President Trump wants education funding sent directly to parents to pay for whatever school they choose for their children–including “home school.”
CatholicVote posted the following video on YouTube:
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President Trump wants education funding sent directly to parents to pay for whatever school they choose for their children–including “home school.”
CatholicVote posted the following video on YouTube:
©All rights reserved.
The last 100 years have seen drastic technological innovations — from the way we communicate to the way we travel to the way we consume entertainment. One thing that hasn’t changed is the way we do school. Teacher, chalkboard, lesson, test, move up a grade, repeat.
Maybe the best argument for school choice is that we have no idea what kind of innovations could improve education until we allow radical competition. After all, if government ran the entertainment industry, we might still be watching black and white movies and listening to phonograph records. Instead, we stream films and songs online through a galaxy of services from Netflix and Hulu to Pandora and Spotify.
Where We Are
Think about how many features of our existing education system are wrongly treated as inevitable:
These are just three routine features of school that we barely notice, let alone question.
Once we do question them, alternatives quickly come to mind. One could imagine, for instance, a school that didn’t teach math, science, and history as separate disciplines but found creative ways to teach them in combination — or schools that aren’t automatically structured by age.
School choice allows schools to experiment with different curricula and teaching approaches, but it also allows them to experiment by modifying some of those features that we often take for granted but probably shouldn’t.
How We Got Here
To fully appreciate the need for experimentation in educational spaces, let me introduce two terms, one from behavioral psychology, the other from economics. The first is status quo bias, which sounds like what it means. Behavioral psychologists have discovered in people a marked (often unconscious and uncritical) acceptance of the way things are. When we experience the world a certain way, we often become attached to that way without even realizing our attachment. Of course students are divided into grades based roughly on age. Of course we teach science and history in different classes.
The second term, from political science, is path dependence. Path dependence is the idea that certain things come to be the way they are because past decisions affect the range of available subsequent choices. Picture a business spending lots of money on a certain software program that everyone at the company learns. The business and employees will become so invested in the current program that it will be hard to switch to a different one later. Even if a much better program comes along, the cost of switching may become prohibitively high, so the company will stick with what it knows.
Path dependence caused the unquestioned features of our education system to evolve the way they did. Why are schools open in fall, winter, and spring but closed during summer? The myth is that this schedule has to do with the days when kids were expected to work on farms, but really the shape of the school calendar is a vestige of the pre-air-conditioning era.
With widespread air conditioning, why do we continue to adjourn for summers? Because we have structured so much of our social fabric on the idea that kids and teachers have summers off. Theme parks, summer vacation destinations, and other business interests depend on kids having summer breaks. Parents plan for their children to be off during the summer. Summer break has a cultural inertia akin to a company’s commitment to legacy software. Once we get used to schooling done a certain way, we come to think of that as how school should be done, which ensures that even things like summer break continue well past their usefulness. That’s path dependence.
Status quo bias factors in when we become so used to schools having a summer break (or operating from early morning to mid-afternoon, Monday through Friday) that we fail to think of this system as anything but the way it has to be.
The Way Forward
Surpassing the educational equivalent of legacy software is precisely what makes school choice important. Competition allows some people to experiment with different ways of doing things while others can stick with what’s familiar. Markets also disrupt the kind of lock-in that path dependence often creates. While it may be costly for our imagined business to switch to the new software, other businesses may find it easier, and the market will help decide which decision was wiser.
One could object, of course, that new alternative schools — with their different schedules of operation or different approaches to curricula — will get things wrong, to the detriment of students. Yes, some schools will try what ultimately fails. But unlike big centralized bureaucracies, businesses learn quickly from their failures and adapt — or they go broke. Contrast that process to the time it takes for government to abandon a program everyone knows isn’t working.
Unless you think the current school system is doing fine, the only way forward is through innovation, and innovation requires the sort of experimentation that happens naturally in the free market.
The Black Alliance for Education Options released the results of a new survey of black voters in four states on education policy. The poll found that more than six in ten blacks in Alabama, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Tennessee support school vouchers.
The results are similar to Education Next’s 2015 survey, which found that 58 percent of blacks nationwide supported universal school vouchers and 66 percent supported vouchers for low-income families.
The survey also asked about black voters’ views on charter schools (about two-thirds support them), “parent choice” generally (three-quarters support it), and the importance of testing. However, it appears that BAEO is overinterpreting the findings on that last question, claiming:
The survey also indicated solid support among Black voters that believe educational standards such as Common Core and its related assessments is essential to holding education stakeholders responsible for student learning outcomes.
