School Choice Weekly #140
The Obama administration has announced a new program that will allow poor high-school students to apply for federal college grants to take classes that will give them both college and high-school credit (“dual credit” classes). This is a bad idea overall, but it raises interesting questions about the Left’s self-contradictions.
Briefly, it’s a bad idea to give Pell grants to more people because the Pell program is bloated, fraudulent, and ineffective, as economist Richard Vedder has shown for many decades now. Expanding a distorting subsidy program ultimately expands its harmful effects. Free federal money incentivizes colleges to raise prices and lower quality, and it gives students more reasons to take college less seriously because they’re not paying for it. The expansion amounts to the Obama administration using taxpayer money to prop up a Democratic Party constituency.
Larry Sand at Union Watch points out the parallels yet contradictions between most of the Left’s opposition to K–12 vouchers and support for college vouchers (a.k.a. government subsidies).
When it comes to public funds going to private schools, there has always been an arbitrary line drawn between k–12 and college. Pell Grants, which traditionally have been awarded to college students in need to use at the college of their choice – public, private, secular or religious – have been championed by the teachers unions. Yet the same unions rail against any similar vouchers on the elementary–high school level. But, in a very interesting move, Pell Grants can now be used by high schoolers as part of a dual enrollment program. Under the new plan announced just last week, thousands of low-income high-school students in nearly two dozen states, will, starting this summer, be able to get federal grants to take college courses for credit. And some of the 44 participating colleges are private. So with Pell Grants now stretching into high schools, it will be interesting to see if the teachers unions weigh in. Nothing from them yet. In any event, the slippery slope may have become just a bit slicker.
Actually, the line between K–12 and college is not arbitrary, and Milton Friedman explained why in his seminal essay on the role of government in education. Friedman essentially revitalized the American Founders’ understanding of public education, which was to develop America’s young people into good citizens capable of governing themselves, as our unique system of government requires. Therefore, he argued, government subsidies for education are justified only for a general education that befits people to act as free citizens – not to provide personal economic benefits. K–12 education should be that broad, citizenry-oriented education, while higher education and apprenticeships were the narrow, personal kind of education.
This is why one can argue for vouchers in K–12 while opposing vouchers in higher education. A question for another time remains, however: With much of K–12 now focused on narrow individual benefits rather than the common good, does it merit government subsidy? And to what extent, and under what conditions?
SOURCES: Associated Press, Center for College Affordability, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Union Watch
IN THIS ISSUE:
- NORTH CAROLINA: State lawmakers are considering gradually expanding the state voucher program to accommodate 20,000 children by 2027, which is just 1 percent of the number of K–12 children currently attending public schools in the state.
- SOUTH CAROLINA: Some lawmakers are seeking to have the state take over tax-credit scholarship organizations because they don’t want parents who donate to the organizations to receive scholarships for their children.
- LOUISIANA: Pending state budget cuts may mean some children will lose the vouchers they’re using to attend choice schools.
- COLORADO: An advocacy group has renewed its lawsuit against the nation’s only district-run voucher program, saying excluding religious schools will not satisfy them.
- WISCONSIN: Religious affiliation dramatically reduces the likelihood that a school will fail out of the state’s voucher program, finds a new study, while being a start-up school increases the likelihood the school will close. Further, a recent poll finds 54 percent of Wisconsin likely voters support the state’s voucher program.
- ENROLLMENT: Private-school enrollment has slightly reversed its decades-long decline, ticking up from 5.3 million to 5.4 million students in the most recent federal numbers, which end in the 2013–14 school year.
- LIBERIA: The African country will contract out its entire public education system to a private U.S. company.
- FLORIDA: One hundred African-American pastors have signed a letter telling the NAACP it should drop a lawsuit against the state’s tax credit scholarship program: “We see no principled reason to fight an education program that is targeted exclusively at low-income children and has a 14-year track record of helping Black students succeed.”
- GEORGIA: Seventy-five percent of Republican primary voters support school choice, finds the latest ballot.
- PARENTS: Most school choice laws make little mention of and even less definitions for the rights and duties of parents, finds a new review.
- WASHINGTON: Six of Washington’s charter schools will remain open after they received new leases on life once the state re-legalized charters. To stay afloat after the state supreme court struck down the authorizing law last year, one charter school reverted to being a private school and others functioned as homeschool resource centers.
- CALIFORNIA: The state has proposed history and social science curriculum mandates that explicitly push progressive information and interpretations of it.
- MICHIGAN: Lawmakers are waiting on the Senate Majority Leader to authorize a vote on a bill that would repeal Common Core and replace it with the nation’s best academic standards, from Massachusetts.
- NEW JERSEY: The entire state had to postpone Common Core testing last week because of – you guessed it – computer glitches.
- TEXAS: Although Common Core is illegal in Texas, the state’s math curriculum mandates are very similar to Common Core.
- GEORGIA: Some high-school seniors don’t know yet if they can graduate thanks to delayed Common Core test results.
- PRESCHOOL: Why Common Core should not be extended into preschool and bundled into Hillary Clinton’s massive early government childcare proposal.
- NEW YORK: The Success Academy charter schools chain will soon post thousands of its lesson plans online, free, for anyone to use.
- BILL GATES: The Los Angeles Times explains why Bill Gates should not have so much power to experiment with American schoolchildren.
- BATHROOMS: Eleven states are suing the federal government over the Obama administration’s directive that public schools allow transgender children into the restroom facilities of their choice.
- USDOE: The U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act do precisely what critics argued they would: insert the federal government into detailed areas of education policy despite no legal authorization for such action. This includes requiring states to punish schools that have high testing opt-outs.
- POLITICS: Social justice warriors are beginning to take the helm of education reform organizations with big money, and they’re elbowing out conservatives, says Robert Pondiscio. In response, he gets stampeded by activists demanding that white people start choking down their “privilege” and step back from leadership positions.
- FUNDING: Federal rules for sending money ostensibly to help poor kids are so complicated that the money often ends up benefitting rich kids instead.
- MINNESOTA: The governor has signed a law that requires schools to consult and inform parents about student surveys that often contain highly personal questions.
- HIGHER ED: Private student-loan companies are experimenting with loans that take into consideration the risk a student is taking with a certain degree program.
- CHARACTER: The teachers who best transmit crucial noncognitive character skills often don’t do so explicitly. Further, a new review of the scientific literature on “grit” finds that, contrary to the recent hype, it doesn’t strongly predict student performance, so attempting to increase it in schools will likely have little benefit to students.
- SCHOOL DISCIPLINE: How to keep disruptive students from harming their peers while not alienating them further from school.
- SCHOOL QUALITY: Instead of leaning heavily on test scores to rate and evaluate schools, they could use school inspectors instead.
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