The Cost of Choice
School privatization is once again on the block for the Indiana General Assembly. The House Budget bill includes increases for both charter schools and vouchers.
The "choice" for vouchers, as this article explains, belongs to the school, not necessarily the parent. If a private school chooses not to take your child because he is a behavior problem, she is not the right religion, or your family is not "the right fit," then the school can "choose" not to accept your voucher.
The cost of school vouchers affects all schools in Indiana, not just the schools whose students go to voucher-accepting private schools. As Southwest Allen County Superintendent Phil Downs explains it,
The voucher money is not taken from the local school, it is taken out of the Tuition Support budget, (there is not a simple transfer of funds between the two schools) thereby decreasing the dollars for all public schools.From a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial...
“The (Department of Education) continues to be diligent in compiling and reviewing the trend data as it relates to the Choice Scholarship Program,” [Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick] told The Journal Gazette in an email statement. “Knowing the K-12 budget proposals are inadequate and given the House budget proposal adds an additional $18 million to the Choice Program, we are committed to the full transparency of data to better inform communities and policymakers. Our travels across Indiana have revealed a lot of confusion and questions from taxpayers regarding the intent, expense and impact of the program as it relates to our most vulnerable students.”
“This program continues to be a choice not for students, but for the schools receiving them,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools. “If a (voucher) school doesn't feel like accepting a student for whatever reason, they don't have to. Oftentimes, that means students who are in need of special education services or special discipline aren't welcome there. Often those families turn to us, and we're happy to take them – because they are our children. Not all schools feel that way.”
DeVos: Let's Voucherize the Nation
Betsy DeVos Backs $5 Billion in Tax Credits for School Choice
There are people who disagree with the Madison/Jefferson concept of the separation of church and state. They want your tax money to spend on their churches.
[I wonder how pro-voucher folks would handle a voucher for a school sponsored by the Church of Satan, a Jedi Church school, or a school run by Pastafarians?]
They believe that since they pay taxes they should be able to put their tax money anywhere they choose.
We don't give taxpayers a voucher to use at Barnes and Noble if they don't want to go to the public library. We don't give taxpayers a voucher for the local country club because they don't want to mix with the "riff-raff" at the public park. You can't get a voucher for a private police force for your gated community. You can't get a voucher simply because you choose to drive and not use public transportation. We don't give vouchers for any other form of public service...just education.
Secretary DeVos is fond of calling vouchers a parental "choice." That's not always the case. It's not the parents' "choice," because when a student doesn't fit the criteria required by the private school (race, religion, achievement level, the cost to educate, the ability to pay extra for the difference between the voucher and tuition, to provide transportation, to pay for the uniforms), it's the school that makes the choice.
While the program is meant to offer a more politically palatable alternative to budgetary proposals by the Trump administration to create a national voucher program by diverting federal funding from public schools, public school advocates denounced it as a backdoor way to generate voucher dollars if states choose to primarily use the program for private school tuition scholarships.
JoAnn Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, called the proposal “particularly tone deaf” as school leaders across the country struggle to retain teachers who are fed up with low pay and declining work conditions.
“Mobilizing behind a scheme to further starve public schools and nine in 10 American students of the resources they need is not only unresponsive but insulting, and it reflects this administration’s persistent disdain for public education,” she said.
Vouchers as Entitlement
Voucher program serves the top 20 percent
In 2011, Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and other voucher supporters told us that vouchers were needed to help "save" poor children who were "trapped" in so-called "failing" schools. Indiana's voucher plan is now, however, an entitlement for the middle class.
Over 1,300 households that participate in Indiana’s school voucher program have incomes over $100,000, according to the 2018-19 voucher report from the Indiana Department of Education.
That puts them in the top 20 percent of Hoosier households by income. So much for the argument that the voucher program, created in 2011, exists to help poor children “trapped” in low-performing schools.
Like previous state reports on the voucher program, the current report paints a picture of a program that primarily promotes religious education and serves tens of thousands of families that could afford private school tuition without help from the taxpayers.
School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”
Indiana blogger Doug Masson comments on Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld post (above). The voucher plan wasn't about saving poor children after all...[emphasis in original]
...the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.
The Fight Over States' Private School Voucher Proposals Is Heating Up
Legislatures bring up vouchers every year.
Private school vouchers are bad public policy for so many reasons, including the fact that they funnel desperately needed funds away from public schools to private, primarily religious education. Taxpayer dollars should fund public schools – which 90 percent of students in America attend – not unaccountable private schools that can limit who attends them. Nonetheless, there have been 121 bills filed this year in states across the country to expand or create new voucher programs. So far these bills have seen mixed results.
