SCHOOL CHOICE IN THE NEWS
A Matter of Consistency
“If no public dollars can be used to support religious institutions, voucher opponents essentially are saying that your house of worship should not be given police, fire, or EMS protection.
“Voucher money goes to the parents. Sometimes they give the money to religious institutions so their children can be educated. Since voucher opponents claim that violates the separation of church and state, they also must oppose giving public funds to senior citizens, welfare recipients and others if they, too, give public dollars to religious institutions.
“Until voucher opponents publicly support every separation of church and state, they are hypocrites who inadvertently expose their hidden agenda.”
August 23, 2004
Leaving Kids Behind in New York City
“Just one year after Schools Chancellor Joel Klein began scrambling to comply with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and ensure that kids in failing schools can transfer to better ones, it seems he’s already giving up.
“Klein and his Department of Education now want to restrict the number of transfers to a meager 1,000.
“That would completely trash the rights of the remaining 400,000-plus students stuck in the city’s more than 400 failing schools.
“It seems a sufficient number of spots are just too hard to find for everyone.
“To which we say: Too bad….
“One way or another, these kids are entitled to decent schools.
“Now, not later.
“And that’s the law.”
New York Post Editorial
August 15, 2004
Pell Grants Worked for Colleges, Why Not K-12?
“[A] key difference between schooling from 1630-1830 and schooling that arose in the period from 1830-1920 is one of delivery mechanisms. The early republic emphasized the importance of education for a stable society and provided some public funding for schooling, all the while allowing parents greater autonomy and enabling a wide array of private and religious schools to receive public funds. The common school movement simply destroyed parental autonomy and choice, linking in a clear way the government financing of education through tax dollars with the government administration and operation of schools.
“What happened in the period after 1920 is a testament to the folly of this idea. Rapid centralization ensued, with schooling becoming increasingly bureaucratic and uniform. Education moved from a parent/child customer-centered focus to a school/state education provider-centered focus…
“[T]he program enacted for Milwaukee [in 1995] sparked a revolution. Since 1995, we have seen an explosion in the number of school choice programs introduced at the state level. In fact, in 2003, more than 20 states introduced voucher or tax credit legislation. Moreover, as the [chart] below indicates, we have seen, on average, one new school choice program enacted every year since 1996.
“Voucher programs have been enacted in Florida, Colorado and the District of Columbia. “Minnesota and Illinois have enacted individual tax credit programs to offset the cost of private education.
“Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania have created scholarship tax credit programs that allow individuals or corporations to claim a tax credit for contributions made to non-profit organizations that distribute scholarships.
“This trend will likely continue in 2005.
“Not only have we witnessed a significant growth in actual programs enacted, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the types of school choice legislation offered.”
Robert C. Enlow, Executive Director
Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Testimony on “Pell Grants for Kids” before the Subcommittee on Children and Families of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
July 15, 2004
But Not Unfit for Teaching
“Wayne Nadeau, forced to resign his seat on the National Education Association Executive Committee after a sex scandal was made public, was reinstated to his teaching position at a Vermont high school by an arbiter and awarded about $46,000 in back pay and benefits.
“Nadeau’s teaching license was temporarily suspended in 2002 after he admitted to having more than one sexual encounter in his classroom after school hours with a teacher’s aide…
“What should give everyone pause is that Nadeau could be forced out of his NEA Executive Committee seat — a seat for which a large number of powerful union officials deemed him unfit — but he could not be forced out of his teaching job.”
Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
August 2, 2004
SCHOOL CHOICE ROUNDUP
More than 1 Million Students in U.S. Are Homeschooled
About 1.1 million students were being homeschooled in the United States in 2003, up 29 percent from the previous estimate of 850,000 in 1999, according to a survey published by the National Center for Education Statistics in July. The increased total represents 2.2 percent of school-age children in the U.S., up from 1.7 percent in 1999.
When asked about the most important reason for homeschooling, almost half (47 percent) of survey respondents cited dissatisfaction with other schools, a combination of concern about the school environment (31 percent) and dissatisfaction with academic instruction (16 percent). Less than one-third (30 percent) said their main reason for homeschooling was to provide religious or moral instruction to their children. Fourteen percent homeschooled because their child had a physical or mental health problem or other special needs.
Interviews for the report were conducted with the parents of 11,994 students, 239 of whom were homeschooled. When weighted appropriately, the data represent approximately 50 million students ages 5-17 with a grade equivalent of K-12 in the United States during the 2003 school year.
NCES Issue Brief 2004-115
Demand for School Choice Evident in Nation’s Capital
Despite a short registration period of just 17 days in the spring, more than 1,000 students will be attending private schools this fall in the District of Columbia under the country’s first federally funded voucher program.
Officials from the Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF), which is administering the program, told the Associated Press 74 percent of eligible voucher applicants are enrolled in a private or parochial school.
During the registration period, more than 8,500 families inquired about the program. More than 1,800 met the program income requirements, under which a family of four could not earn more than $34,400 per year.
“The fact that so many families applied for and accepted these scholarships shows the demand for quality educational options,” Mayor Anthony Williams told the Associated Press.
WSF officials report hundreds of families have expressed interest in applying for the 2005-2006 school year. The group will begin accepting applications this fall.
New York Newsday
September 1, 2004
In Polk County, Hundreds Take Advantage of School Choice
The Florida Department of Education reported in August that 281 McKay scholarships and 331 Corporate Tax Credit (CTC) scholarships were used in Polk County last year.
