In Florida, vouchers win ground, but courts may have ultimate say

Patrick Jonsson: Chikara Parks is a registered Democrat and a “huge fan of public schools.” The single mom of four school-aged children is also a fan of vouchers. Ms. Parks, who is African American, has, with the help of Florida’s tax credit scholarship for families with limited resources, parlayed her children’s struggle in public schools … Continue reading In Florida, vouchers win ground, but courts may have ultimate say

Florida governor signs bill for new private school vouchers

Curt Anderson: Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed into law a bill creating a new voucher program for thousands of low- and middle-income students to attend private and religious schools using taxpayer dollars traditionally spent on public schools. The $130 million Family Empowerment Scholarship program was a top priority for the Republican-led Legislature … Continue reading Florida governor signs bill for new private school vouchers

Even with a Democrat in the governor’s mansion, don’t bet much will change on vouchers

Alan Borsuk: There was a window from 1995 to 1998 when it wasn’t clear what the future of private school vouchers would be in Wisconsin. The state Legislature voted in 1995 to increase the number of vouchers available to low-income Milwaukee children and, for the first time, to allow students attending religious schools to take … Continue reading Even with a Democrat in the governor’s mansion, don’t bet much will change on vouchers

Public Support Climbs for Teacher Pay, School Expenditures, Charter Schools, and Universal Vouchers

Albert Cheng, Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West: Education’s political landscape has shifted dramatically over the past year. To the consternation of most school-district officials, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos used the bully pulpit to promote charter schools, vouchers, and tax credits for private-school scholarships. To the distress of teachers unions, … Continue reading Public Support Climbs for Teacher Pay, School Expenditures, Charter Schools, and Universal Vouchers

Support for Universal School Vouchers Skyrockets

Corey DeAngelis: EducationNext just released its 12th annual survey of public opinion. The nationally representative survey, administered in May 2018, finds that 54 percent of the general public supports private school vouchers for all students. This result is up 9 percentage points (20 percent) from 2017. On the other hand, only 43 percent of the … Continue reading Support for Universal School Vouchers Skyrockets

How the course of Wisconsin school choice and vouchers changed on June 10, 1998

Alan Borsuk: It’s a much different world for pretty much every school and school district in Wisconsin, both public and private. A few aspects of that, in thumbnail form: Without vouchers, a lot of current private schools would have closed or would never have opened. Competition for enrollment in Milwaukee and Racine — and increasingly … Continue reading How the course of Wisconsin school choice and vouchers changed on June 10, 1998

A New “Report” Misleads on School Vouchers

Patrick Wolf Here are the Newspeak translations: • “Large body” means “five studies,” selected out of 20 rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations that exist on private school choice in the U.S. The authors claim the commentary relies on six studies but one of the supposed studies is a commentary by Mark Dynarski and Austin Nichols … Continue reading A New “Report” Misleads on School Vouchers

Three Countries in 14 Minutes: School Choice Lessons From Abroad Vouchers, private schools, and open enrollment in France, Sweden, and New Zealand

Emily Richmond: School choice is one of the most contentious issues in K-12 education today. But it’s hardly an American invention. Sarah Butrymowicz of The Hechinger Report recently traveled to New Zealand, Sweden, and France to look at how school choice plays out, and whether there are lessons for the U.S. system. Why is New … Continue reading Three Countries in 14 Minutes: School Choice Lessons From Abroad Vouchers, private schools, and open enrollment in France, Sweden, and New Zealand

Vouchers and taxpayer supported school districts

Erin Richards: In 2015-’16, Wisconsin was home to just over a million school-aged children. About 860,000 attended public schools. About 123,000 attended private schools: about 90,000 who paid tuition, and about 33,000 who used vouchers. About 20,000 children were home-schooled. Vouchers are taxpayer-funded tuition subsidies that help children attend private schools, the vast majority of … Continue reading Vouchers and taxpayer supported school districts

The rise of tax credits: How Arizona created an alternative to school vouchers — and why they’re spreading

