Posts

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

Why does the public education system continue to fail America’s children? Policy experts have pondered this question for decades.

Most say the answer is complicated, requiring a nuanced, collaborative approach.

But not The New York Times. It found the problem, and it’s simple: white parents.

The solution? “Try, whenever possible, to suppress the power of white parents.”


How are socialists deluding a whole generation? Learn more now >>


That quote comes from the Times’ podcast “Nice White Parents,” which chronicles the history of a single public school in New York. Specifically, the host, Chana Joffe-Walt, decides to look into the racial history of this school.

Her first finding: Many parents who advocated for the integration of public schools, specifically this public school, did not end up enrolling their children. Instead, they chose to send their children to established schools with a history of success. This choice—made predominantly by white families—is why the school has struggled, Joffe-Walt says.

She contacts several of these parents to scold them for not sending their children to a worse school to serve the larger cause of public education. Some parents note that although they believed in advancing school integration, they perceived this particular school to struggle academically, noting that many students could not read at grade level.

Joffe-Walt chalks up these criticisms to racism, rather than a genuine observation that the school would be a step backward academically for a student functioning at grade level.

Does she offer concrete policy solutions to fix the underlying academic issues plaguing the school? Of course not. Instead, she perpetuates the myth that parents choosing to exit the public school system leads to underfunded schools.

In reality, schools are not underfunded. Not even close. In fact, since the creation of the Department of Education in 1979, education spending has gone only in one direction: up. Test scores, by contrast, have remained entirely stagnant.

New York spends almost $23,000 per student per year in the public school system—a close second to Washington, D.C., for the highest per-pupil expenditure in the country. That figure also is significantly higher than most private school tuitions. So why are so many schools still failing?

One reason: The public school system is drowning in bureaucracy. And bureaucrats get paid before teachers—and before students get new textbooks.

Ben Scafidi at Kennesaw State University has studied the concept of administrative bloat in the K-12 public education system extensively. He found that between 1950 and 2015, the student population at public schools had grown roughly 100%. During that same time period, teaching staff had grown 243%.

Although that disproportionate growth in the number of teachers compared to the growth in student population is shocking enough, that is hardly his biggest finding. During that same time period, “administrators and other staff” in the public school system grew 709%.

An increase in administrative staff exceeding 700% compared to just a 100% increase in students seems to be a far more likely answer to why heavily funded public schools appear to lack resources than the choices of some parents to seek out the best education options available for their children.

Throughout “Nice White Parents,” Joffe-Walt details examples of parents’ getting involved in the day-to-day operation of the school, and paints this involvement as affront to public schooling.

In Episode 1, for example, she describes how when “white parents” came into the school, many wanted their children to learn French, yet no French classes were offered. The parents formed a committee, held fundraisers, collaborated with administrators, and got their French program.

This is problematic, according to “Nice White Parents,” because a French program strays from the cultural needs of the majority-minority population of the school.

This scenario is exactly why every family needs school choice. There never will be a one-size-fits-all public school system that will offer the foreign language needs and wants of every family, nor other such demands.

The New York Times and the makers of “Nice White Parents” argue that the solution to the different wants and needs of families is to ignore the wishes of parents altogether and let education bureaucrats decide what is best for their children.

School choice proponents, by contrast, believe that every family in America should be empowered to choose an education option that is custom fit for their child’s needs. Through programs such as vouchers or education savings accounts, every family would be financially empowered to make that decision. Students do better when their parents are actively engaged in their education.

A podcast attacking parental autonomy is bad enough. But the fact that The New York Times attacks parents of a particular race for executing their autonomy is worse. “Nice White Parents” isn’t just troubling, it’s wrong, and an affront to American ideals.

Ultimately, this hurts all children because “Nice White Parents” racializes the failure of the public schools, hurting the students who are trapped there and don’t have the resources to flee the public system.

There has got to be some accountability for the failure of the public system. The New York Times’ use of a racist canard to avoid systemic culpability for failing these kids isn’t going to cut it.

COMMENTARY BY

Mary Clare Amselem is a policy analyst in education policy at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: .


A Note for our Readers:

Democratic Socialists say, “America should be more like socialist countries such as Sweden and Denmark.” And millions of young people believe them…

For years, “Democratic Socialists” have been growing a crop of followers that include students and young professionals. America’s future will be in their hands.

How are socialists deluding a whole generation? One of their most effective arguments is that “democratic socialism” is working in Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway. They claim these countries are “proof” that socialism will work for America. But they’re wrong. And it’s easy to explain why.

Our friends at The Heritage Foundation just published a new guide that provides three irrefutable facts that debunks these myths. For a limited time, they’re offering it to readers of The Daily Signal for free.

Get your free copy of “Why Democratic Socialists Can’t Legitimately Claim Sweden and Denmark as Success Stories” today and equip yourself with the facts you need to debunk these myths once and for all.

