12/2002 The Friedman Report: School Choice Roundup

Published December 1, 2002

Illinois * Indiana * Michigan * New York * Ohio * Vermont


Churches Organize Forums on Vouchers

The Illinois Conference of Churches has organized a series of public forums throughout the state to discuss the possibility of a publicly funded school choice program in the Land of Lincoln. The need to offer faith-based education to poor families cannot be ignored, said Nicholas Wolsonovich, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Chicago Archdiocese.

“Our schools are becoming more and more schools for the wealthy as tuitions go up,” he warned. “There are a lot of parents who would absolutely love to have their kids in our schools, but they can’t, because of money.”

Money came up as an issue at the first forum on September 19 in suburban Westchester, when a United Church of Christ official argued vouchers would take money away from underfunded public schools. But Zach Wichmann, the Catholic Conference’s education lobbyist in Springfield, suggested the real issue is how the public schools are spending the money they already have.
The Catholic New World
September 1-14, 2002
September 29-October 12, 2002

Illinois Teacher Paid $176,824

The National Education Association reports the average annual teacher salary in Illinois as $47,847 for the school year 2000-01. But many teachers make more than twice the average, and some make more than three times, according to salary data posted on the Web site of the Family Taxpayers Network, an Illinois PAC.

For example, the top-paid teacher in Illinois two years ago made $176,824, with the two runners-up making $165,987 and $160,893. The 100 best-paid teachers all made more than $123,852 a year.

The two best-paid teachers in Illinois work for Leyden Community High School District 212, which has another 12 of its teachers in the top 100. But the best-represented district in the top 100 is Palatine High School District 211, with fully one-third (34) of the top-100 teachers, with salaries ranging from $123,852 to $149,407.

No teacher from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) appears in the top 100 listing since the top-paid teacher in Chicago had a salary of $101,679 in 2000-01. However, hundreds of administrators in CPS made more than $100,000 a year.
Family Taxpayers Network


Public and Private Schools Compete for Tuition

Looking for an alternative to the local high school for their daughter Kate, the Goetzinger family in Indiana’s Washington Township found the private schools in which they were interested were “just out of reach.” Annual tuition at Park Tudor High School is almost $13,000, and at Brebeuf Jesuit school $8,300. The Goetzingers ultimately enrolled Kate at North Central High School, where tuition is just $3,800 a year. North Central is a public school.

This year, Washington Township will receive a total of $402,800 from 106 out-of-district students who pay tuition. Under Indiana law, individual districts make their own choices on admissions and set their own tuition rates, which range from a few hundred dollars to the more than $6,000 charged by the Indianapolis Public Schools. The families of only three students have chosen an IPS school over their home district school.
Indianapolis Star
October 21, 2002


Charter School Firm Continues Rapid Growth

National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA), a leading national charter school management company, was named one of the nation’s entrepreneurial growth leaders by Inc. magazine in October. This is the second consecutive year the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based firm has appeared on the annual Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. NHA is the only education provider on the list, where it appears at number 159.

The company operates 32 public charter schools with a total enrollment of more than 17,000 students in Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Ohio. Enrollment in NHA schools surged by 27 percent over the past year. Over the past five years, company revenues have grown a spectacular 1,736 percent, from $5.5 million in 1997 to $101 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002. Company staffing has grown from 11 people in 1997 to more than 1,700 in 2002.
National Heritage Academies
Company News Release
October 15, 2002


Bishops Push for Vouchers

In a pastoral statement endorsed by every prelate in the state, New York’s bishops in early September called on state lawmakers to approve school voucher or tax credit programs to help individual parents choose the most appropriate school for their child’s education.

The freedom to choose such a school is “a basic right of all parents regardless of income,” declared the bishops in an eight-page statement, “Every Parent, Every Child,” which also assailed the teacher unions for resisting reform efforts and forcing children to stay in failing public schools.

According to spokesman Dennis Poust, the pastoral statement is “a signal that we are really launching an all-out effort to mobilize New Yorkers on this issue.” The bishops’ plans include mobilizing the grassroots and reaching out to leaders in business and other faiths.

“And we need to get the minority community to begin to pressure the Legislature’s Black and Hispanic Caucus because it’s in those communities where the schools are the worst and where we most need school choice,” Poust told Newsday.
Newsday–September 4, 2002
New York Post–September 2, 2002


Applications for Cleveland Vouchers Surge

Although Ohio officials had increased the number of slots in the Cleveland voucher program by 1,000 for the 2002-03 school year, raising the total to 5,523, this was still nearly 1,130 short of the number needed to satisfy the surge in applications after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the program constitutional on June 27.

The state does not wait until after the July 31 application deadline to begin issuing vouchers, but starts in February. By late June this year, it had handed out more than 86 percent of the total new awards. In the month before the deadline last year, the Ohio Department of Education received just 163 applications; this year, after the Supreme Court ruling, they received 648, according to voucher program director Saundra Berry.

“I just think there were a whole bunch who basically heard about the program though the ruling,” Berry told Education Week, discounting the idea that the new applicants were parents who had been waiting for the ruling. She suggested they were parents who had not realized they were eligible for vouchers until the publicity about the ruling had increased awareness of the program.
Education Week
September 5, 2002


IBM Cites School Choice in Economic Development

Vermont’s high utility costs and its high property and corporate tax rates are among the factors that could prompt Ethan Allen, Inc. to close its two local furniture factories, according to recent comments from company CEO M. Farooq Kathwari. But education is IBM’s top concern, according to company executives at a recent session with legislative candidates. The company sees education as critical to maintaining the quality of the skilled workforce needed in the intensely competitive computer industry.

IBM supports a variety of education reforms, including public school choice so that parents can send their child to the school that best meets their education needs. The company also called for improved math and science education, upgrading professional training for teachers, and holding schools more accountable for student performance.

“Vermont should not automatically kowtow to IBM,” commented the editors of the Burlington Free Press, “but in light of its deep financial commitment and pervasive presence in many facets of life in the state, if IBM isn’t happy, Vermont’s business climate could face dark and stormy days ahead.”
Burlington Free Press
October 14, 2002