Matt Barnum: With its recent adoption of a tax credit scholarship program, Illinois became the 18th state to adopt an innocuously named — but highly controversial — policy that critics have described as a “backdoor voucher.” In some sense, the description is apt. But by injecting a middle layer into the government’s support of private … Continue reading The rise of tax credits: How Arizona created an alternative to school vouchers — and why they’re spreading

School Vouchers For Broad Swath of Families On The Table In Illinois School Funding Fight

Linda Lutton: Under the draft proposal reviewed by WBEZ, individual taxpayers could choose to send up to $1 million annually to scholarship organizations rather than to the state Department of Revenue. Those diverted taxpayer dollars would fund scholarships to pay tuition cost at private or parochial schools, or to pay the cost for a public … Continue reading School Vouchers For Broad Swath of Families On The Table In Illinois School Funding Fight

Do vouchers actually expand school choice? Not necessarily — it depends on how they’re designed

Matt Barnum: This is a hotly debated question among supporters and critics of school vouchers, and is especially relevant as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has vowed to allow more families to use public dollars to pay for private school tuition. A 2016 study considers this question and comes back with an answer: It … Continue reading Do vouchers actually expand school choice? Not necessarily — it depends on how they’re designed

Push to give school vouchers to middle-income families hits wall

Molly Beck:: “The governor supports the K-12 education budget he introduced to the Legislature five months ago,” spokesman Tom Evenson said when asked if Walker would support the proposal. “It provides a $649 million increase in funding for our schools, bringing funding for K-12 to an all-time high. After visiting nearly 50 public schools this … Continue reading Push to give school vouchers to middle-income families hits wall

Two experts debate whether public funds should be used to support private school vouchers

Michael J. Petrilli, Richard D. Kahlenberg, and Kyle Spencer: Rick doesn’t believe that kids should be forced to attend the school their district assigns to them, usually the one closest to their house, or that private schools should be illegal. I don’t believe that tax dollars should flow to schools without any accountability for results. … Continue reading Two experts debate whether public funds should be used to support private school vouchers

Don’t stop others from having school vouchers just because you don’t want one

Citizen Stewart: If the possibility of discrimination is cause for block funding for educational programs we might as well shut down public schools and start over. It’s that bad, and it’s the reason so many families want alternatives. Yes, there are valid arguments against vouchers. Most can be addressed by the way voucher laws are … Continue reading Don’t stop others from having school vouchers just because you don’t want one

How vouchers transformed Indiana: Private schools now live or die by test scores, too

Dylan Peers McCoy: With Central Christian cut off from hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid, board members contemplated closing the school. Losing voucher dollars was “catastrophic,” said David Sexauer, who served on the board before taking over as head of school this year. “If it wasn’t for the fact that the church was … Continue reading How vouchers transformed Indiana: Private schools now live or die by test scores, too

School Choice Deniers Critics hype a pair of studies while ignoring other evidence on education vouchers.

Wall Street Journal: President Trump has made a cause of public and private school choice, and liberals who oppose evaluating teachers based on student achievement are now hyping a few studies that have found vouchers hurt student performance. A closer look still supports the case for giving parents choice. More than 400,000 students in 30 … Continue reading School Choice Deniers Critics hype a pair of studies while ignoring other evidence on education vouchers.

Anti-voucher candidate is a good advertisement for vouchers

Chris Rickert: Madison School Board candidate Ali Muldrow might be Republicans’ best advertisement for school vouchers in a part of the state that opposes them. Whether Muldrow and her supporters realize that, though, is not entirely clear. At a candidates forum last week, Muldrow seemed to endorse the use of vouchers, although she said public … Continue reading Anti-voucher candidate is a good advertisement for vouchers

Oaks Academy: Vouchers May Not Be a Panacea But They Are Really Working For Some Families

Barato Britt: True advocates of choice through vouchers shouldn’t suggest vouchers to be the panacea, the proverbial be all end all for education in our nation, no matter how much our President or Education Secretary maintain this assertion. Vouchers, like all educational options, are one means through which we provide students and families the ability … Continue reading Oaks Academy: Vouchers May Not Be a Panacea But They Are Really Working For Some Families

