From the Blogosphere

School Choice – The Free Market Solution

Tom Balek: Most Americans now accept and believe that school choice is a good thing.  But the largest teachers’ union, the NEA, still adamantly opposes allowing public funds to follow the student to the school of his choice.  And the political clout of the teachers’ union remains the biggest impediment to improvement in education. I am a disciple of free-market economics.  Economics steers every human undertaking.  It is ubiquitous in every aspect of our daily lives and has been since the dawn of man.  Every adult on Earth awakens each day and sets out to improve the standard of living for himself and his family.  Nothing is more basic and necessary to our sustained well-being than knowledge of the economic forces that create wealth. The law of supply and demand is as universally accepted as the law of gravity.  When the supply of something is scarce, it is more valuable.  And when something is valuable and in high demand, more of it will be produced.  In a true free market consumers will always choose the product that best meets their needs at the lowest price, and the profit motive for meeting this demand guarantees the continuous improvement of products.  Free competition for that profit completes the equation. Free-market supply and demand has brought us smart phones, better cars, nicer homes – comfort, safety and wealth.  In a free market profits and wealth are generated as the quality of products improve and prices go down.  So why hasn’t the quality of education…

School choice rally at Holy Cross High School

Sonja Harris: A School Choice Rally was held at Holy Cross Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday October 18, 2016. The main speakers were Daniel Garza, Executive Director of the Libre Initiative, who sponsored the event, and Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick, who gave the keynote address.   The moderator, Allan Parker of the Justice Foundation, emphasized that the rally was an educational rally and not a political rally.  But, it certainly was a diplomatically charged event for school choice.  The rally was billed as nonpartisan because school choice does affect all Texans.  It was an excellent presentation on why there should be school choice in Texas. Garza’s inspiring life story is an amazing testament to all who desire to achieve the American Dream.  He personally understands that a quality education is the way to achieve that goal.  As a young California-born migrant worker he was not able to finish high school and at the age of 17 dropped out of school to help his parents. He became a statistic.  His second chance at the America Dream was getting his GED followed by college and community service jobs as a police officer and city council representative before landing a job with Congressman Richard Hastings.  Seventeen years later, in 2004, he was appointed to the White House under the GW Bush Administration as Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison.   He believes that it is far better that we focus…

School Choice Crosses Party Lines And Forms One Giant Tent

Sarah Lee: This year has been polarizing in a most disturbing way politically. Good conservatives have been told they are progressives because they cannot find it in their moral fiber to support Donald Trump. Democrats had a similar problem trying to move from their preferred candidate Bernie Sanders to the — if the headlines are to be believed — almost inconceivably corrupt Hillary Clinton. On some matters, the polarization arguably carries a lot of weight. But there are some issues, even in this most contentious of election cycles, that have the ability to cut through party lines and burn down big tents. Chris Gibbons, CEO and Founder of Charter School network STRIVE Preparatory Schools in Denver is the first to attest to this having witnessed it firsthand. “We’re in the business of trying to run great schools and we do not see that as a partisan issue. We’re in it for the success of our kids, the success of community development over time,” he says about Denver’s somewhat provocative choice to embrace school choice. Click here for the full post. 

Rocketship trying to land in treacherous “No Fly Zone” territory in Concord

Richard Eber: Last September just prior to a neighborhood meeting in Concord where Rocketship Charter School was conducting an informal get together with residents to test the waters for them placing a campus in this locale, a large contingent from the California Teachers Association (CTA) made their presence known. Clad in yellow tee-shirts with the words “No Rocketship” prominently displayed, the protestors after a small confrontation at the church soon dispersed. For the CTA people this was not their first rodeo demonstrating their displeasure with Rocketship. On at least three other occasions the, union conducted similar displays against the charter school organization. In addition to these protests, the union and the Mount Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) has used all available legal resources and political pressure to keep Rocketship and other charter schools out of their community during the last five years. Click here for the full post.

Question 2: The Polling and the Stats driving the Charter School Argument

Peter Ingemi: As a general rule there are not a lot of reasons for conservatives in Massachusetts to smile come election time but WCVB polls on Question 2, the expansion of charter schools in the state is an exception: On charter schools, 49 percent of likely voters support the question and 39 percent oppose, with 12 percent unsure. With leaners, the support goes up to 52 percent and opposition to 41 percent. These polling stats come despite the opposition of such liberal icons as Senator Elizabeth Warren coming out against Question 2. And the NAACP maintaining its opposition to such schools. In fact there has been a divide on the question amongst liberals  with the Boston Globe editorializing against fiscal objections to charter schools and some Cambridge city officials  spitting from their fellows on question 2. US News has noticed this split between the liberal grass-roots and their leadership on this issue. Click here for the full post.