GET YOUR FREE COPY NOW »


EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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.


How are socialists deluding a whole generation? Learn more now >>


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


A Note for our Readers:

Democratic Socialists say, “America should be more like socialist countries such as Sweden and Denmark.” And millions of young people believe them…

For years, “Democratic Socialists” have been growing a crop of followers that include students and young professionals. America’s future will be in their hands.

How are socialists deluding a whole generation? One of their most effective arguments is that “democratic socialism” is working in Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway. They claim these countries are “proof” that socialism will work for America. But they’re wrong. And it’s easy to explain why.

Our friends at The Heritage Foundation just published a new guide that provides three irrefutable facts that debunks these myths. For a limited time, they’re offering it to readers of The Daily Signal for free.

Get your free copy of “Why Democratic Socialists Can’t Legitimately Claim Sweden and Denmark as Success Stories” today and equip yourself with the facts you need to debunk these myths once and for all.

GET YOUR FREE COPY NOW »


EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

I’m a Former Teacher. Here’s How Your Children Are Getting Indoctrinated by Leftist Ideology.

Your children are being indoctrinated. The education system designed to teach them how to think critically has been weaponized by the radical left to push an anti-American agenda.

As someone who has worked in education for four years, I have seen firsthand how your children are being ensnared by the left and their teachers.

I worked with kids from ages 3 to 13 and saw the brainwashing that exists at all levels of education. The left uses a combination of propaganda and suppression to push kids into the ensnaring grip of socialism and anti-patriotism.

First is the propaganda. Teachers will assign work instilling the idea that the pillars of Western civilization were evil, and their memories deserve to be thrown in the trash.


How are socialists deluding a whole generation? Learn more now >>


Here’s an example. I was helping one of my elementary school students with a homework assignment about listing famous Britons throughout history. She already had some of the more obvious ones: Shakespeare, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth.

“Well, how about Winston Churchill?” I recommended.

“Oh no, not him,” she replied. “He was a racist and didn’t think women should have rights. He wasn’t a good guy.”

I was floored. It clearly wasn’t something she came up with on her own. She was just regurgitating propaganda her teacher had taught her. All sense of nuance and critical thinking about the man who saved Europe from the Nazis was gone. Churchill committed “wrongthink,” so in the bin he goes.

Another way the left propagandizes is through the normalization of its views and positions as nonpolitical.

The Black Lives Matter organization is a prime example of this. Many of my colleagues wore Black Lives Matter pins and apparel to school in blatant violation of school rules forbidding political statements on clothing.

When I asked for a justification of the behavior, I was told it wasn’t political to support the group, it was a matter of human rights. The children would see these pins and clothes and connect radical leftist groups with basic human dignity. “How dare you question Black Lives Matter? I was taught this is a matter of human rights!”

But it isn’t just a matter of actively teaching that America and the West are evil. Suppression of “wrongthink” is equally as important to the brainwashing process. The lessons I was allowed to teach also were censored.

I was preparing a lesson on Thanksgiving involving Pilgrims and American Indians, with an activity centered on making paper teepees for arts and crafts. Cue the progressive panic.

Other teachers at the school were incensed that a non-Indian was “appropriating” Native American culture for an activity. Of course, these teachers weren’t Indians either, they just wanted to virtue signal.

The whole thing culminated in a hilarious incident where my colleagues tracked down the one teacher on staff who was one-sixty-fourths Native American and asked her if it was cultural appropriation. In her esteemed authority, it most certainly was. The school administrators pulled me aside and promptly nixed the project.

The suppression extends to American religious values as well. I would try to engage my students with folk stories from around the globe to teach them world history and other cultures.

Story time went on without a hitch until I decided to tell stories from the Bible. Other teachers began to complain I was preaching Christian values to the children and attempting to convert them.

Keep in mind, this wasn’t a problem when I was sharing stories from other ancient cultures throughout history. Stories about ancient India and China were fine and encouraged as “sharing unheard voices.” After sharing the story of the Tower of Babel, I was told to switch back to non-Christian stories or face consequences.

The young adults who today gleefully tear down statues of the Founding Fathers were incubated in our very own schools, groomed to burst from the education system and burn America down.

The left argues the great men and women who built this nation are problematic and must be destroyed. Conservatives must demand an end to the indoctrination of our youth or face a new American public taught since childhood that the country shouldn’t exist.

COMMENTARY BY

Douglas Blair is an administrative assistant at The Heritage Foundation and a graduate of Heritage’s Young Leaders Program.

RELATED TWEET:

RELATED ARTICLE: A Welcome Conclusion That Yale Discriminates Against Asians, Whites


A Note for our Readers:

Democratic Socialists say, “America should be more like socialist countries such as Sweden and Denmark.” And millions of young people believe them…

For years, “Democratic Socialists” have been growing a crop of followers that include students and young professionals. America’s future will be in their hands.

