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School Choice Shines This Week

School choice was a policy star this week at the Republican National Convention. President Donald Trump capped off the week by stating his desire to “expand charter schools and provide school choice for every family in America” during his speech Thursday night, the final night of the convention.

A slate of speakers throughout the week made impassioned cases for school choice, including Rebecca Friedrichs, famous for bringing a legal challenge to the forced collection of union dues. Her effort resulted in the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of teacher freedom in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., also made powerful arguments for education freedom. Scott called a good education “the closest thing we have to magic in America… When a parent has a choice, a kid has a better chance.”

On Wednesday, Tera Myers, an Ohio mother who helped launch that state’s school choice program for children with special needs, spoke about how life-changing school choice had been for her son, who has Down’s syndrome.


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The teachers’ unions were none too pleased. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tweeted in part, “Tonight we heard over and over about ‘school choice.’ This is their way [of] pushing to defund public ed.”

Her tweet begs the question: Why would giving parents a choice defund public education?Implicit in her tweet is the recognition that given an option, many parents would chose something other than their child’s assigned district school.

There are numerous policy changes Congress could make to advance school choice immediately, recognizing the particular urgency of the moment (most public schools across the country are still closed to in-person instruction). That includes:

1. Repurposing Existing Federal Programs

There are dozens of federal programs that are ineffective and inappropriate for Washington to manage. Instead of those dollars flowing to district public schools that are largely closed, Congress should redirect funding for those programs to families to use at an education option of choice.

There are many to choose from, including:

  • Supporting Effective Instruction (Title II, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act)—which would yield $2.13 billion per year for education choice.
  • Teacher and School Leader Incentives Fund (Title II, Part B)—$200 million per year.
  • Literacy for All (Title II, Part B)—$192 million per year.
  • Student Support and Academic Enrichment (Title IV, Part A)—$1.2 billion per year.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (Title IV, Part B)—$1.2 billion per year.
  • Education Innovation and Research Grants (Title IV, Part F)—$190 million per year.

2. Allowing Portability of Title I and Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Dollars

To help students with special needs and children from low-income families, Congress should allow Title I dollars and funding from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to follow students to learning options of choice.

For example, public schools receive $13.5 billion annually in federal the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding for students with special needs, ages three to 21. Federal policymakers could do a better job of serving these students by allowing them and their parents to access micro-education savings accounts worth approximately $2,000 per year, carved out of those existing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds.

Similarly, the design of the federal Title I program for low-income students has become cumbersome and obsolete, with distributions today having little connection to district-level poverty. Congress should allow states to make their Title I dollars portable, following a child from a low-income family to a private school or education option of choice.

3. Creating School Choice for Populations That Congress Is Directly Responsible for Educating

Finally, for education purposes, specific populations of students fall under the jurisdiction of Congress. That include children from active duty military families, Native American students living on tribal lands, and children residing within the District of Columbia—a federal city. Congress should provide education options for these populations.

That includes providing education savings accounts to military-connected children, education savings accounts to Native American children living on tribal lands, and transforming the Washington, D.C., into an all-choice district through expansion of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

States Should Lead Charge to Expand Education Choice

Most importantly, states should heed the call to advance education choice. COVID-19 has demonstrated how ill-prepared districts were to meet the needs of students when the pandemic hit. Six months later, most remain closed to in-person instruction, leaving children without access to their schools and friends.

It doesn’t have to be this way. American taxpayers spend more than $700 billion per year on K-12 education. If that money funded children directly instead of defaulting to a district school system, families could have maintained education continuity by directing dollars to learning options that were open, or to private tutors, learning pods, online education, micro-schools, and homeschooling co-ops. But the inflexible nature of the existing system precludes that.

States should be doing everything they can right now to provide emergency education savings accounts to families.

COMMENTARY BY

Lindsey M. Burke researches and writes on federal and state education issues as the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation. Read her research. Twitter: .

RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Nice White Parents’ Responsible for Failing Public Schools, New York Times Says


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Florida Minority Leader supports parents who opt-out of standardized tests

Representative Mark Pafford (D – FL District 86), Minority Leader in the Florida House, stated this week that he supports parents who tell their children to opt-out of standardized assessment testing.

Florida Parents Against Common Core (FPACC) states, “Mr. Pafford wisely recognizes the overuse of assessments and testing in the State of Florida. Such overuse has indeed created a toxic environment between education stakeholders – students, parents, principals, superintendents, school board members, and residents. The trust and  confidence necessary for mutual cooperation, in search of moving the conversation forward regarding best processes and practices for curriculum and standards, is missing.”