We can no longer accept the academic achievement gap

Mark Lerner: Towards the end of this past summer Washington, D.C.’s annual public school PARCC standardized test scores were released and the academic achievement gap between white and poor students was unambiguously visible for all to see. For example, when it came to English Language Arts for those students scoring in the college readiness range of four and five the variance between white and low-income children was 56 points. In math the difference in results between these two groups was exactly the same. White kids hit the 74 percent range while those living in poverty recorded a proficiency rate of 17 percent. For the charter sector the disparity was smaller coming in at just under 50 percent for reading and math. But it doesn’t have to be this way. One of the tremendous highlights of the Amplify School Choice Conference I attended last August sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was a visit to the Denver School of Science and Technology. DSST is a network of 12 Denver charter middle and high schools with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 children, with plans to grow to 22 schools educating 10,000 pupils. 64 percent of its scholars qualify for free or reduced priced meals. Once there, besides hearing from three impressive alumni students, one of whom is currently attending Yale University, we learned about the school from its founding principal and chief executive officer Bill Kurtz. In 2016,…

The case for options

Kristoffer Adams: Options are vital and we should not neglect that fact. How would you feel if you went to a store and you didn’t have any extra options you only had one choice that cost you a premium. To make sure you get the point you literally have one choice and there are no available alternatives. This would be completely unacceptable to the majority of people. That is the exact issue most parents have in their neighborhoods. We really need to consider the parents in this equation. If they desire to increase positive outcomes for their kids school choice is sometimes the only way they can achieve that goal. The NAACP’s moratorium against Charter Schools  seeks to cut out options that the majority of parents want. We recognize that not all charter schools are perfect we also know that traditional schools aren’t either.  The beneficial thing is if a charter school is not serving their population, they can in most cases lose funding and go away. Most public schools don’t go through the same amount of accountability. I see that frequently in the area I currently live in. Click here for the full post.

Obama won’t admit it, but school choice has increased graduation rates

Kevin Boyd: High school graduation rates are now the highest they have ever been. Eighty-three percent of high school students graduated on time in 2015, according to the White House. There are some stark differences across demographic lines. White students continue to lead the way with an 88 percent graduation rate, while only 72 percent of Native American students graduate. Click here for the full post.  

The Problem With Public Schools: Not How Much Money, But How It’s Spent

Jay Caruso: Whenever the discussion of public school performance arises, invariably someone will blame poor outcomes on a lack of money. It’s a familiar refrain and an argument easy for some people to make, not because it’s easy to prove, but because it sounds plausible. Here are some examples: “Public school funding is not equitable.” “We are not investing enough in public education.” “Our schools do not have adequate resources.” “We need to invest more in our children’s future.” Public school funding has long been a contentious issue; school districts often sue the state to increase funding. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 ruled in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez that education is not a federal right and funding is to be determined by the states. If people (i.e., teachers unions and allies) feel the state legislature is not providing enough funding, they could use the courts to force more spending, and they are often victorious in doing so. Click here for the full post.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Proposes Giving Top-Preforming Charter Schools New Flexibility

James Foytlin: In an effort to provide more freedoms to New Jersey’s charter schools, the Christie administration has proposed new regulations for the alternative schools that would include essentially waiving many of the state’s certification rules for educators in the highest-performing Charter Schools. According to Education chief Kimberley Harrington a former classroom teacher and school administrator ,easing certification rules for teachers would be five-year pilot program. Some practices are already taking place , but others, like a proposal to offer a new, wide-open “alternate route” for educators will only be available to the top-performing charters. There would be some requirements in experience and knowledge, but under the new proposed regulations, these schools could hire teachers and administrators without the same Certification demands for coursework or other training. The new regulations would also provide greater freedom for charter schools to using operating funds to secure facilities and also to grant access to closed local district buildings. Click here for the full post.

First-ever charter school teacher strike averted hours before pickets set up

Fran Eaton: Shortly before pickets were set up Wednesday morning, the United Educators of UNO (UEU) announced at 3 AM they had come to an agreement with Chicago’s UNO Charter School Network (UCSN) management, averting the nation’s first charter school teacher strike. The teachers issued a statement lining out agreement specifics. In order to stop the strike and commence with school Wednesday, the USCN management agreed to continue to provide a 7% pension pickup for current union employees. New hires will receive a 7% pay increase for FY18 to base salary with zero pension pickup by the employer, similar to terms the CTU recently agreed to with Chicago’s public school system. The system will shorten its school year to 183 days. The parties also agreed to a joint committee to make recommendations as to economic conditions based on funding shortfalls for the publicly funded school network — an important point for the union, which, they say, has “struggled to receive clear and comprehensive financial information from management.” Click here for the full post.

What This School District in Pakistan Teaches the World About Choice

Alice Salles: According to Al Jazeera, the most literate district in Pakistan is not heavily subsidized by the Pakistani government. Known for being a success story in a country torn apart by war and poverty, Hunza Valley beats all other Pakistani school districts, boasting 95 percent literacy rates among both genders. Meanwhile, districts across the country have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with the average adult literacy rate at 55 percent and female adult literacy rate at 42 percent. When analyzed closely, Hunza Valley’s uniqueness is easy to identify. After all, their schools are not run by the government. Instead of waiting for government to do something, the local community decided to take matters into their own hands in the 1980’s, starting their own independent community school system. What started as a way to fill in the gap left by government turned into a success story, thanks to the private initiative of villagers. Click here for the full post. 

