02/2004 Friedman Report: School Choice Roundup

Published February 1, 2004

Colorado * Delaware * Florida * Kansas * Kentucky
New Hampshire * New Mexico * South Carolina * Virginia


Voucher Supporters Run Radio Ad Campaign

Even though a Denver district judge has ruled the Colorado voucher program unconstitutional, radio ads have asked parents to continue signing up for the program. It had been expected to begin in the fall of 2004 with some 3,300 students and expand to 20,000 by 2007.

“Families living in neighborhoods with failing schools are holding out hope that they can continue with the [voucher] process,” Jorge Amaya of the Colorado Alliance for Reform in Education told the Rocky Mountain News. The Alliance is running the ads.

“We’re going to send a message to the public school system that, if these children are going to be held hostage, they’re not going to be good hostages,” said Amaya.

The Alliance aired two radio spots during December on at least 13 stations from Greeley to Pueblo, one in English and the other in Spanish. Amaya told the Rocky Mountain News the ads cost about $25,000 to air.

Alliance outreach also includes going door-to-door in poor neighborhoods, offering assistance with filling out the applications.
Rocky Mountain News
December 12, 2003


Diocese Considers State-Approved Testing System

Prompted by a new law that has cut off thousands of teachers in Delaware’s private schools from gaining or maintaining certification, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington is discussing with state education officials the possibility of creating a testing and accountability system for private school students similar to the one established for the state’s public school students.

Although state certification is not a requirement for teaching in private schools in Delaware, many educators in fact have gained their licensure and certification while teaching in the state’s private schools. Also, certified teachers and administrators in the state’s private schools have kept up their certification to maintain their professional standing and to make it easier to move between public and private schools. A new law ended all that.

When Delaware established its school accountability law three years ago, the state Department of Education and public school teachers developed a new teacher licensing, certification, and re-certification procedure that was dependent in part on student performance but also applied only to public schools. As a result, the state was unable to license and certify diocesan teachers.

“The young teachers who are with us now, who really value that license, have been calling frantically asking about certification,” Catherine Weaver, assistant superintendent of education for the diocese, told The News Journal. She estimated 40 percent of diocesan teachers lack state certification under the new rules.

At the request of the diocese, state lawmakers last summer passed a bill to allow private schools to develop state-approved testing and accountability systems for teacher certification. Weaver said she hopes an accountability system could be set up within about 18 months.
The Wilmington News Journal
December 12, 2003


Judge Orders Another $2 Million Set Aside for Vouchers

The Florida Department of Education must post an additional $2 million bond to continue implementation of the Sunshine State’s original school voucher program, a judge ruled in November.

Circuit Judge Kevin Davey had ruled in August 2002 that the program violates the state constitution by allowing tax dollars to be spent on religious institutions. However, he allowed the state to continue issuing vouchers as long as enough money was set aside to cover the lost revenue public schools would incur during the appeal from losing students to private schools. If his ruling was eventually upheld, those funds would be used to reimburse the public schools.

The state had put aside $2.5 million in 2002, $400,000 more than was spent on vouchers, and had added another $350,000 in 2003. Voucher opponents claimed that was not enough.

The state argued Davey had no authority to set the condition and, besides, public schools weren’t losing money. In fact, the average voucher is about $4,300, or $1,000 less than per-pupil state spending in public schools.

“It costs the school district considerably more to educate a student than the money that it is losing,” lawyer Barry Richard argued for the state.

The voucher case is still pending before the First Circuit Court of Appeal.
Ocala Star-Banner
November 11, 2003


Voucher Advocate O’Connor Will Run for Re-Election

On December 2, incumbent Kansas Sen. Kay O’Connor (R-Olathe) announced her candidacy for the District 9 Senate seat, which includes De Soto, Edgerton, Lenexa, and part of Olathe.

O’Connor, 62, who was first elected to the Senate in 2000, is executive director of Parents in Control, an organization that has a nonprofit educational foundation to educate parents about school choice and a political action committee to advocate for school vouchers.

State Rep. Rob Boyer (R-Olathe) has announced he will challenge O’Connor in the primary. Boyer, 35, has said economic development and public education have been and will continue to be his top priorities.

The primary will be held on August 3.
Kansas City Star
December 6, 2003
Parents In Control



Privately Funded Voucher Program Sees Demand Grow

The Louisville School Choice Scholarship program has awarded 1,100 three-year scholarships worth a total of $3 million since its inception in 1998. The scholarships are for up to 60 percent of tuition up to $1,000 a year.