Vouchers kept Milwaukee Catholic parishes open, but at a cost to religious activity

Erin Richards: Hungerman said he can’t fully explain the reasons behind the numbers. Maybe, he surmised, parishes that begin to accept vouchers experience leadership change and new priorities. Maybe vouchers caused parishioners to change churches. Maybe parishioners, knowing that their parish has a public funding stream, are less likely to donate, or perhaps they don’t … Continue reading Vouchers kept Milwaukee Catholic parishes open, but at a cost to religious activity

Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances

Daniel M. Hungerman, Kevin J. Rinz, Jay Frymark Governments have used vouchers to spend billions of dollars on private education; much of this spending has gone to religiously-affiliated schools. We explore the possibility that vouchers could create a financial windfall for religious organizations operating private schools and in doing so impact the spiritual, moral, and … Continue reading Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances

Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Erin Richards: Together, Travis Academy and Holy Redeemer have received close to $100 million in taxpayer funding over the years. The sum is less than what taxpayers would have paid for those pupils in public schools, because each tuition voucher costs less than the total expense per pupil in Milwaukee Public Schools. But vouchers weren’t … Continue reading Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Wisconsin School Report Cards and Vouchers, In the News

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: DPI-crafted school report cards are the primary means we have of discovering and comparing outcomes in Wisconsin schools. Schools in all sectors that receive public funding – traditional public, charter, and parental choice private schools – now all use the same annual Forward exam for students and will … Continue reading Wisconsin School Report Cards and Vouchers, In the News

Pence accomplished what Trump wants for national education: Vouchers and charters

Emma Brown and Perry Stein: The push toward school choice is deeply unpopular with advocates for traditional public schools, including teachers unions. “The general population of the United States of America needs to be watchful, and needs to be making sure there’s accountability there for where this money goes,” said Teresa Meredith, president of the … Continue reading Pence accomplished what Trump wants for national education: Vouchers and charters

Vouchers, charters outscore public schools in latest data

Annysa Johnson: Third- through eighth-grade students in Milwaukee’s private voucher and independent charter schools outperformed their public school counterparts in math and language arts, according to statewide assessment data released Wednesday by the Department of Public Instruction. But Racine public school students overall outscored their voucher school counterparts. And on the ACT, voucher schools outscored … Continue reading Vouchers, charters outscore public schools in latest data

Vouchers: Time for Thinking, Not Rhetoric

Paul Hill: A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research is one of the relatively few recent studies reporting a negative voucher effect—students using vouchers in Louisiana learned a good deal less than similar students in regular public schools. The reason: students with vouchers had few good choices, since the available schools were … Continue reading Vouchers: Time for Thinking, Not Rhetoric

Madison loath to admit that vouchers have an ‘educational purpose’

Chris Rickert: From the way some of the more enthusiastic public school supporters talk, you’d think alternative forms of public education, such as voucher schools, were making millions on the backs of ill-treated kindergartners. The vast majority of Wisconsin’s voucher schools are not-for-profit, though, and it seems unlikely that any of them is, say, forcing … Continue reading Madison loath to admit that vouchers have an ‘educational purpose’

Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

The Economist: This is not the end of the story for vouchers, however. In both Milwaukee and Washington, voucher schemes get similar results to the public schools but with much less money. Under the DC scheme, each voucher is worth $8,500 a year, compared with $17,500 to educate a child in the public school system. … Continue reading Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

School Vouchers have new champions on the Hill

Maggie Severns: At Republicans’ recent retreat, Messer listened to GOP strategist Alex Castellanos promote school choice as one of a handful of issues that should make up a new agenda for the party. “I thought, oh gosh — maybe I’m onto something here,” Messer said. School choice has always been a hard sell in Washington: … Continue reading School Vouchers have new champions on the Hill

