ETS and other testing agencies have decades of experience in administering tests on mass scale. Those tests do not need to be primitive testing of facts; they can include sophisticated measures of thinking, writing, and computational skills. Testing centers can be cheaply set up wherever there is internet access; each kid can have an account that keeps track of tests and of money paid to the student.

Will it leave behind poor children? Not at all; in fact, it will put resources into the hands of poor parents, and allow them to find the best educational solutions – with or without schools. We can also index payments in such a way that children with disadvantages such as poverty, non-native speakers, or with disabilities – receive higher payments than those kids with advantages. That will attract more talented teachers and tutors to poorer neighborhood, and create incentives for better specialized services for kids with learning disabilities.

Hyper-vouchers are the way to go. America has a history of radical, bold innovations. It has not been a part of our educational system for a while, but perhaps now is the time.

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Bob Schoolfield’s Analysis and Comparison to other Proposed Solutions

I am surprised the no one has commented on your radical (hyper-voucher) solution to the education mess.  Maybe they thought it was too preposterous (but I don’t) to comment on.  So I will bless you with a comment on your plan.

First, I will describe what I think are the differences between your plan and a traditional voucher plan.  I also want to compare your plan with the education tax credit plan advocated by the Cato Institute.  Then, I will give what I see are the advantages and disadvantages to each plan.

1. Hyper-voucher: The family is “paid” only if the child makes progress on an achievement test.
Traditional voucher: The family gets their voucher regardless of academic achievement.
Tax Credit: The family gets a “private scholarship” from a Scholarship Organization, which may or may not put some academic progress requirement on the scholarship.  The Scholarship Organization is funded by a dollar for dollar tax credit on the “ISD tax”.

2. HV: The family gets hard cash.
TV: The family gets an “education stamp” (like a food stamp) that can only be spent for school tuition and may need to provide proof of attendance.
TC: The family must provide receipts or proof of attendance to get from the Scholarship Organization reimbursements for family educational expenses or monthly payments directly to the school.

3. HV: Money comes directly from government. (public money)
TV: Also, money comes directly from government. (public money)
TC: Money comes indirectly through tax credits. (private money)

Next, the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

1. Hyper-voucher
Advantages:
A. There is a clear financial motivation for the student in partnership with the parents to work hard to meet the achievement test goal.

B. The family has the freedom to choose whatever means is best to achieve the test goal (no strings).

C. Because the state is providing the funds, the program can start in full force after passage.

Disadvantages:
A. How does the family finance the student’s education the first year?
Possible answers:
a. No government provision, i.e. attend public school or finance from family’s current resources.
b. First year the family gets “full pay” unconditionally.

B. How does the state avoid paying double?  If the state pays to educate student in public school, and the family gets paid when student passes the exam, then state has paid double.
Possible answer:
a. Attending public school disqualifies the family from being paid.  This is a strong disincentive for
attending public school and the exodus from public school will be more rapid.

C. There is a strong incentive for the state to make the achievement test very difficult so that they only pay a few families and force the rest back into the public schools.

D. If a student flunks the achievement test, what happens to the student?
Possible answers:
a. Family gets no pay and student must return to public school or be financed from family’s current
resources.
b. Rather than a pass/fail test, it could be a 0% – 100% test and the family gets the students percentage
grade of the “full pay” hyper-voucher.

E. Who designs the test?  Since the stakes of passing the test are so high, you have a temptation to “teach to the test” or even cheat, e.g. tester sells half the answers via a kickback.  Is only one test adequate in high school?  How about a “white collar” test and a “blue collar” test.

F. Will the teachers unions let it pass?  I think not.  If they won’t let vouchers be passed, to which they can attach all types of government strings, they are not going to let unrestricted hard cash out of their bank account with no strings attached.  They will hate it even more when they realize that families have a disincentive to stay in the public school system.  Either traditional voucher or tuition tax credits have a much better chance of passing.

G. The money come directly from a government account so it is “government money”.  Although U.S.Supreme Court has ruled favorably for government money to be used in a voucher system, there are still problems in state courts.  Many states have very restrictive language in their constitutions prohibiting any state funds going to any sectarian school.  These are called “Blaine amendment” after the senator that promoted them in the 1800’s.  Google “Blaine amendment” and you can study the historical context under which they were passed.  Texas has a Blaine amendment, although it is not as restrictive as most of the amendments.  Voucher programs in Florida, Colorado and two in Arizona have been struck down in state courts because of the Blaine amendments.

2. Traditional Voucher
Advantages:

A. Because the state is providing the funds, the program can start in full force after passage.

Disadvantages:
A. The family doesn’t have a clear financial motive to do well in school.  The traditional voucher has no academic restrictions.  Although this is an advantage to the HV, I think it is much less than Mr. Sidorkin believes.  I believe that the primary reason that parents are not involved in their child’s education is because they see themselves as powerless to have any control or ownership of their child’s education.  When the great majority of parents see that they can choose their child’s school, they will take ownership of their child’s education, become more involved, and make sure they get a good education for their voucher.  I believe that most parents don’t want an easy road for their kids such that the kids can’t take care of themselves.