One of the Best Arguments for School Choice

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: As someone who frequently covers school choice-related issues in Indiana, I find it interesting and ironic when opponents of reform and vouchers make better arguments for healthy competition than I do. A friend of mine (we’ll call him Ben) is a teacher in a traditional public school. He is a good guy and has the best interests of his students at heart, like any good teacher.    Unfortunately, like a lot of anti-charter crowd, whenever a new school pops ups,  he goes crazy. Ben will tweet that approving a new  charter school is a bad idea because there are too many of them and not enough oversight. But the argument that got my attention was when he said he would gladly match up the programs at his school against any charter school. And that ladies and gentlemen, was the best point anyone could make for choice and competition. Allow me to elaborate. I told Ben that I have no doubt that there are programs at his school parents would like, just like there are programs at charters, private, virtual and even home-school settings that parents would enjoy. They should just have the choice to make that decision. And all charters and choice do is give parents more options to find the best education for their kids. And who wouldn’t want that? Click here for the full post. 

NAACP Ratifies Resolution for a Moratorium on Charter Schools

Faye Anderson: On Saturday, the NAACP National Board adopted the resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools passed in July at its 107th National Convention: We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as: (1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools (2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and (4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious. The reactions to the vote were fast and furious. Click here for the full post.

School Choice Awards Highlight Differences Between Private Initiative and Traditional Approaches

Alice Salles: When freedom lays the groundwork for markets, colorful outbursts of creativity and efficacy can be seen, filling the air with sparkles. Not just figuratively. Unfortunately for many children who now lack the opportunity to attend a school that meets their needs, many in America fail to see education as a market as well. Not because parents do not want to see results, but because special groups have, over the years, usededucation as a means to obtain political influence, oftentimes hurting the poorest among us. With their talk of making education a “right,” they helped to remove the market element, further hindering competition and, as a result, increasing the overall cost of education across the board. In states like Arizona, where students have had the opportunity to experiment with the idea of school choice, even if just superficially, things seem to be getting better. Because of the implementation of the charter school system in the state — a system that still relies on public funding — local public school students are able to “learn to speak Mandarin, study dance, [and even] become young engineers or delve into the medical sciences.” Click here for the full post.

The Children Have Been Left Behind

Michelle Ray: It may have never been formally codified into law, but freedom of choice may be one of the most important liberties we hope to enjoy as American citizens. It’s one we exercise daily, from the food we choose to eat to the products we choose to buy. We choose our leaders, and even choose not to choose if we are so inclined. So why is it that we should allow the government to restrict citizens to a single choice when it comes to education? Public schools in America face a number of basic issues. They have suffered from classroom overcrowding since the 1990s. No Child Left Behind changed their focus from helping kids learn to making them learn to decode tests. Common Core has left many parents bewildered as children are taught ridiculously circumspect ways to solve basic problems. In the most egregious cases, dilapidated buildings put children at risk, such as in Detroit where striking teachers published photos of bullet holes in windows and mold & mushrooms growing from the walls. The New York City Public Schools’ notorious “Rubber Room” was a wasteful concession to the public education unions where failed educators remained on the payroll while sitting around playing games and awaiting hearings instead of being fired for outrageous infractions. Click here for the full post.

The Real Value of Education

Sarah Marie Arnold: “If you don’t have a college degree, you won’t amount to anything in life.” “Good thing you’re a stay-at-home mom since you don’t have a degree.” “Wow, your background and experience is so impressive!  Where did you go to college?  What’s that, you didn’t?  Oh.” “How do you expect to homeschool your kids without a college degree?” I could go on.  It seems today that the point of education, the ultimate value people place in it, resides in a little piece of over-priced paper.  Even the conservatives who decry the college and university system and its obvious indoctrination of generation after generation into authoritarian and socialist “values” discount you, your experience, and your value if you choose to not spend four (or more) years post-high school getting indoctrinated. What?  Is that really what we’ve come to—vesting the ultimate value of education in a piece of paper, one that puts kids into significant debt and generally offers no real value to their ability to work (underwater basket weaving, anyone? gender studies? new age mysticism?)?  Do we really trust these entities to churn out responsible, reliable, good citizens after 12 years in failing public schools?  Or worse—trust them to not undo 12 years of good work in other school options? Click here for the full post. 

Why School Choice is critical to Texas

Sonja Harris: Many of us take education for granted.  After all, there are plenty of public schools in Texas, right?  Unfortunately, some schools in Texas are failing or are underperforming.    And because some of us were privileged to attend an alternate or private school doesn’t mean that everyone can afford to attend a private school.   Parents should have the freedom of choice to help their children achieve the American Dream.   The American Dream after all is for all Americans, not just a few. Education is going to be one of the most important issues Texans face in the next few years.  Think about this, without education where will we find our next generation of teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants, pharmacists, computer analysts and business men/women?  How about the future of technology in Texas? Where will the hospitals and nursing homes find qualified staff to manage these facilities? According to Forbes.com as of October, 2015, Texas is an economic leader.  But Texas also has a dark side, education. Click here for the full post.