Commentary on Status Quo K-12 Structures vs. Vouchers

Molly Beck: im Bender, president of voucher advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin, said Burke’s comments were misleading because funding for the voucher program comes from state general purpose revenue. “You can’t talk about taking money away from K-12, unless you believe that money belongs to K-12,” Bender said. “It’s not possessive of any one particular … Continue reading Commentary on Status Quo K-12 Structures vs. Vouchers

Parents push for Miss. special education vouchers

Associated Press:

Parents who want Mississippi lawmakers to approve special education vouchers are adding their voices in support.
House and Senate lawmakers held a hearing Tuesday to showcase the proposals. Natalie Gunnels of Tupelo told lawmakers that public school administrators can’t or won’t take care of students like her son Patrick, who has trouble walking, is sensitive to noises, and has trouble reading and writing.
“It’s obvious to me and my husband that the public school system is not equipped to educate the Patricks of our state,” Gunnels said.
The plan would give debit cards with more than $6,000 on them to parents who withdraw their special education students from public schools. The money could be spent on private school tuition or private tutoring services.
Mandy Rogers, a disability advocate, said that the state has been promising improvements but not delivering since the federal law was passed.

Vouchers must be monitored to ensure school integration, U.S. says

Danielle Dreilinger

The U.S. Justice Department says Louisiana’s private school voucher program must be monitored to make sure it doesn’t make public school segregation worse. To that end, it wants the state to submit extensive student and school demographics each year.
Moreover, federal lawyers say that after 25 years of working together, Louisiana has largely stopped cooperating with the federal government on efforts to ensure racial equality in schools. They made the case in a memo filed Friday with Judge Ivan Lemelle in federal District Court in New Orleans.
The lawyers wrote that “the United States’ requests for information in this case are not an attack on the voucher program.” However, the demand is likely to raise Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hackles once more in this high-profile court case that has drawn support from prominent national Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, both of whom visited New Orleans voucher schools this month.

Vouchers & Politics: Commentary

Chris Rickert:

Despite all this, Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers seem paralyzed in the face of potential bipartisan agreement.
Walker has said as far back as August that he’s open to changing the voucher program to give preference to public school students. The Republican chairmen of the Senate and Assembly education committees have made similar noises. Yet none responded to messages from me saying essentially: Well, OK, so are you introducing legislation to do that?
Similarly, Gillian Drummond, spokeswoman for Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, said “I have not heard of anything” on possible Democratic legislation on the issue in the Senate.
Speaking on background, a staffer for Rep. Sondy Pope, who has been outspoken in her criticism of underwriting private school tuition with vouchers, said “our caucus as a whole is looking” to do something even more stringent than in Racine, but was less than optimistic about Republicans going along.

Bobby Jindal: War with feds over school vouchers still on

Caitlin Emma:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday that regardless of what the Department of Justice is claiming, his state is no closer to a resolution in a school voucher lawsuit that has appalled high-profile conservative school choice advocates.
The Justice Department sent a letter Tuesday to House Speaker John Boehner, saying the state has agreed to hand over information that the federal government has wanted for a while about the voucher program’s effect on the racial makeup of participating schools. That move might bring both parties closer to a resolution over the August suit, the letter said.
“…Louisiana agreed to provide information on the voucher program that the department had originally requested in May 2013 and that the state had, up until now, largely withheld. This is thus a major step forward and puts the parties on a path to resolving the primary issue that motivated the department’s court filing in the first place,” the DOJ letter to Boehner reads. “We are pleased that Louisiana finally has agreed to provide the necessary information to the department. It is only regrettable that the department had to resort to court involvement in this case in order to obtain it.”

The DOJ Attempt to Block School Vouchers in Louisiana Undermines Civil Rights

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst :

The U.S. Department of Justice has entered into a lawsuit opposing Louisiana’s voucher system. The state’s program, passed into law in 2012, offers a voucher to attend a private school to students from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line attending low performing public schools. Parents apply for the vouchers and to date about 90% of the recipients are black.
The DOJ is not intervening as you might naively expect because of concerns about the constitutionality of voucher programs, or because they believe that private schools in Louisiana discriminate, or because they think the state has designed its voucher program in a way that discriminates against minorities. No. Their argument is that the voucher program will have an impact on federal desegregation orders that require certain school districts to achieve a racial distribution in each of their schools that mirrors the racial composition of the district as a whole. So, if 40% of the school-aged population in these districts is black then each school has a target of 40% black enrollment.
Here is an example the DOJ provides of the harm caused by the voucher program they are intervening to halt:

Wisconsin’s school vouchers are a scam

Dave Zweifel:

The recent news release from the State Department of Public Instruction revealing that 67 percent of the applicants to the Walker administration’s expanded school voucher program are already attending private schools elicited cries of “scam” from many quarters.
And well it should have.
That two-thirds of the voucher applicants had their children already enrolled in private schools lays waste the argument by Wisconsin legislative Republicans and the governor that vouchers are needed so poor families can rescue their children from poorly performing public schools.
That has always been a spurious argument, even back in the days when Gov. Tommy Thompson shepherded the nation’s first school choice program through the Legislature for low-income Milwaukee families. It was sold based on the argument that poor families, said to be ill-served by Milwaukee’s public school system, ought to be able to send their children to private schools just as do rich people. So, in order to do that with taxpayers’ money, vouchers were devised to technically make tuition grants to the families, which in turn would use them to pay the private schools.

Dana Goldstein on Sweden’s voucher system.

U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems

Danielle Dreilinger:

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana in New Orleans federal court to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders. The first year of private school vouchers “impeded the desegregation process,” the federal government says.
Thirty-four school systems could be affected, including those of Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes. Under the lawsuit, the state would be barred from assigning students in those systems to private schools unless a federal judge agreed to it. A court hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.
The statewide voucher program, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, lets low-income students in public schools graded C, D or F attend private schools at taxpayer expense. This year, 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.

Getting beyond insults in the school choice debate; Responding to the Madison School Board President on Vouchers, Parents & School Climate

Rick Esenberg, via a kind reader’s email:

Whether or not he is right, we are left with, again, with the very philosophical divide that I identified. Mr. Hughes thinks that centralized and collective decision-making will more properly value diversity (as he defines it) and make better educational choices for children than their parents will.
Of course to describe a philosophical divide does not tell us who has the better of the argument. Mr. Hughes defends his position by relying on a 2007 “study” by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute which, strictly speaking, was not a study at all and had more to do with the impact of choice on public schools than its value to the families who participate in the program.
The 2007 WPRI publication collected no data on what was actually happening in Milwaukee. It simply took a national data base on the educational involvement of families and extrapolated it to Milwaukee based on the socioeconomic characteristics of Milwaukee families. It was, strictly speaking, nothing more than a calculation. If low income and minority families in Milwaukee behave like low income and minority families nationally, the calculation showed, then, based on certain assumptions, very few would engage in informed decision-making regarding their children’s education.
It was an interesting and thought provoking exercise but one with an obvious limitation. It is not at all clear that national findings would extend to a city with a relatively longstanding and actively promoted choice program. It is possible that the existence of a greater array of educational choices would change the incentives and capacity of parents to engage in the informed and engaged decision-making that would otherwise not happen.
Beyond that, the fact that only a subset of families will exercise a choice tells us precisely nothing about whether they ought to have the opportunity to make one – unless you entertain a presumption against individual choice and a diversity of alternatives in education.
Mr. Hughes argues that education is an “experience good” which is a fancy way of saying that it is something that consumers have a difficult time evaluating before deciding whether to buy it. But, again, the extent to which you think something is that type of good (many things are difficult to be sure about before you try them) and whether, having decided it is, you think that people should have someone else choose for them reflects very philosophical divide I’m concerned with.

We know best” has long been associated with parts of Madison’s K-12 community, despite long term, disastrous reading scores and spending twice the national average per student.
Background: “The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”.
It would certainly be useful to spend a bit of time learning about Milwaukee’s experiences, positive and negative with a far more open k-12 climate. The results of Madison’s insular, non-diverse approach are an embarrassment to students, citizens, taxpayers and employers.