B. The TV is much more likely to have “bureaucratic strings” attached to its redemption by a private school.  This would restrict the use of the TV money much more than the HV.  The HV has only one powerful “academic achievement string” making it less likely to get any other strings.

C. Will the teachers unions let it pass?  It’s much more likely to pass than the HV, especially if the unions can attach a lot of strings in the effort to get their tentacles into the private school industry.

D. The TV has the same “government money” problem that the HV does.

3. Educational Tax Credit
Advantages:

A. The most important advantage of the TC program is that the money comes from private donors, who receive tax credits for their donations.  This money is NOT PUBLIC MONEY.  It is clearly private money and is free from any attack based on the money being public money.  So far every tax credit program in existence has withstood every lawsuit raised against it.

B. The organizations distributing the scholarship money are a private charities, Scholarship Organizations.  Because there can be many such Scholarship Organizations, each can develop their own academic and/or attendance requirements using whichever test they choose.

C. Since the state is not distributing the scholarships, the families are more likely to have plenty of freedom to choose whatever means is best to achieve a quality education for their children.  Private schools will be much more comfortable receiving scholarships from a private charity than from the government.

D. Will the teachers unions let it pass?  Although any of these reforms will meet with teachers union resistance, I believe the TC program has the best chance of passing.  Why?
a. Because tax credits are a well established public policy vehicle.
b. The state doesn’t have to write a check to a family or private school.  It’s much more painful to give
up money that you already possess than to not get money that you anticipated getting.  That is why
payroll deduction works so well for collecting taxes.

Disadvantages:
A.  Because the state is not providing the funds, the program will start slowly and gain momentum over time.  The program has to be sold to donors and scholarship organizations have to be created.

(Advantage E.)  Actually the slow start has an advantage in overcoming teachers union resistance.  They also know that the program will start slowly and may or may not get real traction.  This slow start lowers the threat level of the TC program over the HV or TV.

In summary, I believe that the education tax credit program is the clear winner. I would give second place to the hyper-voucher with the huge disadvantage being that the teachers unions would NEVER let a hyper-voucher program pass the state legislature.  The traditional voucher comes in last.

Testimonials from Parents and Students who have experienced school choice.

May 17, 2009

These testimonials are from parents that have experienced parental choice of schools through private vouchers awarded by a sister organization to Let’s Choose Schools in Texas, the Austin Children’s Educational Opportunity Foundation

I took my daughter out of public school because she was feeling a lot of pressure and negative influences to do the wrong things.  She was getting into trouble and was very depressed. The new school environment we chose has helped  tremendously with her self esteem and is helping her to make good choices.
Syreeta

Education has always been a very big part of our lives… We invest a lot of time and energy in partnering with our teachers and participating in school activities.  We strongly believe that our children will develop into successful men and women in an environment that reinforces the values and principles that we teach at home.
Monica

I feel that the method used is academically outstanding at the school we picked. The school provides a very nurturing environment for our son.  I would like for my child to get the best education possible–an education suited to his learning needs.
Ammathyst

Taxpayers! Do you want to stop feeding the public sector? Then support tuition tax credits!

May 16, 2009

Support tuition tax credits, even if you are not that excited about school choice!

In the WSJ article entitled “Unions vs. Taxpayers“, Steve Malanga persuasively makes the point that public sector unions are the most powerful political force in government.  Their goal is to move the nation toward socialism.

If taxpayers are going to turn the nation around toward smaller government, they must cut the taxes going to the government trough that are feeding these socialists.

The most obvious way is to refuse to pay your taxes.  This approach has the inconvenient consequence of  having the IRS hot on your trail.  Is there a safer way to keep the tax money out of  the public sector?

Yes!  It is tax credits!  With tax credits, the money is still coming out of your pocket, but it stays in the private sector!

What is the biggest spigot that can be turned off with tax credits?  School Taxes!  How big is this spigot?  When you add state, local, and federal money going to public education, it is bigger than the defense budget!  State and local taxes make up more than 80% of this money.

How do we turn off this spigot?  Tuition tax credits are the answer.  With tuition tax credits, all your school tax dollars could be redirected to the private school sector before the public sector gets their greedy hands on it.  But you get a second benefit.

In addition to keeping the money away from the teacher unions, you allow private schools to teach the kids to be productive members of society, rather than preparing them to be wards of the state.

When those kids become productive members of society, they also become TAXPAYERS!  More taxpayers means more people that want smaller government.

If you want smaller government, the first place to start is with tuition tax credits, EVEN IF YOU LOVE YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL!