End the Hostage Taking of Government Schools in California

Stephen Frank: On the ballot in dozens of cities on November 8 are bond measures to finance the construction of new schools and the maintenance of old ones.  Many districts, Like the Los Angeles Unified School District, Simi Valley Unified School District and the San Francisco Unified School District have declining enrollment—all for several years in a row and into the future.  That does not stop government schools to beg for more bond money to finance fewer students and higher pension payments.  Statewide according to the LA Times the average California district pays 19% for pensions and benefits. LAUSD pays 27% of it budget to pensions and benefits.  Does not leave a lot for real education—if you called teaching a dumbed down curriculum called Common Core quality education.  Graduation rates in California schools are created not earned.  LAUSD paid $15 million last year, and doing so again this year, to create online classes that are not audited, so another 20% of the students can get a worthless piece of paper called a “diploma”. LAUSD is a great example of students fleeing the district.  At one point there were 700,000 students in the district.  Today there are 500,000 in regular government schools and 107,000 in charter schools.  There are also another 42,000 students on a waiting list to get into a charter school—but the district is holding these students hostage by not allowing more charter schools to be opened.  It should…

Career and Technology Education – An Alternative to College

Tom Balek: The nexus between education and employment has never been more complex. Some political leaders and candidates say a college education is so vital in today’s job market that taxpayers should provide it as a free entitlement.  Most high schools view anything short of college admission as a failure.  But many college graduates, despite racking up huge student loan debt, have such a hard time finding jobs that they end up tending bar or waiting tables.  Meanwhile employers contend that they can’t find employees with adequate skills for entry level or more advanced positions.  And foreign students dominate advanced-study courses at our universities, casting doubt on the rigor and subject matter of our traditional high school classes. Clearly something is out of sync in the school-to-career formula. School choice is widely embraced as the primary vehicle for improved educational outcomes.  There is no longer any question that schools who compete for students and have the freedom to try innovative methods deliver better results than traditional schools.  Still, many “choice” schools offer the same college-prep curriculum, but in a different building or perhaps using alternative methods. Click here for the full post.

It’s Time For School Choice In Texas!

Will Franklin: Texas has some of the best public schools in the country. Some of the highest graduation rates in America. Some of the highest standardized test scores within each demographic cohort. Our outcome disparities– sometimes people call thoseachievement gaps— are smaller than in most states. But Texas also has many hundreds of thousands of kids in hundreds of failing public schools. Nearly three out of every four Texas 8th grade students are not proficient in reading, and three out of five are not proficient in math. Texas faces shortages of skilled workers, even with all the many thousands of Californians and Illinoisans and New Yorkers moving here every year to work for tech firms and finance firms and so forth. Texas universities openly bemoan having to provide remedial education in basic courses for far too many Texas high school graduates (this isn’t exclusive to Texas, but still). Texas has some of the most robust non-teaching staff growth in recent years, plus some of the worst school debt in the country (nearly 120 billion dollars). Only half of our education employees actually interact with kids. We spend nearly 60 billion dollars every biennium just on K-12 education, and our skyrocketing property taxes reflect that. Click here for the full post and video.

Charter Schools and the Ghastly Patronage Math Fighting Them

Peter Ingemi: One of the things that has confused me quite a bit in the battle for charter school both in general and here in Massachusetts per question 2 is the math behind the opposition. As a rule the voters who tend so support charter schools the most are the very poor voters whose children are trapped in failing schools that many of the opponents of charter schools have failed to serve. And while the Teachers unions are almost completely united against charter schools many individual teachers are not all that pleased with their unions decisions and when given the chance to abandon the unions as they were in Wisconsin, left them in drove. Click here for the full post.

Here’s what makes charter schools different

Nick Hankoff: September 22, 2016—Recently in Los Angeles, the board of the El Camino Real Charter High School carried a meeting at the Woodland Hills school to “placate Los Angeles Unified School District concerns about liberal credit-card spending by school administrators and inadequate board oversight.” This meeting was considered of extreme importance after the school’s leadership received a notice from the LAUSD alleging “fiscal mismanagement” and other open-meetings violations. The LAUSD could revoke the school’s charter if these concerns are not addressed. Public charter schools that fail to perform according to the state’s expectations are often forced to close their doors. But when public traditional schools are accused of mismanagement and other violations, nothing happens. Click here for the full post.

D.C. charters and DCPS: collaboration but not capitulation

Mark Lerner: Yesterday, American University Radio WAMU and National Public Radio ran a story by Martin Austermuhle entitled  “After 20 Years, Are Charters and DCPS Learning To Get Along?” about the first two decades of charter schools operating in Washington, D.C.  In the piece, in which I’m quoted, the Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles comes to this conclusion: “We have a very unique situation here in D.C., with 55 percent of our students attending DCPS, 45 percent attending public charter schools. And competition has gotten us this far, but going forward what’s going to get us [further] is the collaboration.” She is absolutely right.  I returned a few weeks ago from the Amplify School Choice conference in Denver hosted by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity totally convinced that here in the nation’s capital we desperately need our version of this city’s District-Charter Collaboration Compact.  But before we link hands and commit to all getting along for the benefit of the children, we need to consider the details of what would be contained in such a contract. Click here for the full post.