Vouchers: First He Came for the Teachers; then He Came for the Kids; School Calendar 2013-14; Ready, Set, Goal Conferences; Parent-Teacher Conferences

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

As he described it in February, 2011, Governor Scott Walker “dropped a bomb” on Wisconsin’s public employees, attempting to strip them of their rights to collectively bargain. Now he’s aiming at our kids. Walker’s 2013 biennial budget goes a long way in his plan to crush public education in Wisconsin; a move to privatize via VOUCHERS (i.e. providing funding from the area public school to enable parents to pay tuition to send their children to private or religious schools).
In its press conference on May 17, the Forward Institute released their study of the impact of school funding on educational opportunity. The study found that schools with higher poverty levels have experienced greater loss in funding when compared to more affluent schools across the state. The number of students in Wisconsin living in poverty has doubled since 2007, and since 2007 state funding of public education has fallen to its lowest level in 17 years. Walker’s biennial budget proposes to further exacerbate the situation by expanding voucher schools into nine additional areas, including Madison.
Expanding voucher schools will take away funding from our public schools. Not only are school districts required to pay 38.4% of the cost of each voucher; they lose the ability to count the student attending private/parochial schools in the state aid formula on which the amount of revenue is based. In Madison, a person would receive $6,442 from the MMSD to send their child to a private or parochial school. Yet Madison would receive no additional state aid to offset that cost, so payments come directly from money that would have supported education in Madison public schools. It is projected that in the first five years of vouchers, Madison schools could lose nearly $27 million to vouchers.

….

MTI has received several concerns regarding the calendar, as recently released by the District, for the 2013-14 school year. Among the demands by the District, enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10, in last year’s negotiations, was that one of the Voluntary Days, August 28, be converted to a mandatory attendance “development day”. It is specifically designated as “development”, not “staff development”. The latter is designated for August 29. Since the 1970’s the Contract provided returning teachers three Voluntary Days, days for which they are paid, but did not have to be at their assigned work site. The new Contract, effective July 1, 2013, reduces that to two days. “All Staff Day” is August 30.
Secondly, an agreement provides that the District has full
discretion as to whether to enable Ready, Set, Goal Conferences. The agreement provides teachers compensation or flex time for engaging parents in such conferences. Because of the proposed cut in State aid under Governor Walker’s Budget, MMSD may not authorize RSG Conferences this fall. They ask that teachers prepare letters inviting parents for such conferences, should funding enable them.
Third, is the issue of Parent-Teacher conferences. The Contract provides that there will be two evenings for conferences and that the day following conferences will also be for conferences with no students present to enable conferences which were not held on the prior evening. The District has failed to list November 13 as being with no students, while they scheduled evening conferences on November 12. The District has proposed to MTI changing the day following each conference to be with students, and having the only “no student” day be November 27, the day before Thanksgiving.

Vouchers are not an existential threat to our local public school structure. Long-term disastrous reading scores are, and merit everyone’s full attention.

Are School Vouchers Worth It?

Express Milwaukee:

Are taxpayers really getting their bang for their buck when it comes to funding school vouchers?
The short answer from the Forward Institute is no.
The new, progressive public policy research organization released its comprehensive report today on Wisconsin’s education funding and poverty and it’s well worth a close read.
A portion of the report examines taxpayer funding for voucher schools and their performance.
Now, this isn’t easy to do since schools that accept vouchers don’t have to provide the kind of data that fully public schools provide, even though the state has enhanced some of the voucher schools’ accountability measures.
That said, the Forward Institute chose to look at state aid per pupil and the percentage of students that test proficient or advanced on state tests. (You’ll find all of this on page 46 of the report.)
Let’s just acknowledge here that both public schools and voucher schools take in money from other sources. Both types of schools typically spend more per pupil than what they receive from state taxpayers.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Local Political Commentary on Vouchers

Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, represents District 48 in the Assembly:

By now, most people have heard about Scott Walker’s proposal to expand the voucher school system to new districts, including Madison, yet many people aren’t clear as to what this means for our students as well as the administrators, teachers and parents. I’ve been asked by numerous constituents to give an explanation of how this would apply, in real terms, to our public education system.
The best way to break this down is in three parts: the fiscal effect on taxpayers and our public schools; a comparison between public school and private school accountability; and a comparison of the performance of students in voucher schools and public schools.
FINANCES: Madison currently has 4,202 private school students. Based on a conservative assessment of income levels, 1,387 of these students would be eligible for the voucher program. So what does this mean for Madison taxpayers?
If 1,387 private school students become voucher students, Madison taxpayers would subsidize private schools for about $3.8 million and see a reduction in state aid of that amount. The Madison district’s taxpayers would have to pay more to replace the $3.8 million, or the district would have to make $3.8 million worth of cuts in services for public school students. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me by my constituents and other community members is Wisconsinites don’t like the idea of their taxpayer dollars going toward private education.

State Senator Fred Risser, Representative Jon Erpenbach, Representative Mark Miller:

As legislators, we hear about many important issues that will impact our state’s future. No issue we face has an impact as far reaching as the education of Wisconsin children. Providing future generations with the skills to be productive and successful must be a top priority.
Unfortunately, in the proposed state budget, corporate special interests won out over Wisconsin children.
In the proposed budget, the governor has chosen to increase voucher program funding by $94 million. The proposal also expands the voucher program to school districts with two or more “failing schools.”
Based on this language, the Madison School District would as failing, and therefore open to voucher expansion. As a result, Madison tax dollars would be invested in private, unaccountable schools, rather than its public schools.
We believe that just isn’t right. Every time a student leaves the public school and enters the voucher program, the state withholds $2,200 in funding from the public school. While it may mean one fewer student to educate, the school’s fixed costs remain the same, and the district is forced to raise property taxes to cover the difference.

Much more on vouchers, here. Madison’s long-term, disastrous reading scores.

Are Vouchers Dead?

Abby Rapaport:

When news broke Tuesday that the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s voucher system, which uses public dollars to pay for low-income students to go to private schools, the fight over vouchers made its way back into the headlines. The Louisiana program, pushed hard and publicly by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, offers any low-income child in the state, regardless of what public school they would attend, tuition assistance at private schools. It’s something liberals fear will become commonplace in other states in the future if conservative lawmakers get their way on education policy.
Yet conservatives have been dominating legislatures since 2010 and there has been little success in creating voucher programs. Louisiana is one of only two states with such a broad program in place. After the 2010 Tea Party wave there was “a big spike in the number of states considering voucher legislation,” says Josh Cunningham, a policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). But most of those states didn’t actually pass any bills. Since 2010, four states have created new voucher programs. This year alone, according to NCSL, voucher bills have failed in seven states. While vouchers were once a key piece of the school choice agenda, they now play second fiddle to more popular education reform policies. But are they dead?
“Charter schools are the main thing at this point in time,” says William J. Mathis, managing director at the National Education Policy Center, which studies educational policy. “Vouchers just never seemed to grab traction.”

Much more on vouchers, here.
Sweden’s voucher system.

Louisiana Governor Jindal on School Vouchers

Danielle Dreillinger:

Gov. Bobby Jindal defended his school voucher program in a whirlwind interview Friday with NBC-TV newswoman Hoda Kotb, saying that whether a school is a charter, private or a traditional public school, government should “fund what works for a child.” The interview took place during NBC’s invitation-only Education Nation summit in New Orleans and was broadcast live on WDSU and the Internet.
Jindal is waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the 2012 law authorizing the voucher program. The state Department of Education will issue its first private/parochial school matches for new entrants in the program next week.
Vouchers help “low-income kids that are trapped in failing schools,” Jindal said to a who’s-who of New Orleans education figures, who grumbled at many of his remarks.
In Louisiana, he said, roughly 5,000 students are now “getting better academic results” at a savings to the taxpayer. The average voucher scholarship uses $5,300 of public money, compared with the $8,500 state and local per-pupil allotment for a child in public school.

Republicans Against Vouchers: GOP legislators join unions to oppose reform in Wisconsin.