How are socialists deluding a whole generation? One of their most effective arguments is that “democratic socialism” is working in Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway. They claim these countries are “proof” that socialism will work for America. But they’re wrong. And it’s easy to explain why.

Our friends at The Heritage Foundation just published a new guide that provides three irrefutable facts that debunks these myths. For a limited time, they’re offering it to readers of The Daily Signal for free.

Get your free copy of “Why Democratic Socialists Can’t Legitimately Claim Sweden and Denmark as Success Stories” today and equip yourself with the facts you need to debunk these myths once and for all.

GET YOUR FREE COPY NOW »


EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

VIDEO: President Trump Trump Wants to Send Education Funds to Parents if Schools Do Not Open

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.

Why Schools Don’t Learn by Kevin Currie-Knight

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:

  1. Students are segregated by age. This means that all students have the same amount of time to learn a certain amount of stuff in nth grade before we test them to see if they can move to grade n + 1.
  2. We divide our school curricula into discrete subjects: math, science, language, history, arts, physical education, and so on. Students learn the math required to do science in math class and read about history in history class but read literature in English class.
  3. The school day starts in the early morning and runs until mid-afternoon, and the school year is a fairly big chunk of 175 to 180 days (with a few small breaks) followed by a two- to three-month summer break.

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.

Kevin Currie-KnightKevin Currie-Knight

Kevin Currie-Knight teaches in East Carolina University’s Department of Special Education, Foundations, and Research. His website is KevinCK.net. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

Survey Says: African Americans Love School Choice by Jason Bedrick

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.

BAEO Survey: Support for 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.

BAEO Survey: Support for Testing

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.

This post first appeared at Cato.org.

Jason Bedrick
Jason Bedrick

Jason Bedrick is a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.

Seeing the Light on School Choice

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.

Does Florida want ‘Rubber Stamp’ School Boards?

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.

sarasota school board logo with zuckerFor 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.

Profiting Off of the Children by CATHY REISENWITZ

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.

2009 review of the global research literature found that every study to measure efficiency in education returned a statistically significant positive result for markets.

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.

ABOUT CATHY REISENWITZ

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.

Ten Bills, Ten Solutions to save America

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.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/26d0H5Wl43M[/youtube]

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.

 

Privacy – Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ)
Social Welfare – Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) 
Health Care – Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) 
Health Care – Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) 
Energy – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Housing – Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Transportation – Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA)
School Choice – Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Higher Education – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Religious Freedom – Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)

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.

Friedman Foundation ranks America’s School Choice programs

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.

2014 ABCs BLUE 2014 ABCs GREEN 2014 ABCs YELLOW 2014 ABCs ORANGE 2014 ABCs PINK

Support for School Choice Based on Political Affiliation and Race/Ethnicity

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.”

  1. Is there a significant difference in support for choice based on reasons for school choice? (“Reasons” were defined as increasing equality, introducing competition, or facilitating freedom.)
  2. Is there a significant difference in levels of agreement with reasons for school choice?
  3. Which type of choice enjoys the strongest support?
  4. How does a policy of school choice compare to other reform initiatives in their perceived efficacy for school improvement?

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.

Happy Birthday Milton Friedman, a classy and classical liberal!

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.

Michelle Rhee Grades Florida Among Top Two States in the Nation on Education Policy

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.

EMPOWERING PARENTS C- (GPA 1.94):

All families should have the information and access they need to choose high-quality schools for their children, and no student should be forced to attend a low-performing school or be taught by a low-performing teacher. Florida empowers parents by requiring all PK-12 schools to receive annual report cards that include an A-F letter grade based on student achievement and by requiring that parents are notified when their children are placed in the classroom of a teacher who has been rated ineffective. The state should pass parent trigger legislation that empowers parents to sign a petition to turn around a failing public school. Florida allows for the formation of public charter schools that must meet key accountability provisions, but it should allow for multiple authorizers. Additionally, the state should establish a publicly funded scholarship program limited to low-income students in chronically failing public schools and ensure private schools that participate meet certain accountability provisions.

SPENDING WISELY C (GPA 2.0)

Florida allows the state to intervene in academically underachieving schools and districts, but additional governance flexibility, such as mayoral control, is needed. While Florida allows districts to achieve cost efficiencies through multiple management alternatives, it should require districts to link spending data to student outcomes and permit governance changes when funds are mismanaged. Adopting these changes will strengthen Florida’s ability to ensure that resources are spent wisely and that districts are focused on improving student achievement. Florida has made significant progress in teacher pension reform by establishing a fully portable retirement option for teachers. The state should continue its reform efforts by requiring all teachers to participate in its portable plan.

To see how your state was graded click here.