If the wording of the survey question was identical to how it appears on their website, then it says absolutely nothing about black support for Common Core. The question as it appears on their website is: “Do you think that testing is necessary to hold school accountable for student achievement?” The question doesn’t mention Common Core at all. For that matter, it doesn’t mention standardized testing specifically, nor explain how the testing is meant to “hold schools accountable.”
Perhaps it means publishing the score results so parents will hold schools accountable. Or perhaps it means the state government will offer financial carrots or regulatory sticks. Or maybe it means whatever the survey respondent wants it to mean.
If Acme Snack Co. asked survey respondents, “Do you like snacks that are delicious and nutritious?” and then claimed “two-thirds of Americans enjoy delicious and nutritious snacks such as Acme Snack Co. snacks,” they would be guilty of false advertising. Maybe the survey respondents really do like Acme Snacks — or Common Core — but we can’t know that from that survey. Just as some people may enjoy carrots (delicious and nutritious) but find Acme Snacks revolting, lots of parents may support some measure of testing while opposing Common Core testing for any number of reasons.
BAEO’s question on vouchers was clear: “Do you support school vouchers/scholarships?” Yes, most blacks do. But its question on testing is much less clear, and therefore so are the results.
All the BAEO survey tells us is that most blacks support using some sort of testing to hold schools accountable in some undefined way. Interpreting these results as support for Common Core is irresponsible.
Jason Bedrick is a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.
The arguments against school choice in America are growing more desperate and outrageous as the special interest groups allied against the educational opportunities of America’s school children begin to lose their fight. In a remarkable development, a number of prominent Democrats are siding with Republicans on school choice and in the fight for the educational futures of millions of American children.
These special interest groups are experts at making us believe they’re in it for the kids but this message is far different from the one that takes place behind closed doors.
Think about it; where else do rational people argue against choice? We want to choose our doctors. We want to choose our childcare providers. We want to choose our home contractors. We want to choose the supermarket where we shop. We want to choose the restaurants where we eat. We want to choose which colleges we attend. We want to choose our lawyers, our accountants, our landscapers, our mechanics, our barbers, our butchers, and just about every other provider whose services or products we may want or need.
If choice is the obvious answer for nearly every other arena, then why is there such a controversy when it comes to educational options? The controversy stems from the fact that a number of special interest organizations make a living, and will continue to exist, only if the failed system in place continues to be forced down our throats. These special interest groups are experts at making us believe they’re in it for the kids but this message is far different from the one that takes place behind closed doors. If you have any doubts read the following quote from National Education Association lawyer, Bob Chanin, speaking in 2009 at the National Education Association’s (NEA) annual meeting:
Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power.
The NEA, and their sister organizations, are showing their unwillingness to get results, and to fight for a better educational future by their intransigence and their unwillingness to allow parents a choice, and a voice, in the process.
This quote is appalling. Speaking with educators in my family and those I came into contact with on my political campaigns, I bet most teachers would agree. The tragic irony of this quote is that the power Mr. Chanin speaks of is leveraged at the expense of both America’s school children AND its teachers. The NEA and its sister organizations, which have carelessly pursued a merciless, one-sided negotiation strategy, have ignored the alternatives for their members and are costing them both money and career flexibility.
South Korea, a country with a world-class education system, compensates its teachers at approximately two and a half times GDP per capita, while in the United States the ratio is roughly one to one. In addition, South Korean parents spend more on education for their children than parents in any other country (15% of Gross National Product) to attain academic excellence. To be clear, I am not making a case for or against more or less government or private spending on education in this specific piece. But, I am arguing that the education special interests are doing a disservice to their members and to the country by fighting for the failed status quo, and against school choice, under the misguided belief that the educators they represent will suffer financially. South Koreans are willing to spend such large sums on education and, in the process, improve the financial well being of their teachers, because they are getting results. The NEA, and their sister organizations, are showing their unwillingness to get results, and to fight for a better educational future by their intransigence and their unwillingness to allow parents a choice, and a voice, in the process.
Freedom, liberty and choice work because bureaucrats will never possess the information necessary about you and your children to make better decisions than you can make for yourselves. The value of a top tier education will only grow in a globalized future, where productivity enhancements will increasingly come from the arena of ideas, and less from the arena of physical labor.
This is a fight we can all get behind, regardless of our partisan leanings. Invest your time in the fight for school choice and educational freedom and tomorrow will pay us all back a handsome dividend.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review.
Diverse views are needed on every board or committee, not one opinion to the exclusion of all others. Political discourse is healthy. One mindedness is dangerous and is called tyranny.
