Archive for January, 2011

31st 2011
Don’t Make Parents Choose Between Finding a Better School & Obeying the Law

Posted under Parents & School Choice & School Finance

During last week’s National School Choice Week emerged a sad, dramatic story that made the case for school choice better than many policy papers could. I’m finally getting around to commenting on the case of Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar, who was charged with a felony for falsifying papers to enroll her daughter in a different school district where she would be safer.

For someone like me living in Colorado, with a strong (but not perfect) open enrollment law, the first reaction was: You have to lie to get your kid into another school district? It’s very sad that some K-12 systems can be so backward and unresponsive, but it’s symptomatic of a larger problem. Using a real-life example, Adam Emerson notes on the RedefinED blog that a tuition tax credit program like the one in Florida also easily would enable a mom to find a safer schooling option without breaking the law. Continue Reading »

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28th 2011
Wrapping Up School Choice Week: Andrew Coulson Touts Tax Credits… and More!

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Research & School Choice

Aren’t there any child labor laws in effect here? This National School Choice Week phenomenon is great, but the good folks of the Education Policy Center have me blogging overtime. I talked about going on strike, but they just laughed and patted me on the head. How condescending!*

Anyway, rather than write any more, I wanted to highlight another one of the great series of Reason TV School Choice Week video interviews. In this edition, Andrew Coulson from Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom talks about the impact of school choice on social conflict and the promise of tuition tax credits:

Continue Reading »

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27th 2011
Finding It Very Hard to Get Excited about “Collaborpalooza” Coming Soon to Denver

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & School Board & Teachers

I’ve got to hand it to Mike Antonucci for coming up with such a great name for an education event as Collaborpalooza (try saying it five times fast). Sounds like some sort of rock & roll festival.

But according to the U.S. Department of Education that’s putting it on, the actual name of the event is the Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration. Of 245 school districts that applied, the Department announced this week the names of the 150 that will participate, in addition to 13 districts separately selected to act as presenters.

Color me highly skeptical about the whole confab. Of course, all results and other things being equal, collaboration on a project is preferable to having it imposed from the top-down. But how often in the multi-billion, quasi-monopoly K-12 education enterprise are all other things really equal — especially when the Department insists on involving unions? Did Colorado’s 100-plus non-union school districts need not apply? Continue Reading »

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26th 2011
Innovation and Autonomy Tie DeGrow’s New Op-Ed to State of the Union Address

Posted under Denver & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & Principals & School Board & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Urban Schools

So what does my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow’s brand new op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette have to do with President Obama’s State of the Union address last night? Piqued your curiosity at all? Maybe just a tad?

A couple weeks ago I told you about what’s going on in Falcon School District 49 near Colorado Springs, and the beginnings of their creative attempt to restructure the school district. Well, the Falcon board voted to move forward with the innovation plan — a decision Ben lauds and highlights in his Gazette op-ed.

You can find out more about Falcon’s innovation plan by listening to an iVoices podcast with school board member Chris Wright, or by visiting a new page created on the district’s website. A main tenet of the plan is moving greater autonomy from the central administrative office to the schools in the different innovation zones. To get there, the district plans to request Innovation status from the State Board of Education — a step empowered by the creation of Colorado’s 2008 Innovation Schools Act.

But what was the genesis of the groundbreaking piece of legislation? A high-need school with a bold principal (Kristin Waters, now helping to lead DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg’s efforts on innovation and reform) and dedicated teachers seeking freedom from state and local regulations to serve their students more effectively. Yes, I’m talking about the Bruce Randolph School — a 6th-to-12th grade school that President Obama highlighted by name as a success story during last night’s State of the Union address. Continue Reading »


25th 2011
Perfect for School Choice Week: Dr. Jay Greene’s Education Reform Agenda

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & Research & School Choice

In the second edition of special National School Choice Week blog posts, I’m mostly going to take a break and point you to another great video in’s topical series. Last week it was former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Today it’s Dr. Jay Greene, a preeminent education scholar from the University of Arkansas — perhaps most personally notable for saying I have “one of the best education blogs, period” — telling Nick Gillespie what’s at the top of his reform wish list:

How many of you were surprised at the answer? Raise your hands. That’s what I thought. Not too many.

Still looking for a way to celebrate National School Choice Week? Other than the Colorado events I told you about yesterday, you also can visit the fabulous, one-of-a-kind School Choice for Kids website to learn how you can take advantage of the education options we already enjoy.

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24th 2011
Hey, It’s National School Choice Week!

