Archive for the 'School Choice' Category

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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June
3rd 2015
Nevada Joins Ranks of ESA States, Adds Momentum to Educational Choice

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & learning & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

A few months ago one of my Education Policy Center friends created one of the first-ever Freedom Minute videos on “The Education Debit Card.” Remember? It’s everywhere you want to learn or Don’t leave home without it.

The Education Debit Card is a catchier name for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Dubbed the “iPhone” of school choice by Matt Ladner, ESAs give families control over a prescribed amount of state education funds to be used on private school tuition, tutoring, instructional materials, online courses, educational therapies, or to save for college expenses. More than any kind of choice program, it targets dollars to serve students’ individual learning needs.

At the time the video was made there were exactly two states with ESAs: Arizona and Florida. And both those states had limited eligibility, mostly students with recognized special needs and/or in special circumstances (e.g., foster care or military family). As of yesterday, there are five states, including the first to offer nearly universal ESAs to all public school children. Continue Reading »

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May
26th 2015
Stop Dumping Paperwork on Charter Applicants, and Focus on Success

Posted under Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Suburban Schools

Now that Memorial Day is past, and the unofficial start of summer has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about taking that fun family vacation. For me, it has to include going to the beach, or at least staying cool at a splashing fun water park. While I would enjoy swimming at the lake or at the kiddie pool, I don’t think anyone enjoys swimming through a pile of paperwork.

Yet as a new American Enterprise Institute report explains, too many public charter school authorizers are overloading applicants with questions and tasks that just aren’t necessary at getting to the bottom line of creating innovative, effective educational opportunities.

Michael McShane, Jenn Hatfield, and Elizabeth English specifically surveyed the application processes of 40 non-school-district authorizers, and found some upsetting results. School districts — which make up all the Colorado authorizers, except for the Charter School Institute — tend to lard up the process with obstacles to make it more difficult for new charters to emerge. But as AEI’s new research shows, even many of the alternatives have trouble getting it correct. Continue Reading »

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May
19th 2015
Tuesday Twofer: More Legal Victories for School Choice

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits & Union

This year has been a big year for school choice, and a decidedly bad year for teachers unions. First, a red tidal wave surged across the country in the 2014 elections despite record union spending in an effort to stop it. Then, the school choice aftershocks started. Alabama became America’s 43rd charter state, Nevada passed a very strong scholarship tax credit program that was subsequently signed into law, and Arkansas said yes to a new voucher program for special needs kids. To round things out, Montana took a step in the right direction by passing a small school choice pilot program. Wow!

We recently talked about the NEA president’s recent comment that education policy should be left “… where it belongs: The legislature.” As I highlighted then, this is an interesting statement given a number of union-led legal attacks on school choice programs around the country (including Douglas County). I cynically posited then that I suspected the unions would challenge policies they don’t like anywhere they can win. As it turns out, they may not be able to win anywhere at all. Continue Reading »

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May
14th 2015
Two New Scholarship Tax Credit States Help Bolster Choice Equation

Posted under Governor & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

Earlier this week, I gave you the review of K-12 education issues in the Colorado legislative session like no one else can. Today, I just quickly wanted to look at a few developments in other states.

While our own Centennial State gets closer and closer to taking a big step forward for school choice, a couple of other states in our part of the country have broken through with new scholarship tax credit programs.

Last month I told you that Nevada was on the verge of enacting scholarship tax credits to provide more tuition aid and opportunities for low- and middle-income students. Well, as promised, Gov. Brian Sandoval followed through and signed the program into law. Continue Reading »

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