The Birth Of A Charter School

Laura Carno: We have read many accounts of successful charter schools across the country. We understand from these stories how students are well served when parents have the ability to choose how their children are educated. But how are these charter schools born? What is the gap that is identified in the community that causes people to say, “We need another choice”? I had the opportunity to sit down with Ronnie Wilson, a Colorado Springs father of two who made that decision. Ronnie and his wife, who is a 2nd grade teacher at another area charter school, were hearing from other families that they wanted some additional choices in their school district. With 1500 students leaving the district for other schools, they knew there was something that other districts had that may have been lacking in their own district. The Wilsons live in Colorado Springs School District 49, which straddles Colorado Springs proper and some of the suburbs just east of town on the plains. Click here for the full post.

Bridging the Divide

Kristoffer Adams: Part 1: Working on a concise way to discuss why choice is so important is difficult. It is not a topic that you can sum up in one article. The amount of time I spend writing this very article I can be saving a child from the misery of subpar schools. This issue is a serious one and we need to make a point of working on non-partisan efforts. I know I have spent time talking about Left and Right on this very blog. I utterly despise the fact it is a partisan issue and that Democrats and Republicans do not work together around the country. In the areas they do work together, there have been signs of hope. It is easy to move the needle when we work together as a group to solve the worlds programs.   Click here for part 1 in full.  Part 2: When I mention Blue or Red what is the first thing that comes to mind. I know for a lot of my political friends, they think Democrat or Republican. Do you know what I think? I think of two groups that cannot figure out how to play well together. Education reform is supposed to be about children and their respective futures. Partisan politics are causing us to miss that point. Click here for part 2 in full. 

Yes, Education Is A Commodity And We Should Treat It As Such

Kira Davis: I once had an argument with my left-leaning father about the issue of “free” college and school choice. As a fan of the free markets I naturally fall on the side of everyone paying for their own college education. However, he was surprised to discover that I also supported the idea of primary education dollars being used as a flexible commodity instead of a fixed one. “I’m uncomfortable with those ideas,” he told me. “Education isn’t a commodity and we shouldn’t treat it that way.” I whole-heartedly disagree. Education is absolutely 100% a commodity. It is a service that is provided at a cost and it results in producing a person who will go on to become a tax-payer (hopefully) and contributing member of our economic structure. Click here for the full post.

A Texas School Spends $48,788 Per Student To Educate “At-Risk” Students, Here’s How New Orleans Did It For Less

Kevin Boyd: New Orleans’s student population is mostly “at-risk” students. But they have been showing improvement with high school graduation rates improving over the past decade. The city has been spending a little over $8,800 per student for its improvements. Why have New Orleans schools improved? Because of school choice and charter schools. Click here for the full post.

The American Dream of a Quality Education

Kathleen McKinley: In the daily cycle of Presidential news, sometimes a really important policy stance gets lost in the shuffle. In early September Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, proposed to redirect $20 billion in his first budget proposal to expand school choice for poor families. He proposed to establish a block grant for 11 million school aged children from underserved populations, letting the funds follow the student instead of funds forcing students into failed public schools. This would be a game changer in allowing parents (especially low income parents) to get the quality education their children deserve. When I visited two charter schools in Denver Colorado in August I learned about the value of dollars following the student who chooses a school that best fits his/her needs. This is especially true for students of color. 46.9% of the charter school population in Colorado are students of color. These students are allowed to enroll across district lines by using Colorado’s open enrollment system.Currently, there are 226 charters schools and one-third of the state’s districts have a charter school in them. What it has accomplished is amazing. In 2005, when charter schools began taking off in the Denver public school system, less than 39% of students graduated on time. By 2016 an astonishing 65% of students graduated on time. In that time Denver public schools have closed or replaced 48 underperforming schools and opened 70 new mostly charter schools. Click here for the…

A New School Choice Option for Native Americans

Jon Gabriel: If you want an example of the federal government’s myriad failures, the Navajo Nation is a good place to start. Despite billions of dollars of Washington spending, and clumsy micromanagement by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the HHS, more than 40 percent of the region’s residents live below the poverty line and the median household income is just $20,005. The sprawling, semi-autonomous community covers 27,000 square miles of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, but is shared by only 170,000 people. Not only are the residents spread out over a vast distance, a large percentage live in remote locations making it difficult to establish quality local schools. As a result, the average high school graduation rate is a mere 32 percent, with only 5 percent of Navajos holding a bachelor’s degree. So earlier this year, Sen. John McCain introduced the Native American Education Opportunity Act, which would enable residents of the Navajo Nation and other Native American communities to use an innovative school choice option called Education Savings Accounts. ESAs were first introduced in Arizona five years ago where they have met with great success. Over the past few years, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee replicated Arizona’s plan, making ESAs available only to children with special needs and kids below the poverty line. But last year Nevada took a big leap forward by opening the program to all public school students in the Silver State….

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump Are Talking Education. Why Not?

