Archive for the 'School Choice' Category

July
24th 2015
New Mackinac Video Reminds Us of the Power of Choice

Posted under Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

Hello, fellow education policy explorers! It’s 4:15 on a Friday afternoon, and your favorite little edu-wonk has quite a few things left to accomplish before he heads into a fun-filled weekend. Unfortunately, that means we aren’t going to have time for an in-depth conversation today. But never fear!  The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has swooped in to save the day with a new video about the importance of allowing families to access educational opportunities their kids need.

The video is all about a little girl named Mia, whose dyslexia has made school particularly tough for her. Unable to find the help she needed in the public schools, Mia’s mom eventually placed her into a private school. Mia’s finally getting the necessary support to overcome her learning disability, and she’s thriving in her new environment. Yet Mia’s mom makes clear that while their family was fortunate enough to have the resources to access quality private education, many other families are not so blessed. For kids like Mia whose families can’t access high-quality private educational options when they need them, the outcomes may not be so uplifting.

School choice matters, and I don’t just mean that in the abstract or on a vague philosophical level. I mean that school choice really, truly matters in terms of making real differences in real kids’ lives. With that, I leave you to enjoy the video and your weekend!

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July
23rd 2015
A Worthy Celebration of Instant Gratification: NC Court Upholds Choice

Posted under Courts & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice

Only a few weeks ago we received the long-awaited news on Douglas County’s Choice Scholarship Program. While the Colorado Supreme Court narrowly left us to wait even longer and hold out hope for something even bigger and better, today brings some news of instant gratification.

I only have a few minutes to share with you the uplifting news that North Carolina’s highest court has upheld that state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Check out the release from the Institute for Justice: Continue Reading »

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July
22nd 2015
NEA’s Push for “Ethnic Studies” Raises Questions

Posted under Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits & Teachers & Union

I think it’s great to see people stand up for minority kids. My policy friend Ross Izard’s recent profile of Arrupe Jesuit High School was a reminder of just how powerful those efforts can be, particularly in the context of using educational choice to provide opportunities these kids otherwise would not have.

Some of you may also remember Ross’s other article on testing and teacher tenure, in which he cites the Vergara decision knocking down California’s tenure law. In that decision, the judge commented that tenure’s tendency to keep not-so-great teachers in front of kids who most need great ones “shocks the conscience.” Tenure reform is a critical part of correcting this problem and making sure every kid reaps the benefits of having a great teacher.

But maybe minority kids don’t need all those fancy, newfangled opportunities or consistently fantastic teachers. Maybe they just need some more “ethnic studies” classes. So goes the thinking at NEA headquarters. Continue Reading »

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July
21st 2015
Close Look at Diverse Charter Options Helps to Tell Us What Parents Want

Posted under Denver & learning & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance & Urban Schools

What do parents want? I’m not sure why people bring this question to me. Based on my somewhat limited experience, I tend to think the answer has something to do with keeping rooms clean, eating fruits and vegetables, minding manners, and not breaking things. When it comes to a child’s education, I think there’s more to the story.

Looking back over the last year-plus, it’s been a banner stretch for focusing on a diverse body of meaningful charter school research. It started with Marcus Winters’ Denver special education myth-buster. Winters has compiled the findings of his Denver and New York City research in a new piece for Education Next:

The conventional argument that charters enroll relatively few students with disabilities because they “counsel out” special needs students after they enroll is inconsistent with the enrollment data. In fact, students with disabilities are less likely to exit charter elementary schools than they are to exit district schools. More students with IEPs enter charter schools in non-gateway grades than exit them.

Beyond that important research, the following findings make for a fairly comprehensive and insightful list of mostly positive news since mid-2014: Continue Reading »

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July
2nd 2015
New Arrupe Jesuit Profile Highlights the Power of Educational Freedom

Posted under Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits & Urban Schools

It’s almost time for July 4th! We’re only hours away from barbeques, fireworks, and copious amounts of flag waving. Before we get to that stuff, though, let’s take a few minutes to talk about a different kind freedom: The kind that empowers kids without means to access the high-quality educational options they need to build better futures.

Although states around the country have been busy adopting school choice programs, Colorado has been stubbornly slow to expand options for its students. This frustrating fact is highlighted by the recent Douglas County voucher decision. While the Dougco decision has teed up an incredibly important fight over discriminatory Blaine Amendments around the country, that fight will take time. And time is something that many low-income or at-risk kids do not have on their side.

Recognizing this fact, some private schools are finding ways give low-income kids the freedom to chart their own courses even in the absence of educational choice policy. My Independence Institute policy friend Ross Izard recently published a profile of Arrupe Jesuit High School, a private Catholic high school in Denver that uses an innovative model to serve exclusively low-income kids, the overwhelming majority of whom are ethnic minorities. Continue Reading »

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July
1st 2015
Denver Post Editors Hit Back-to-Back Homers for Students, Parents

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Journalism & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

My dad told me about these crinkly pieces of paper with print on them that people used to get, something they would read to find out what’s going on in the world. I guess they’re called “newspapers”? Apparently, some websites actually have newspapers, or so I’m told.