2,000 D.C. Parents and Children Demand Action on School Choice at Wednesday Rally

May 6, 2009

May 6, 2009 (D.C. Children First)–At a rally today on Freedom Plaza, nearly 2,000 D.C. families demanded that Mayor Adrian Fenty, the D.C. City Council, and Congress defend their right to school choice, participating in an historic rally to protect the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and public charter schools.dc-rally-11

“We are here to support you and to stand up for choice” said Current D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr.

Supporters delivered a petition to Mayor Adrian Fenty with over 7,400 signatures. The petition was signed by D.C. residents who support quality educational options, including the reauthorization and strengthening of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

“Every child in our city should have the opportunity to succeed” said former D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams. “To put our kids first, we need to fight to see that the U.S. Congress, the D.C. Council, and my successor all support school choice for our children.”

We will demand an education for our children – one at a time if we have to – by any means necessary” said former D.C. Councilman Kevin P. Chavous.dc-rally-2

Many parents attended the rally, including Patricia William, who has a 7th grader and a Kindergarten student in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. “I am here to testify that this program works. My son has made tremendous progress. I think all parents should have the opportunity to send their children to the schools of their choice.”

D.C.’s current school choice options are under attack. Public charter schools are facing funding cuts, attempt to curtail their autonomy, as well as limited access to closed public school buildings to meet their growing demand. And both Congress and the Department of Education have taken steps that could end the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

“We ought to tell the Congress to fund this program and not let D.C. families down. Therefore we have to fight, fight, fight to protect school choice,” said Councilman and Former Mayor Marion Barry.

“This program has changed my life and has made me the successful young man standing before you,” said Ronald Holassie, a 10th grader at Archbishop Carroll High School. “The Opportunity Scholarship Program must continue. I am shocked that there are some people who do not care about our education and would take away our chances of having brighter future.”

For more information, visit http://www.DCChildrenFirst.org.

Grassroots Lession 1

March 13, 2009

Objective: Find out who your State Senator and State Representative are and print or save their contact information.

1. Use your internet browser (e.g., Internet Explorer) to go to this webpage

http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

2. Type in your address and click “Submit” button.

3. Print or Save this webpage as an MHTML Document.

(For Internet Explorer, look for the toolbar at the top of this window that has “File Edit View Favorites…”. Click “File”; then click “Print” or “Save As…”; find a folder where you want to save the document; change the name of the document (if you don’t like “Who Represents Me—Districts By Address”); then click “Save” button.)

The most important name on this document is the name of your “Texas State Representative”. It is after “Texas State Senator” and before “Texas State Board of Education Member”. Why? Because the State Representative district is the smallest district. Therefore your vote counts more, since there are fewer total votes.

If you finish this lesson, please send me a email so that I can know who has completed what.
Bob Schoolfield
bob@LetsChooseSchools.com

In the next lesson, you will call your State Representative. I will suggest what you can say over the phone.

Grassroots Lesson 2

March 12, 2009

Objective: Call your State Representative and State Senator

If you completed Lesson 1, you now know the names and telephone numbers for your State Representative and Senator. Now you will call them. When you call, there is only a 1% chance that you will talk to your legislator. 99% of the time you will talk to one of their staff. That is fine because the staff will keep a record of the call. That is one of their main jobs.

Please be polite when talking to the legislator or staff. They usually tune out angry callers. They don’t mind talking about opposing views as long as the conversation is civil. The staff is not the decision-makers so they are not responsible for any decision the legislator makes, so please be polite.

A typical call would include these items.

1. My name is ____________________.

2. I live in Representative/Senator ______________________ ‘s district. (Since you can vote for/against the legislator, your opinion is more important.)

(At some point the staff will probably ask you for your zip code. This helps them verify that you do live in their district.)

3. I would like Representative/Senator _________________ to support more charter schools, school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and any other bills that increase school choice. (This is a general request.)

4. I would like Rep/Senator _________________ to vote in favor of House Bill 465 (or Senate Bill 308 if he is a Senator.) (This is a specific request.)

(Currently law doesn’t allow more than 215 charter-school “charters” in Texas. That cap has been reached and there are 17,000 kids on waiting lists to enroll in charter schools in Texas. House Bill 465 removes the cap of 215, so there can be as many charter schools as the families need. Senate Bill 308 is identical to HB 465. It just has a different number because it was filed in the Senate.)

5. Is Rep/Senator __________________________

__ in favor of HB 465/SB 308? (This puts the legislator on the spot to commit.)(The staff will probably say that their boss has not had time to study the bill and make a decision. You can ask that you be called when he does make a decision. We will tell you if and when HB 465/SB 308 will come to a vote, so that you can call again to ask for a decision from your legislator.)

6. You can also include a personal story of how school choice has affected you or a neighbor, but keep it brief and to the point.

7. Thank you, __________________ for your time.

Please send a message to me after you finish so that I can know who has completed this lesson.
Bob Schoolfield
bob@ceoaustin.org

P.S. – You can call again in one or two weeks and your opinion will be counted twice. They receive many calls and have different staff. The next person to answer the phone will have forgotten that you called earlier.