The Sarasota County School Board supports diversity, the exception being if one talks about diverse positions on school board matters. Recently this came to light when school board members went to Tallahassee to lobby the state legislature on matters of importance to students and parents. One of the issues of importance is vouchers for students provided by businesses.
Supporters of public charter schools, school voucher programs, equal funding for charter schools and home schooling are persona non grata to the Florida School Board Association, Florida Association of District School Superintendents, Florida’s teachers unions and Florida Democrats and some Republicans. Anyone who opposes the government public school monopoly is immediately classified as a “rival.” This is particularly true of school board members who support programs to give parents and students choices as to where they would like children to get an education.
Diversity and choice are one way streets to some elected officials and school bureaucrats. Going down the wrong road is considered blasphemy and creates discord. This discord must be stamped out at all cost.
Well there is a light of hope in the sunshine state from those who truly support diversity and choice in education.
Zac Anderson and Shelby Webb from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported, “Sarasota County’s five School Board members used the school district’s spring break this week to lobby legislators and talk education policy in the state capital. But they weren’t all always working from the same playbook.” Question for Zac and Shelly: Since when are school board members required to work from any playbook? Aren’t school board members elected to represent the best interest’s of children and parents?
Anderson and Webb go on to report on “rival” school board organizations. The Florida School Board Association (FSBA) is presently suing the state of Florida to stop a voucher program to help students go to a school of their choice. The other organization is pro-choice and wants to stop the strangle hold of the FSBA on public education in general and school choice in particular.
Anderson and Webb wrote:
Another school board member from Escambia County, Jeff Bergosh, said he considers himself a “real threat to the status quo” and is intending to introduce a motion at his next board meeting asking the district not pay his portion of the $21,766 in dues owed to the Florida School Board Association.
“I’m tired of sending my money every year to an organization that’s working against school choice and suing the governor and Legislature,” Bergosh said.
Why would any school board member support using taxpayer money to fund an organization that does not have the best interests of students and parents in mind?
Another issue raised by one school board member was “bias” in the current professional development opportunities offered to school board members. School board members, like students under Common Core, are being told what to think, not how to think, about public education.
For some school board members like Carolyn Zucker, president-elect of FSBA, it is all about the money, not the student. Zucker is worried about “…[Florida] House legislation that would allow certain businesses to solicit and collect contributions for the construction and maintenance of public education facilities. Zucker worries, “[I]t means the legislators will decrease capital funds going to districts and will instead rely on private contributions.”
Sheldon Richman in “Can the Free Market Provide Public Education?” writes:
The short answer, of course, is: yes, look around. Right now, private enterprise and nonprofit organizations provide all manner of education—from comprehensive schools with classes in the traditional academic subjects, to specialized schools that teach everything from the fine arts to the martial arts, from dancing to dieting, from scuba diving to scrutinizing one’s inner self.
[ … ]
The free market—and I include here both for-profit and nonprofit organizations—would provide even more education than it does now but for the “unfair competition” from government. Since government has a resource that private organizations lack—the taxpayers—it’s able to offer its services for “free.” They’re not really free, of course; in the government context, “free” means that everyone pays whether he wants the service or not. Clearly, as long as government can tax its citizens and then provide educational services to them at a marginal price of zero, much private education will never come into being. How ironic that government vigilantly looks for predatory pricing in the private sector when it is the major offender.
Richaman concludes, “Thus it is not only the case that the free market can provide education. We may conclude further that only the free market should provide education.”
Now that is divergent thinking.
America is based upon an educated public. The public education monopoly is another matter all together.
Writing at Salon, David Sirota is horrified that capitalists are supposedly making money off school choice initiatives. Amazon and Microsoft prompted the horror by contributing to a recent campaign to expand school choice in Seattle. Sirota is convinced that the companies are giving because “lucrative education technology contracts” are “much easier to land in privately run charter schools because such schools are often uninhibited by public schools’ procurement rules and standards requiring a demonstrable educational need for technology.”
Last year Microsoft alone raked in $77 billion in revenue. Seattle’s public school system is set to spend $6 million on tech upgrades. Bill Gates alone spent $2 million on the initiative. In no universe does the math work out that Gates and Amazon are promoting school choice to make money.
What’s much more likely is that these companies are sick and tired of the public education monopoly’s horrifying results—especially for poor and minority students.
School choice programs consistently produce similar or better results for much less money.
Voucher programs offer significantly higher levels of high-school graduation and college matriculation, with private schools achieving better results at about half the cost per pupil.