Jay Caruso: While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fight about events from 20 years ago and their approval ratings continue to fall, there are important issues worth discussing and debating. Education has only been brought up in the context of secondary education and it’s been Hillary Clinton preening about “free” college tuition. Donald Trump has largely ignored the issue. Education is largely a state and local issue so it doesn’t rise to the level of importance in presidential elections as it might in a gubernatorial election. Still, it is an issue that resonates. School choice, whether it is access to private schools through opportunity scholarships or the expansion of charter schools, is quickly becoming an issue that is consistently finding approval, even in geographic areas that might have rejected it ten years ago. Click here for the full post. 

Campbell Brown On School Choice and Charter Schools

Jay Caruso: Now that all the kids are back in school, it’s a great time to talk about education. Campbell Brown, a journalist with CNN and MSNBC has become a strong advocate for improving our education system and she believes that comes from good charter school programs and school choice. The organization she co-founded, The 74 Million is a great resource for information and news about education. Campbell relayed her story to Jay and Neal about how she got into all of this and what more needs to be done. She discusses the battles against teachers unions, the success of charter schools in poor areas of New York and Boston as well as the future of education and how it needs to adapt to the changing business and economic climates. Click here for the podcast. 

Tightening Rules Is Still Not Enough For Charter School Opponents

Jim Shaw: Earlier this week a certain Youngstown new source ran an article asserting that charter schools in Ohio should no longer receive educational grants from the federal government. Why? Because a few charter schools in Ohio have had less than satisfactory performance. The news source recognizes that new federal grants have additional rules and regulations that were crafted to avoid future under-performance, but these rules do not seem to be enough for opponents of charter schools. This situation is a great example of opponents of charter schools. They will claim any reason to oppose charter schools, but when steps are taken to improve any situation that may be less than ideal, they will continue their opposition. This is because charter opponents are not against charter schools for “the children’s” sake, but for the special interests of the teachers unions. Opposition to any sort of educational choice in Mahoning County, with Youngstown in particular, seems hypocritical at best. Youngstown City schools have been such a long and spectacular failure that the state has had to step in and take control of the district. Situations like Youngstown City schools show why school choice, with charters in particular, is important. Students should not be condemned to such a poor public choice as Youngstown City Schools if there could be an alternative. Click here for the full post.

Donald Trump Vows to be an Advocate for School Choice

James Foytlin: On September 8th GOP Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump unveiled four proposals to increase School Choice, and increase student performance.To achieve this long-term goal of school choice, Mr. Trump plans to make this a shared national mission; to bring hope to every child in every city in this land. Trump said ,”As your president I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice,” , speaking from the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy charter school. “I understand many stale old politicians will resist, but it’s time for our country to start thinking big and correct once again.Trump went on to say that expanding school choice would help minority students who are currently trapped in “failing government schools.” Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, weighed in on the proposal, giving it a big thumbs-up. “The school choice proposals unveiled today by Mr. Trump are a bold set of policies that will increase accountability and lead to better results for our nation’s children,” he said. “These policies prove once again that Mr. Trump is the only person running for president who has the leadership required to make America great again.” Click here for the full post.

Why It’s Time To Disrupt The Government Education Status Quo

Israel Ortega: Every once in a while, an idea comes around that fundamentally changes an industry. Think of Napster in music distribution, Facebook in social media and Uber in transportation. Change seldom happens overnight. Resistance is inevitable. But if done right, disruption wins out. In education policy, Education Saving Accounts (ESAs) may be the disruption necessary to spur innovation and competition in a system that is leaving many young adults ill-prepared to enter a changing and competitive workforce. At the heart of ESAs is the idea that parents should have the ability to customize a child’s education. In other words, rather than thinking that every child should attend a traditional public brick and mortar school, ESA supporters argue that parents should have direct control of taxpayer money to decide what form of education works best for the child. Options include private schools, virtual and blended learning. The money could also be used for textbooks and tutoring. Click here for the full post.

Could Ed Secretary’s home schooling remark hint of more government oversight?

Fran Eaton: The Obama Administration has made it clear in their view education is an issue just too crucial to be left entirely in parents’ hands. While the President has supported high-performing publicly-funded charter schools, he and former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan successfully worked to remove private school vouchers from Washington D.C. students’ options. The Obama Administration’s antagonistic view of parental school choice gained attention again this week when new Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. was asked his thoughts about home schooling at a breakfast for Christian Science Monitor reporters. The Washington blog Politico reported Secretary King said he is concerned that home taught students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.” Click here for the full post.

Charter Schools Are Part of the Solution

Faye Anderson: I am a policy wonk and longtime “CBC Week” attendee. In DC, policy positions typically follow the money. So I was wary of CBCF ALC education sessions in light of the fact that the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are conference sponsors. Congressman Bobby Scott, Ranking Member on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, hosted the Education Braintrust. The focus of the braintrust was “evidence-based programs and best practices for increasing black children’s opportunity for success in today’s education and workforce systems.” Rep. Scott asked presenters to do more than “celebrate the problem.” He called on them to offer solutions. So surely someone would offer charter schools as a solution. No one did. Click here for the full post.