In the McKay program, disabled public school students are allowed to use their special education funds as a tuition voucher to enroll in a private school or another public school. For example, Daryl Johnson used a McKay voucher to take his son, who has Down syndrome, out of public school and place him in Lakeland Christian School so he could get a Christian education.
“We wanted him to have available the same kind of education that his brothers had available to them,” Johnson told the Lakeland Ledger.
The CTC scholarships allow low-income students to transfer from public schools to a private school of their choice. The scholarships are funded by donations from businesses, which take a credit for the donation against their state income taxes. Michael Sligh, principal at Lakeland Christian School, speaks highly of the CTC scholarship program.
“It’s been a great help to the families,” he told the Lakeland Ledger. “It’s been very suited to their needs.”
A third type of scholarship, the Opportunity Scholarship, is available to students who attend public schools that have been rated as failing twice in a four-year period. Students at the Academic Research Charter School at Lake Gibson High in Lakeland are the first in Polk County to qualify for Opportunity vouchers.
August 6, 2004
Maine Families Want Wider Use of Tuitioning Funds
Families from three Maine towns are challenging a state law that prohibits money from the “town-tuitioning” program to be spent at religious schools.
The tuitioning law permits towns without high schools to pay tuition for students to attend private schools. However, since 1981, the state has maintained that spending public money at religious schools violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and so has permitted only secular private schools and other public schools to participate.
The families, who live in Durham, Raymond, and Minot, claim they are being discriminated against because the tuitioning law pays tuition for their neighbors’ children–who attend public and private schools–but does not pay for their children, who attend schools with religious affiliations. For example, Jerilyn Ward of Raymond, who is not Catholic, sends two of her three sons to a Catholic school in Lewiston.
“I felt it was the best school for them,” she told the Portland Press Herald. “It should be about what is the best education for the child.”
On September 3, Superior Court Justice Robert Crowley heard arguments from lawyers representing the families and from the state Attorney General’s office, which is defending the tuition ban. Although this is the third challenge to the tuitioning law in the past seven years, this marks the first time the program has been challenged since a 2002 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court permitted school vouchers in Cleveland to be used at religious schools.
Portland Press Herald
September 4, 2004
New Hampshire Governor Proposes Universal Kindergarten Vouchers
Under a plan proposed by Gov. Craig Benson (R) in August, the existing system for funding kindergarten would be changed to a voucher system where all parents of five-year-olds in New Hampshire would receive $2,000 vouchers that could be used at any state-approved kindergarten program at a public or private facility, including religious facilities. The voucher would be worth about $300 more than what the state now provides to towns in state aid for each child attending a half-day public program.
“This is a way to not have to mandate kindergarten …” said Benson, according to the Union Leader. “[M]ultiple towns have voted multiple times against having a kindergarten in their town. However, parents may choose to be able to have their children go to kindergarten,” he said.
Benson estimates the voucher program would add another 3,000 students to the 15,000 currently attending kindergarten, noting this would cost the state an additional $6 million to $10 million. He believes the cost could be financed by cutting spending on other programs.
Benson also noted that, with the higher voucher amount, an existing public program would break even if it lost 20 percent of its children to private programs.
August 20, 2004
South Carolina Receives Lowest SAT Scores
South Carolina’s SAT scores dropped three points for the class of 2004, making the state score the worst in the nation. The drop in test scores, the first since 1999, has prompted many to call for overhauling the state’s education system.
“Bouncing back and forth between next-to-last and now dead-last in the entire country again isn’t progress–it’s a sad reminder for many that our state isn’t giving parents the choices they need in the education marketplace,” said Gov. Mark Sanford (R) in a statement. “Whether it’s charter school reform or our ‘Put Parents in Charge’ proposal, this administration is going to continue pushing for fundamental reforms.”
Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum announced at a press conference on August 27 that nearly 23,000 high school seniors who took the college entrance exam scored an average of 986 of a possible 1,600, down three points from last year.
U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) told the Associated Press the state’s education system is in trouble and needs some new ideas.
“I’m not going to blame [Tenenbaum] for the problems,” he said. “The only thing I’d blame her for is being very slow to listen to new ideas that give students more choices of learning environments and address the different learning styles of students,” he said.
August 27, 2004
A Record 120 Schools Accept Milwaukee Vouchers
The number of schools participating in Milwaukee’s state-funded voucher program increased by 14 this fall, growing to a new high of 120 schools. The increase in the number of participating schools occurred despite the fact that 21 schools were denied entrance into the program because they failed to meet a more stringent set of requirements established by Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
The new requirements include submitting a budget to DPI and attending financial training workshops.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 13, 2004
Wisconsin Governor Willing to Deal on Voucher Expansion
In an unexpected move, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) told editors of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is open to negotiating an expansion of the city’s school voucher program as a tradeoff for getting more aid to public schools. The program currently is capped at 15 percent of enrollment in the Milwaukee Public Schools. The growing program is expected to hit that limit–about 15,000 students–soon.
Last fall, Doyle vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the enrollment cap. Earlier this year, he issued a plan that would have imposed standardized testing on voucher schools and halted the creation of charter schools.
Doyle told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he recognizes voucher schools are an important part of education in Milwaukee. However, he also made it clear that, “as long as I’m governor, this is going to be a Milwaukee program, it’s not going to expand beyond Milwaukee.”
Twin Cities Pioneer Press
July 22, 2004