Perhaps that’s why polling data shows strong support for vouchers among Latino voters. In fact, a large number of minority families are entering charter school lotteries and more than 500,000 students are on charter waiting lists nationally. Even President Obama likes the concept of school choice. He’s spoken well of charter schools while spending millions in federal funds to expand them in minority communities.
The problem of public education money misspent on technology is a serious one, and Sirota is right to make an issue of it. But Sirota’s distrust of the profit motive causes him to miss the solution. Rather than use arcane procurement rules to attempt to force schools to spend wisely, simply look at expenditures versus results—you know, like Microsoft and Amazon do. School choice means that schools that waste money on useless toys will lose students, while smart spending schools will gain them.
Rather than an attempt to grab “lucrative” contracts, it’s much more likely that Microsoft and Amazon are applying what they have learned in the marketplace, that competition and choice spur innovation, which improves products and services. They want to apply those forces to education. If only critics like Sirota could do the same.
Cathy Reisenwitz is an Associate at Young Voices and Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State. She will be speaking at the FEE summer seminar “Are Markets Just? Exploring the Social Significance of a Free Economy“.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.
Russ Vought, Political Director for Heritage Action for America, notes, “During the State of the Union address, President Obama called for 2014 to be a year of action. We agree, but Americans deserve action that will take the nation in the right direction. That’s why, with no clear goals or mandate from the Washington Establishment, we hosted the first Conservative Policy Summit.
On February 10th, Heritage Action brought together leaders to highlight conservative bills that would improve the lives of hardworking Americans. 10 speakers. 10 solutions.
Conservatives must lead through action. And we are. Heritage Action brought these leaders together on February 10th. The Conservative Policy Summit highlights the bills they have introduced, showing Americans a winning conservative reform agenda. Watch important discussion about our nation’s most pressing issues and learn about the conservative answers.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Claude Covo-Farchi. The use of this image does not in any way that suggests that Covo-Farchi endorses Heritage Action or the use of the work in this column. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.
Paul DiPerna, Research Director, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and the Friedman Foundation team have ranked every U.S. school choice program based on eligibility and purchasing power in conjunction with today’s release of the 2014 edition of The ABCs of School Choice.
Which types of school choice programs offer the broadest eligibility for students and greatest financial flexibility for families? Choose your favorite color below to access the matched rankings. We’d be interested to know what you think of our new publication.
In a new Friedman Foundation report, Dr. Dick Carpenter writes, “I used survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to examine several specific questions about public opinion and school choice.”
Noticeably absent is a type of question frequently addressed in other school choice survey research: Are there differences in support for choice (specifically vouchers) based on personal characteristics like political party affiliation or race/ethnicity?
The absence of this type of question was entirely intentional. There are numerous fine survey studies done on a regular basis that report just this information. What use is one more?
But curiosity being what it is, I peeked into the data to see if there were, in fact, any such differences, beginning with political party (Democrat, Independent, and Republican). Our survey in the CCES had not one but four different questions related to vouchers.
The first question asked about vouchers as a form of school improvement or reform. Republicans were more likely than Independents to think vouchers would be effective as a form of improving education, and Independents were more likely than Democrats to think so. All comparisons were statistically significant.
The second question asked about support for “universal” vouchers available to all families. The results were similar to the question above, although there was no significant difference between Democrats and Independents.
The third question asked about support for vouchers only for children from low-income households (i.e., “means-tested” vouchers). Here, support was reversed, with Democrats showing the most support, followed by Independents and then Republicans. Only the difference between Republicans and Democrats was significant.
The fourth question asked about support for vouchers only for children with special needs. The support levels were similar in pattern to the means-tested voucher results, but the differences between the three groups were not statistically significant.
Turning to race/ethnicity, subjects were identified as black, Hispanic, white, and “other,” the latter of which included groups such as Asian and Pacific Islander whose numbers were too small to analyze separately.
For the first question (voucher as reform), Hispanics showed the greatest agreement, followed by “other,” whites, and then blacks. None of the differences between groups were statistically significant.
On the second question—universal vouchers—the greatest support was among blacks, followed by “other,” whites, and then Hispanics. Again, none of the differences was significant.
On the third question, means-tested vouchers, “other” showed the greatest support, followed by blacks, then Hispanics, and then whites. Only the differences between whites and blacks and whites and “other” were significant.
Finally, for the fourth question (vouchers for children with special needs), “other” showed the greatest support, followed by blacks, Hispanics, and then whites. None of these comparisons was significant, however.