Educational Equality: the Case for Vouchers and Collaboration

Darvio Morrow: In a time of racial strife, growing inequality and more questions than answers on how to fix it, it is time that we re-examine what Horace Mann once called “the great equalizer”: education. Educational equality can change the lives of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. A good education is the key to unlocking the promise of America’s New Economy. From kindergarten to college, a good education is more important now than ever before. We already know that there are thousands upon thousands of jobs that go unfilled every year in America for lack of a skilled workforce. We also know that, according to some statistics, both Charter and Catholic schools produce more eventual college graduates than their public school counterparts. Furthermore, we also know that it is critical to have a college degree in the New Economy. But in many cities across the country, including Cleveland, there’s still a long way to go to unlock the promise of the 21st century in Education. Click here for the full post.

The nation’s report card and charter schools

Bob Weeks: The U.S. Department of Education, through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), conducts the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) every other year. Known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” it is “the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.”1 NAEP is useful because the test is created and administered independently of the states: “Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban districts.”2 This is important because studies have shown that states vary widely in the rigor of the tests they create themselves: “The key finding is that the variation among state achievement standards continues to be wide.”3 The NAEP tests are administered at several grade levels and for a variety of subjects, but the primary focus is on math and reading, at grades four and eight. I’ve gathered test scores from NCES for the 2015 test cycle, for these two subjects and two grade levels, with the results broken down by race and whether the school is a charter school. I gathered the data using the NAEP Data Explorer available at NCES4 and used Tableau Public to present the data. The data includes the scale score for each state, grade, and subject, along with the percentage of students scoring “Below Basic,” “At or above basic,”…

School choice and funding

Bob Weeks: Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm traditional public schools, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position. The prevalent argument is that charter schools and other school choice programs drain funds from public schools. That is, if a public school student chooses to attend a charter or private school, and if the money follows the student to the other school, the public school district loses money that it otherwise would have received. Therefore, the public school district is worse off, and so too are its students. A rebuttal is that since a public school has shed the responsibility for schooling the student, its costs should fall correspondingly. This would be true if all the costs of a public school are variable. Some costs are fixed, however, meaning they can’t be adjusted quickly — in the short run, that is. An example is the cost to maintain a classroom. If a school has one less student than the year before, it still requires the same support for utilities. One or several fewer students doesn’t mean that fewer teachers are needed. Click here for the full post.

Black Families Love Choice, Too

Alice Salles: In case you were wondering, school choice is popular. Especially among those who need it most. According to a survey released by North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, 56 percent of local black voters favor public charter schools, while only 24 percent oppose them. At least 59 percent of those who participated also claimed that they support the expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Twenty-three percent do not want to see the program’s expansion. Traditional schools, which are burdened with the heavy weight of union-backed demands, often tend to perform poorly, especially when compared to the majority of charter schools and other institutions that are not government-run. In The Origins of the Public School, Austrian economist Robert P. Murphy explains that traditional schools became widely popular once “inefficient ‘firms’” sought to influence public school leadership in order to “hinder competitors.” Murphy notes that this incident is “common to all expansions of state power.” Adding that the defense of standardization of curricula and centralization of “the disbursement of public funds” toward public schooling originally came from those who “would benefit financially from such policies,” including trade unions, he argues that protectionism—not education—is what drives teachers to unionize and burden school systems with their demands, sacrificing productivity for wages. Click here for the full post.

The Superintendent and Segregation

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz: As a child of parents who grew up in the segregated south in the 1940s and 50s, I got more annoyed than usual when I read Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz blamed school choice and vouchers as a contributing factor for increased segregation in Indiana schools. In an interview with Chalkbeat Indiana, Ritz said vouchers were to blame for a rise in segregated schools…. Ritz acknowledged the importance of diversity in Marion County, and she, too, brought up school choice and vouchers in particular. She said her effort to pause the expansion of the state’s voucher program could perhaps play a role in decreasing segregated schools, although she didn’t elaborate.   The problem with Ritz’s claim is that not only is it wrong, but the data tends to show otherwise; that vouchers and choice actually increase integration. Click here for the full post.

Online school attendance, funding issue presents unique opportunity for change

Maggie Thurber: There’s a school attendance debate raging in Ohio and the outcome impacts more than just students and parties in a lawsuit. The debate raises a bigger question of double standards when it comes to attendance and whether or not funding based upon attendance is the right way to allocate state monies. It also presents Ohioans with an opportunity to truly think “outside the box” when it comes to providing kids with an education. But in order to understand that bigger question and the opportunities, some background is necessary. At issue in a lawsuit filed earlier this year is whether or not ECOT, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, has to provide student log-in data to the Ohio Department of Education and whether or not such log-in data can be used to determine ECOT’s funding. Click here for the full post.

The Need to Fix Georgia’s Failing Schools

Rhonda Gatch: The opposition to Georgia’s opportunity school district referendum has stockpiled millions of dollars to fight against desperately needed measures to help students in failing schools.  The opponents of Amendment 1, which voters will consider this November, include the Georgia Association of Educators and the Georgia AFL-CIO, along with many other members of the public school establishment.  The National Education Association has dedicated 1.5 million dollars for an ad campaign to oppose the Opportunity School District, and opposition groups recently spent $730,000 to run television ads against the initiative. The Opportunity School District initiative, known as Amendment 1, addresses the 127 failing schools in Georgia that have not attained a 60 percent score for the last three consecutive years on the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index.  The Opportunity School District (OSD) is a proposed constitutional amendment that must receive voter approval on November 8th, and is modeled after similar initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee.  This legislation will allow the state to temporarily step in to aid schools that have struggled for years to successfully educate students, who are compelled to attend based on their zip code.  The state’s involvement would last anywhere between 5 to 10 years and then would return to local control. Click here for the full post. 