The last few days, the editors of one of these publications, the Denver Post, have got me thinking maybe I should take a look. Because I’m definitely taking heart. First, there was the ruling in the Douglas County choice scholarship case. You already may have seen my reaction to that.

How crazy is it then that yours truly almost could have written the Post editorial that came out shortly thereafter, titled “A regrettable ruling on Dougco’s school voucher program”: Continue Reading »

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June
29th 2015
Dougco Decision Brings Good News and Bad

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & School Choice

By now, my faithful readers should be familiar with Douglas County School District’s embattled first-of-its-kind local voucher program, the Choice Scholarship Program (CSP). I was super excited about an amicus brief written by my friends at the Friedman Foundation and the Independence Institute way back in August of last year, and could barely contain myself during oral arguments before the Colorado Supreme Court last December. It’s been a very, very long wait since then. That wait is now over, though the news is both good and bad.

The bad news is that while the court did decide that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring a taxpayer suit under the School Finance Act, it also ruled that the CSP is unconstitutional under Article IX, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution. That section, frequently called a Blaine Amendment, ostensibly prohibits the state from providing direct aid to religious institutions, including religious private schools.

However, other high court rulings have found that vouchers are designed to provide aid to students, not to the religious institutions themselves. I’ll spare you the legal citations (you know how I feel about legalese) and let my big policy friends do the detailed analysis. Cato’s Jason Bedrick and the Friedman Foundation’s Brittany Corona have already started down that road, and my Independence Institute friends will do the same tomorrow.

For now, the quick and dirty is this: Both U.S. and Colorado legal precedent shows that parental choice breaks the link between government and religious institutions. If a parent chooses to send his or her child to a religious school, that’s just fine. As long as parents aren’t compelled to send their kids to religious schools, any benefit to those schools is indirect and incidental.

Apparently not concerned about this issue, a plurality (notably different than a majority) of Colorado’s justices applied a very broad “plain language” interpretation of this amendment in the full Dougco decision. This argument states, in effect, that no state money can ever be used to support and sustain a religious institution, even if that support is indirect or incidental. Continue Reading »

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June
19th 2015
Thompson and Jeffco Stand up for Fair Charter Funding

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & School Choice & School Finance

Last Friday, pressing Colorado education news forced us to do a less-than-happy Friday post. This week, pressing Colorado education news is forcing us to do a fantastically happy blog post. I guess my dad was right. It really does all even out in the end.

Today’s big news is that two of our favorite districts, Jefferson County and Thompson, passed budgets this week that reflect more equitable funding for charter school students. The move toward funding equalization was driven by reform majorities on both district school boards. From Sherrie Peif’s latest Complete Colorado story:

Jefferson County Public School District and the Thompson School District both agreed to shift some of the districts’ money to the charter schools, and in the case of Thompson, dipped into district reserves to provide additional funding for charter students …

… In Thompson, $450,000 was set aside for the district’s two charter schools, New Vision and Loveland Classical. The increase works out to about $400 per student. Of the additional money, $191,000 will go to New Vision and $260,000 to Loveland Classical …

… In JeffCo, an additional $2.5 million was set aside to fund the district’s 16 charter schools. The new money is in addition to $5.6 million that was budgeted in 2014-15 after the board learned it would take about $7.4 million to fully equalize mill levy override funding for the district’s charters.

Continue Reading »

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June
16th 2015
Great Minds Assemble to Promote ESA Success for Nevada Students

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

A couple weeks ago I giddily danced to the national news of this year’s growing momentum behind educational choice. Foremost among recent developments is Nevada’s breakthrough adoption of a nearly universal ESA program in Nevada.

This snippet from Leslie Hiner’s new column in The Hill puts the new Education Savings Account in perspective:

During the 2014-15 school, more than 377,000 pupils utilized vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and ESAs. With recent action in the states, that number will grow exponentially. In Nevada alone, over 453,000 students will be eligible to use an ESA in 2016.

Continue Reading »

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June
11th 2015
Waiting for Dougco Choice Ruling? Florida, Kansas Serve Up Good News

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Education policy and the courts: Usually not a match made in heaven. Though often there’s a very good reason to pay close attention. Like six months ago, when I proclaimed my excitement that the landmark Douglas County school choice case finally reached a hearing at the Colorado Supreme Court.

Sorry if I got anybody’s hopes up. We’re into the summer months, closing in on the fourth anniversary of when the complaint was first filed against the Choice Scholarship Program, and here we are still waiting for the big decision from the seven justices.

Meanwhile, you can cheer up a bit at a tidbit of good school choice news from a different case: Continue Reading »

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