Sometimes simple curiosity can lead to new and interesting discoveries, and other times not so much. Anyone who pays even mild attention to politics could have predicted differences in support for vouchers based on political party affiliation. But the lack of significant differences based on race/ethnicity contrast with prior survey work that has found significant differences.
These are, of course, simple analyses. A more sophisticated approach might find significance where at first glance there appears to be none. Curiosity being what it is, future research might do just that.
ABOUT DR. DICK CARPENTER
Dr. Carpenter is a professor of leadership, research, and foundations at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) and a director of strategic research at the Institute for Justice.
In 1962 Milton Friedman, with his wife Rose, wrote Capitalism and Freedom. The book was rejected by both academia and the media. The ideas in “Capitalism and Freedom” were vindicated in 1980 when the Friedmans published Free to Choose.
As Friedman wrote in his 2002 preface to Capitalism and Freedom, “I documented a dramatic shift in the climate of opinion”. That climatic shift was “[P]artly because the role of government was exploding under the influence of [the] initial welfare state and Keynesian views … That change in the climate had its effect. It paved the way for the election of Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States.”
Friedman wrote that Thatcher and Reagan, “Were able to curb Leviathan, though not to cut it down.”
Friedman was a liberal in the classical sense. In the introduction to Capitalism and Freedom he wrote, “It is extremely convenient to have a label for the political and economic viewpoint elaborated in this book. The rightful and proper label is liberalism. Unfortunately, ‘As a supreme, if unintended compliment, the enemies of the system of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label’, so that liberalism has, in the United States, come to have a very different meaning than it did in the nineteenth century or does today over much of the Continent of Europe.”
According to Friedman, “[T]he intellectual movement that went under the name of liberalism emphasized freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in the society.”
The only thing in Capitalism and Freedom that Friedman said he would change is, “[I]t would be to replace the dichotomy of economic freedom and political freedom with the trichotomy of economic freedom, civil freedom, and political freedom.”
Friedman wrote, “Government can never duplicate the variety and diversity of individual action.” How prophetic given today’s events.
Milton and Rose Friedman created a foundation that lives on to further their ideal of “competitive capitalism.”
The worldwide celebration to remember Milton Friedman, founder of the Friedman Foundation along with his wife, Rose, to advance school choice. “Friedman Legacy Day” is held every July 31, Milton Friedman’s birthday.
This year, the Friedman Foundation is marking Friedman’s 101st birthday with the slogan “Milton 101.”
Although Friedman is credited with popularizing tax reform, prompting the development of an all-volunteer armed forces, and highlighting the importance of monetary policy as it relates to inflation, he and his wife wanted their legacy attached to school choice. In 1955, Milton’s essay titled “The Role of Government in Education” first established the voucher idea, encouraging public education funds to follow students to the schools of their parents’ choice.
Today, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have implemented some form of Milton Friedman’s school choice idea.
A list of “Friedman Legacy Day” events can be found at edchoice.org.
Students First, founded by Michele Rhee, has issued its 2013 State Policy Report Card. No state received an “A” grade. Florida and Louisiana both received a grade of “B”, all other states were graded “C” to “F”. Florida received an A- for Elevating Teaching, a C- for Empowering Parents and a C for Spending Education dollars wisely.
The following outlines the rationale for these grades and why Florida was ranked in the top two nationally by Rhee:
“Florida has established itself as a national leader in putting students first. The state has adopted meaningful educator evaluations, and it requires districts to base all personnel decisions, as well as compensation structures, on classroom effectiveness. Florida is also a model for empowering parents. The state provides parents with useful information regarding school and teacher performance. Parents can also choose from a robust network of public charter schools and a tax credit scholarship program. Florida should provide comparable funding to public charter schools and needs to improve in holding local districts accountable for increasing student outcomes with their investments. The state should also allow mayors to take control of local districts that fail to improve under existing governance structures. Lastly, to ensure career flexibility and sustainability of Florida’s retirement system, it should require teachers to participate in its portable retirement option.”
ELEVATING TEACHING A- (GPA 3.64):
Florida is a leader for the rest of the country when it comes to ensuring effective teachers and principals are identified, retained, and rewarded by districts. Florida requires districts to evaluate educators meaningfully; several key multiple measures are incorporated, including student academic growth, which comprises 50 percent of the overall evaluation. Of importance, Florida mandates that performance drive all district personnel decisions, including placement, layoff, and tenure decisions. The state has already made progress in its implementation as well. Additionally, Florida invests in compensating its teachers through strong performance pay systems and in recruiting top teaching talent though its alternative certification programs. Adopting comprehensive reforms has allowed Florida to lead the country in its efforts to improve teacher quality and elevate the profession.