TEASER: School Choice in Texas Video Series

Will Franklin: A couple of weeks back, I promised a three-part video series on School Choice. Well, I’ve been traveling and otherwise busier than anticipated with my day job, but part one is nearly ready to launch, so I wanted to offer a short teaser from it in the meantime. Last month, the Franklin Center hosted a really great conference on the issue of school choice, and I met a lot of fantastic folks. One of the attendees, Bob Weeks, from Wichita, Kansas, posted this great treasure trove of data on school staffing in each state over time. If you play with the interactive visualization, you’ll discover than Texas is quite the outlier in terms of administrator growth since 1998. Nearly all states have grown the ranks of their school administrators by between a cone of roughly 10 and 50%. A handful of states now have fewer administrators, and a small few have quite a lot more. The average for all states in 19%. Click here for the full post (and video). 

Court Battles Shape School Choice in Colorado – and Nationwide

Matt Arnold: The continuing saga of the ongoing court battles over the Douglas County School Choice Scholarship program (in its various iterations) highlight the central (and increasing) role of the courts (as opposed to elected school boards, or the state legislature in whom constitutional authority for making education policy and resourcing decisions is vested) in deciding how – and under what conditions –  our children receive an education. Citizens of Colorado (and other states) hold elections every year to send representatives to different venues to consider and decide on policy (and allocate resources) for their children’s education: in odd-numbered years, for local school boards; in even-numbered years, for the state legislature, which has the sole constitutional authority to “provide for the establishment and maintenance of a thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state.” Yet ultimately, the decisions about how education is funded, and how schools are run, are being made in neither of these arenas, but in the courts. Click here to read the full post. 

ISchool High School

Laura Fillault: Some families in The Woodlands, Texas area are taking advantage of Texas’s school choice opportunities by attending iSchool High School at Lone Star College – University Park. iSchool High School is a public charter high school whose curriculum takes students through high school and up to two years of college courses in four years at no additional cost. The program is offered at many Lone Star College campuses around the Houston area and online. One family who attends iSchool High School are the Bunches. Grant is a sophomore and Aidan is a freshman at iSchool HS. Their parents offered them the choice to attend either the local public high school or iSchool, laying out the pros and cons of attending either and both boys chose iSchool. I interviewed Alex Bunch about sending his sons to iSchool HS. The program is student-led, meaning students are responsible for learning at their own pace. The curriculum is rigorous and the standards are high. This program is not for everyone. Those who struggle are assessed and sometimes guided to re-enroll in the local traditional public high school. iSchool HS prides itself on a 100% success rate, which they define as a student graduating with a 3.0 gpa or higher and each student taking college courses that can lead to a professional trade certification, associate’s degree or credits to transfer to a four-year university. Alex and his family have lived in many different…

Your ZIP Code Should Not Determine Your Success

Kira Davis: I used to be the Executive Director at an inner city, non-profit after-school program in Gary, Indiana. We helped students of all ages with homework, mentoring and computer access. Like too many largely black communities in this country, Gary was impoverished, crime-ridden and suffered from very low education rates. We sometimes lent our space to charter schools to hold their lotteries. Our first lottery was big. Hundreds showed. There were 200 spots available and about 800 applicants. Not all those people crowded into our small accommodations, but the ones who did come were nervous and excited. Naturally, when all the names had been called many parents and guardians who didn’t hear their student’s name were visibly upset. One elderly lady who knew me from our program touched my arm. She was weeping. “Is there anything you can do? We need this. My grandson needs this so much! I can’t send him back to that school! Isn’t there anything you can do?” She was desperate and I knew why. Our schools had been (and still are to this day) plagued with violence, abysmal graduation rates and woeful underperformance. At one point several elementary schools lost their national accreditation. Click here for the full post. 

Strive Preparatory Schools are Changing Lives in Denver and Showing Ohio the Blueprint

Darvio Morrow: Strive Preparatory Schools, a charter school system in Denver, is achieving significant results with a diverse group of children. Strive Prep, which opened its first school in 2006, is now home to 11 schools and over 3,500 students. 97 percent of their students are people of color and 87 percent are low income. 42 percent are English learners and 12 percent are students with special needs. With a majority-minority and low income population, they are achieving results that surpass many of the public school systems in America. Between 2007 and 2013, a Strive Prep school led all Denver Public Schools in academic growth at the middle school level. 92 percent of their first senior class was accepted to a four year college. Strive’s philosophy is community oriented. Chris Gibbons, Founder and CEO of Strive, says “College preparation is a means to an end where scholars are equipped to earn a four-year college degree, come back to their community and lead and transform their own neighborhood in the ways that they imagine and the ways that they seek and believe are possible.” Click here for the full post.