PRISONS AND SCHOOLS
Privatizing Public Services | Prisons and Schools
Published on the Knowing Better YouTube channel.
An interesting discussion on the privatization of prisons and (mostly charter) schools. If you don't want to watch the entire video, the section on schools starts at 9:15.
Privatizing public services has rarely ever worked out for the taxpayer. We've looked at prisons, infrastructure, emergency services, and now schools, and it's the same story every time. But every time we seem to think that this will be the one where it works.
You can only benefit from competition when you're able to increase demand. which you're not able to do for schools and I would hope you wouldn't want to do for prisons, though they seem to find a way.
So the next time a politician tells you that "this time it'll work, I promise," hopefully now, you'll know better.
The Wild, Wild West of Charters
Ohio charter schools want more tax dollars
Charter school operators find out eventually that low student performance has more to do with the social, physical, economic, and political effects of poverty than it does with bad teachers and poor teaching. Years of neglect by municipal and state governments can't be overcome by a few changes in technique and curricula. That's why "a third of charter schools close their doors before they are a decade old." Education is harder than they think...and it's even harder when they are in it for the profit.
Ohio is home to some of the weakest charter laws in the country...and they're asking for more money.
If there is no need for an additional school in a neighborhood, then there won't be enough students to support one (see the video above). States can't afford to support two parallel school systems when only one is needed.
...supporters of school districts, who often view themselves as competing with charters for students and dollars, scoff at that argument. The whole original justification for charter schools, they note, was that privately-run schools would get better results at less cost.
“It seems like the charter schools have figured out that it’s harder than they thought,” said Howard Fleeter, who analyzes finances and school funding for Ohio’s school, boards, school administrators and school business officials. “Now they want every last dime that school districts get.”
There’s also an accountability issue. The state has been fighting with several charter schools the last few years over what it calls overstated attendance counts, which then lead to more money going to schools than should. The battle over ECOT’s attendance and funding was the most public, though several fights with smaller schools are still ongoing.
The state also has a reputation nationally of having too few controls over charters and allowing profiteering managers to fill their pockets by offering low-quality schools. A few years ago, a national charter official referred to Ohio as the “Wild, Wild West” of the charter school world.
And four years ago, Stanford researchers found that Ohio’s charters performed far worse than traditional public schools, showing less academic growth than similar students in districts.
ICYMI: The Cost of Charter Schools
Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts
Charters are often called "public schools." But, they don't follow the same rules as public schools...they don't have to accept all students...they don't have the same requirements for teachers...and they aren't run by publicly accountable school boards.
They also drain money from the local school districts. This report describes what happens when charters move into the neighborhood.
Reasonable people may disagree about education policy. What reasonable people should not do, however, is pretend that unregulated charter school expansion comes at no cost. For public officials to plan for community education needs in a rational manner, two policy innovations are critical:
- First, each school district should produce an annual Economic Impact report assessing the cost of charter expansion in its community, and more targeted analyses should be a required component in the evaluation of new charter applications.
- Secondly, public officials at both the local and state levels must be able to take these findings into account when deciding whether to authorize additional charter schools. Thus the state’s charter authorization law must be amended to empower elected officials to act as effective stewards of the community’s education budget in balancing the potential value of charter schools against the needs of traditional public school students.
The Oakland Teachers Strike Isn’t Just a Walk Out—It’s a Direct Challenge to Neoliberalism
The recent teachers strike in Oakland was about more than teacher salaries. It focused on the damage done to public education through privatization, underfunding, and school closures.
Yet press briefings by the Oakland Education Association (OEA)—the union representing the teachers—and a website created by a community supporter, show an extraordinary shift: a fusion of attention to racial and gender justice alongside labor’s mission to defend the dignity of work and workers. “It’s really, really exciting—a movement that is connecting the dots” observed Pauline Lipman, whose research on the racial significance of neoliberal school reform in Chicago helped inform the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) widely-adopted template for union demands: “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.”
The Oakland school district, like the Chicago Public Schools and urban school systems in most blue states are, as CTU researcher Pavlyn Jankov explains, “broke on purpose.” Local and state politicians, in conjunction with the corporate elite, have refused to pursue progressive taxation for public services and public employee pensions. In Oakland, these actors have trapped the city and its school system in the pattern Jankov identifies as “a cycle of broken budgets and a dependence on financial instruments” that exploit residents.