For parents, testing and assessments, particularly the non-validated and improperly implemented Florida Standards Assessment, institute an environment of punishment versus an environment nurturing learning. For teachers, unreasonable and out-of-balance accountability measures, focused almost exclusively on student assessment scores, encourage an already acknowledged faulty methodology of  “teaching to the test”.

On September 25, 62 out of 67 Florida county education superintendents agreed with the Florida Association of District School Superintendents’ statement stating that the superintendents had “lost confidence” in the current accountability system for students and schools, which were largely based on the controversial Florida Standards Assessment. In a decision of concern for  students and teachers, the superintendents asked for suspension of the accountability system and a review.

Luz González, FPACC State Coordinator says, “While Florida Parents Against Common Core applauds the unity and aggressiveness of the  superintendents on the issue of easing the unreasonable burden on the adults in the “education room”, i.e. the teachers and administrators, we are vastly disappointed in the lack of similar concern for the well-being of the students in the same classroom.  We ask that they follow Representative Pafford’s lead by placing children, entrusted into their care, as their top priority.

After several years of parents attending school board meetings complaining about standards, curriculum, textbooks, and testing, after numerous hearings on parental and teacher concerns across the state and in Tallahassee, after a contentious Governor’s race where Common Core Standards were a critical divide in the voting population, the Florida Department of Education and its Commissioner Pam Stewart have provided unacceptable mediocre solutions to the ongoing crisis in education, both in standards and assessments. It has been band-aid after band-aid of ineffective management on education reform intentionally ignoring the many voices of those most concerned and closest to the student – the parent.”

Thus, importantly, Florida Parents Against Common Core parents are committed to alleviating the source, the root, the insidious virus of the massively abusive accountability structure – Common Core Standards.  Federal coercion combined with state legislature collusion have destroyed meaningful and necessary local control by developing a structural system where co-dependency of mandates, data, funding, waivers, standards, curriculum, and assessments are currently inexplicably & irrevocably tied between local and federal governments.  At this time, FPACC will contact all presidential candidates before the 2016 Florida Primary for their pledge, should they become President, to on their first day stop the federal implementation of Common Core Standards.

Education is most often the best tool for creating opportunity, prosperity, and happiness.  Let’s    treat each child like an individual, not with a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Let’s listen to each child’s learning needs, not increase grossly invasive stressors by forcing  inappropriate developmental education requirements. Let’s encourage proven and successful education tools in cooperation with promoting creativity and innovation, recognizing the   constantly evolving information highway technology world of today and tomorrow – all the while knowing that an individual student’s inherent aptitudes and skills should have preemptive value in the classroom.

Every child should have an individualized education plan.  Not a common one.

ABOUT FLORIDA PARENTS AGAINST COMMON CORE

Florida Parents Against Common Core was started by four mothers and grew into the State of Florida’s largest grassroots parent organization in opposition to the continued implementation of Common Core Standards. Laura Zorc, the organization’s former State and National Director from January 2013 to June 2015 is  currently serving on Governor Scott’s 11 member Keep Florida Learning State Committee.

Why Common Core is Wrong For Our Kids – Period!

The document, “Common Core is Wrong For Our Kids. Period” from Florida Parents Against Common Core (FPACC) has just been released. The document explains why there is a growing mistrust with Common Core.

FPACC states, “Parents are not radicals, we are concerned… and we are basing our conclusions on the words from the proponents themselves, not from editorials.  I urge you to read the entire document to understand why there is such a growing grassroots opposition to Common Core. Parents across America are just fed up.”

Watch this video titled, “Common Core For Public Officials”:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfcJuV4dC6g[/youtube]

Members of our group, Florida Parents Against Common Core have produced a detailed document outlining why Common Core and Race To The Top are wrong for our children and our parents.  This document will help you understand the process by which we have come to have Common Core State Standards imposed on us, against our will and without the proper involvement of parents in discussing the validity of the premise and potential impacts. Additionally, it details how this process was never more than a wholesale transfer of sovereignty by our state legislators to the Federal Government in exchange for a $ 700 million dollar bribe.

The proponents, backed by a campaign of several hundred million dollars in the best public relations resources available, all stand to gain billions of dollars in benefits in the form of new business, the quashing of competitive forces and the in some instances, the advancement of personal political ambitions, all through a grand experiment constructed of an untested theory of education, the brainchild of a man who has never taught a day in his life.

Download: Common Core is Wrong For Our Kids.

RELATED COLUMN: Breaking News Stories: Rejection of Common Core and Its Tests: Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Congressional Leadership and More