Posted under School Choice

Let’s see how many times I can say it between now and Friday: It’s National School Choice Week! If that doesn’t get you pumped up, what will? Okay, okay. You want to know what’s behind the name. Well, there are a couple big events going on here in Colorado that I know about:

Meanwhile, if you want an inspiring read to fit the theme of the week, check out Guy Benson’s Townhall column based on an inspirational interview he had with Virginia Walden Ford, the main force behind D.C. Parents for School Choice.


21st 2011
Falling Enrollment Pushes Small Colo. School District to $46,000 Per Pupil

Posted under Online Schools & Rural Schools & School Board & Teachers

I’ve heard my mom say on more than one occasion that people come in all shapes and sizes. The same is true for school districts, too. Rebecca Jones at Education News Colorado provides some interesting insights with a story focused on Colorado’s smallest, and steadily shrinking, school district: Agate. When you see the numbers and the trends that tell the story, you can see why the “State’s smallest district ponders future”:

A decade ago, enrollment in Agate peaked at 132. Since then, the decline has been steady. And like many small school districts across Colorado struggling with declining enrollment, the prospects for remaining a viable independent district grow slimmer with each departing child.

To serve its 26 students – 12 in high school, five in middle school and nine in elementary school – Agate has a nearly $1.2 million budget for the 2010-11 school year. More than 70 percent of that comes from the state, which sets aside a relatively generous per-pupil allotment for rural school districts, and lets a district with declining enrollment average out its head count over four years, so a sudden drop in enrollment won’t cause quite so catastrophic a loss of revenue.

That means Agate is actually collecting state funds this year as though it were serving 51 students rather than the 37 it projected it would have, the 33 it opened the year with or the 26 it has now.

You were doing some back-of-the-envelope math there, weren’t you? So was I. At the beginning of the current school year, Agate’s budget stood at roughly $36,000 per student. Now it stands closer to $46,000 per student. It’s easy to make light of the problem, but how many other districts would experience a 20 percent drop in student enrollment just because the economy forced a couple families to move away? That would be a loss of nearly 1,000 students in an average-sized Colorado school district or more than 17,000 students in the state’s largest district: Jeffco. Continue Reading »

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20th 2011
“What’s at the absolute top” of Jeb Bush’s Education Reform List? Digital Learning

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Choice

Today I get to recommend to you a great video from, as Nick Gillespie asks former Florida governor (and founder, board president and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education) Jeb Bush, “What is at the absolute top of your education reform list?”:

Continue Reading »

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19th 2011
Colorado Voucher Bogeyman Story Makes Me Laugh… and Ask Serious Questions

Posted under Homeschooling & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

Update: Thanks to quick help from staff at the Colorado Dept. of Education, I can tell you that Colorado public school agencies spent $7.9 million in 2008-09, and at least $6.9 million in 2009-10, on “tuition paid to private schools or non-approved agencies.” Now to figure out if that changes the nuance of CEA’s opposition to a private school tax credit program.

Hey, there, don’t look now, but I think there’s something behind you… like the bogeyman!! Not really, it’s just the impression I got from reading yesterday’s Colorado Independent story titled “Colorado private school vouchers are back, disguised as tax credits.” (H/T Complete Colorado) You’ve got to watch out for those pesky vouchers in disguise. You never know what they might sneak around to do: haunt your house (Vouchergeist!), drink your blood (Vouchers or Vampires?), or worst of all, maybe steal some of your Legos!

About that story in the Independent, guess what? Did you know that teachers unions and public school establishment groups are opposed to private school choice? I had no idea before reading it that groups like the Colorado Education Association or Colorado Association of School Boards might not like Rep. Spencer Swalm and Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s House Bill 1048 (PDF), which would provide modest relief in the form of tax credits for families who pay for private school tuition or home school expenses.

Ok, time to get less silly. I’m glad to see the Left-leaning Independent acknowledge the plain truth that the proposal would save the state money during these tight budget times — much like a somewhat similar tuition tax credit proposal put forth by my Education Policy Center friends as part of the Citizens’ Budget. But a couple of other points in the article deserve a response, like this one: Continue Reading »


18th 2011
Online Schools and Otherwise, More Colorado Families Using Open Enrollment

Posted under Independence Institute & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice

This morning Education News Colorado has published an important story by Nancy Mitchell on the growing number of families opting to enroll students in public education programs outside their district of residence:

This fall, 66,296 students are “choicing out” of their home district. That’s 8 percent of the state’s 843,316 pupils; in 2001, the comparable figure was 3 percent.

In education circles, it’s known as “inter-district open enrollment.” There’s also “intra-district open enrollment,” where students move to a public school outside their neighborhood but still within the school district. But even that description is too cut and dried. Continue Reading »

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