Targeting low-income children, the program has an annual waiting list of 400 students but believes that number could easily be eclipsed if parents took their children out of schools classed as low-performing by the No Child Left Behind Act.

“Our demand grows every year,” School Choice Scholarships Director Diane Cowne told The Associated Press. “And that may increase.”

Supporters say the popularity of the program speaks volumes. They dismiss criticism that Choice Scholarships hurt public schools, arguing it is only competition that will make public schools better, not more money.

Former Rep. Bob Heleringer (R-Louisville) sponsored legislation in 1998 and 2000 that would have provided $500 tax credits to families who send their children to private schools. Both efforts were unsuccessful.
Lexington Herald-Leader
December 2, 2003


Voucher Bill Sent to Study Committee

A bill to establish a school voucher system in New Hampshire was sent to an interim study committee by the House Education Committee by a vote of 16-1 on November 18, 2003.

House Bill 754 will have to be reintroduced for the 2005 session since it is unlikely to resurface in the January 2004 session, according to The Union Leader.

HB 754 would establish an education certificate program to allow parental choice in the selection of schools for their children. At current aid levels, parents could receive nearly $2,700 in public funds for use toward tuition at a private secular or religious school.

“It’s a good bill, an important bill … but I do concur that additional work can be done, and will be done,” bill cosponsor Rep. John Alger (R-Rumney) told The Union Leader.

Opponents raised questions in November because the original bill stated that a school district would make out the voucher to both the parents and the private school, possibly violating a state law prohibiting public money from going to religious schools.

However, Alger and other bill sponsors say the vouchers do not violate that prohibition since the choice is left up to the parents. This parental choice was the key element in the U.S. Supreme Court finding that vouchers in Cleveland did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

“I know the school boards are nervous. Everyone is nervous, but it seems like a sensible thing to do, to me,” Alger told The Union Leader. “If they’re worried about it being unconstitutional, let’s get this into law, then let them take it to court and find out.”
The Union Leader
November 10, 2003
November 19, 2003


Forum Highlights Options for Parents

Nearly 180 participants learned about options in education at the Albuquerque Partnership’s Sixth Annual Community Education Forum on November 12, 2003, which was held in conjunction with Educate New Mexico’s school fair. The forum included representatives from more than 27 area schools.

“The whole mission behind the forum was to bring community members from Albuquerque’s South Valley together to talk about issues in education,” Educate New Mexico Executive Director Troy Williamson told the Albuquerque Journal. “Closing the gap is the biggest challenge, it seems, for parents in the South Valley.

“We wanted to give low-income families a way to find out about school choices and how our organization helps raise money to give them opportunities to go to the best school for them,” he said.

Educate New Mexico is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and helping to finance excellent academic opportunities for students from low-income families.

The event provides an opportunity for all types of schools–public and private–to showcase their educational offerings in an effort to recruit students.
Albuquerque Journal
November 14, 2003


Sanford Expected to Offer School Choice Proposal

A school choice plan that provides more educational choices to students in low-performing schools is expected to be offered soon by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, according to Manhattan Institute researchers Jay Greene and Marcus Winters.

Debate on vouchers in South Carolina has focused not so much on the benefits to voucher students who leave failing public schools–which few question–but rather on the effect school choice will have on the students who are left behind in public schools. However, as Greene and Winters point out from a study of Florida’s voucher program, public school students who were eligible for vouchers but did not use them made significantly larger test-score gains than other public school students throughout the state.

“In Florida, vouchers have provided public schools with powerful incentives to improve,” say the researchers. “If schools don’t improve, they stand to lose students–and the funding they generate–to other schools.”

Not only have similar results been found in studies of other voucher programs, say the researchers, “we know of no study that shows vouchers harm public school achievement.”
Charleston Post and Courier
December 8, 2003


Voucher Supporter Re-elected to Office

Incumbent Virginia Delegate William R. Janis (R-Henrico) won decisively with 66 percent of the vote on November 4, 2003. Janis, who received endorsements from Senators John W. Warner and George Allen, was confronted by his opponent, businessman Hunter H. McGuire III, on the issue of vouchers.

Janis, who serves as a part-time teacher at a parochial school in Virginia, said he would consider vouchers and received the endorsement of a political committee pushing for school choice.

McGuire said Janis’ support of school vouchers would take $280 million away from public education.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
November 2, 2003
November 5, 2003