What the heck is this about? The state legislature in Alabama passes legislation – in part – giving parents who have kids in schools defined as “failing” an tax credit to pay for tuition at a private school or other public school and some judge blocks the legislature from sending the bill to the governor to sign it?
I’ve been thinking about this over the weekend, and AJ over at Strata-Sphere posted the same this morning. If competition is good for health care – so much so we need a “public” option – how about competition in public schools (vouchers) and for Social Security (private accounts)?
Charter schools are working, vouchers are working, but teacher unions and the National Education Association helped President Obama get into the Executive Branch, so funding for programs that work is being diverted to programs – public schools – that don’t work.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan did a public service last week when he visited New York City and spoke up for charter schools and mayoral control of education. That was the reformer talking. The status quo Mr. Duncan was on display last month when he let Congress kill a District of Columbia voucher program even as he was sitting on evidence of its success.
What it comes down to is that federal money is being spent by local cities and towns as they see fit, to promote what works in their education system. I don’t think that one federal dime should be used for education, but when you take federal dollars, that cash usually comes with strings attached or they could take the funding away in the future with little or no warning.
Programs that are working in Washington D.C. are being cut off in favor of sending cash to public schools. I wrote about the subject and Duncan’s differing point of view here and here. More about the District’s program…
It’s bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months.
Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.
And from the beginning of the article, we have the New York information…
In New York City with its 1.1 million students, mayoral control has resulted in better test scores and graduation rates, while expanding charter schools, which means more and better education choices for low-income families. But mayoral control expires in June unless state lawmakers renew it, and the United Federation of Teachers is working with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to weaken or kill it.
By offering school choice, many cities – including Washington D.C. – have been able to provide some kids with the opportunity to attend better performing schools. Following marching orders from the National Education Association, the Obama administration intends to let a popular D.C. program end.
Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James [Parker] attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation’s capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program — and with it perhaps the Parker children’s hopes for a Sidwell diploma.
Look, the Obama family decision to send their kids to Sidwell Friends School was probably a good move. Not only does the Obama family have the income to afford tuition, there are security concerns I’m sure Sidwell is familiar with.
But why take the opportunity from other families?
More about the programs offered
The Washington Scholarship Program (WSP) provides varying scholarship opportunities funded with private and public money. One opportunity is the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (D.C. OSP).
The D.C. OSP provides genuine school choice for low-income families in the form of scholarships for children to attend K-12 non-public schools within the District’s boundaries. The maximum annual scholarship amount of $7,500 per child is available for families at or below 185% of the federal poverty level ($39,220 for a family of four). Families must reapply and prove their eligibility each year.
Established in 2003 as a fully funded government pilot, the pre-2008 budget allocation seems to have been less than $13 million ($7,500 x 1,715 kids). The Bush administration suggested increasing this amount by $5 million in April of 2008.
So, how well was the program doing? The Heartland Institute’s John Schilling, chief of staff and director of national projects for the DC-based Alliance for School Choice, chimes in.
“This is a program that is working phenomenally well for nearly 2,000 very low-income children and enjoys overwhelming parental satisfaction,” Schilling noted, “yet [it] receives significantly less funding than DCPS or charter schools.”
Even the Heritage Foundation reviewed reports and suggested expansion in a Web memo last month.
I know, you’ve often heard me – and other libertarians/conservatives – flat out state that the government should not be involved with education at all. In this example – as with other school choice voucher programs across the nation – this is a perfect example of bipartisanship destroyed by liberal politicians.
Damn do I cringe at that word. Anyway…
As noted in a previous post, Obama’s current appropriations bill increases the District’s school budget by $20 million. The argument from liberals will be they are closing one program and replacing it with more funding for the public school system.
I’m certain the parents of Sarah and James Parker are confident that if their kids must return to the public school system, they will get the same service and quality they received from Sidwell.
The federal government is, after all, throwing more funding at the public system than was provided to the school choice program!
Good luck with that, since we’ve proven more dollars do not improve student performance. When will the politicians, the NEA and parents come to the same realization? By taking this funding and giving it to the public system, students and families who who have tasted educational success will learn an important lesson. If the government gives it to you, they can certainly take it away.