Wall Street Journal:

School vouchers are usually opposed by teachers unions and their Democratic allies, but a dirty little secret is that some suburban Republicans oppose them too. The latter is the case in Wisconsin, where GOP Governor Scott Walker’s plan to get more kids out of failing schools is facing opposition from short-sighted members of his own party.
The Badger State’s 22-year-old voucher program currently covers Milwaukee and Racine. But in his budget for fiscal 2014-15, Mr. Walker wants to expand it to nine of the state’s worst school districts and increase funding by 9%. Under the proposed formula, students in districts that have at least two schools that get a D or F on their 2011-2012 performance report cards could use a voucher at a private school.
The plan would cover 500 new students in the first year, 1,000 in the second, and thereafter as many as qualified under the formula, which extends the voucher to students in failing schools whose families make 300% of the poverty level. The new areas include Beloit, Green Bay, Kenosha, Waukesha and Fond du Lac, and more than 40,000 children who currently attend lousy public schools would be eligible.
……
While Wisconsin schools score better than most, in 2010 the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that Wisconsin’s black fourth grade students had the worst reading scores in the country. By eighth grade, black students did worse on English tests than students for whom English was a second language.

With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families

Fernando Sotos & Motoko Rich:

A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook. Instead of simply financing a traditional system of neighborhood schools, legislators and some governors are headed toward funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home.
On Tuesday, after a legal fight, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher program as constitutional. This month, Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama signed tax-credit legislation so that families can take their children out of failing public schools and enroll them in private schools, or at least in better-performing public schools.
In Arizona, which already has a tax-credit scholarship program, the Legislature has broadened eligibility for education savings accounts. And in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, in an effort to circumvent a Legislature that has repeatedly defeated voucher bills, has inserted $2 million into his budget so low-income children can obtain private school vouchers.
Proponents say tax-credit and voucher programs offer families a way to escape failing public schools. But critics warn that by drawing money away from public schools, such programs weaken a system left vulnerable after years of crippling state budget cuts — while showing little evidence that students actually benefit.

Lessons on school choice from Sweden.

Why private school vouchers aren’t enough

Jay Mathews:

If I were a D.C. parent with little money and a child in a bad public school, I would happily accept a taxpayer-supported voucher to send my kid to a private school. But I still don’t think voucher programs are a good use of education dollars, particularly after reading a startling story on The Washington Post’s front page on Sunday.
My colleagues Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown revealed that the $133 million appropriated for vouchers in the District since 2004 have gone to private schools with no requirements to report publicly how well their students are doing. Some of those schools have dubious curriculums and inadequate facilities. At least eight of the 52 schools with voucher students are not accredited.
Paulette Jones-Imaan poses for a portrait photograph inside the cafeteria of the Academy for Ideal Education. (Astrid Riecken – For The Washington Post) Take a look at the Academy for Ideal Education in Northeast Washington. Almost all of its students are in the voucher program run by the nonprofit D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. The school’s founder, Paulette Jones-Imaan, believes in learning through music, stretching and meditation, Layton and Brown report.
The Academy for Ideal Education does not have to reveal its results on the nationally standardized test that voucher students are required to take, but I suspect those children are not learning much. I have some experience with the Ideal Academy, a charter high school also founded by Jones-Imaan. In 2009 I wrote about it having some of the lowest achievement rates in the city, which I knew because charters have to report their test scores. The D.C. authorizing board for charters forced it to close. Sadly, no agency has that power over private schools using vouchers.

Vouchers can break union’s grip on Illinois education

Scott Reeder:

A while back, I showed up at the post office a half-hour before closing time and got in line to mail a package.
An officious man came up to me, pointed at the clerks working behind the counter and said, “If you are still in line at 5:30 p.m. you’ll have to leave because I’m not going to pay those people overtime.”
So I left the post office and drove across town to FedEx.
I can’t imagine standing in line to pay for groceries at the supermarket and being turned away out of fear that maybe I’d still be in line past closing time.
To be sure, I’ve had my share of annoying experiences with private businesses.

Recent lawsuit against Camden schools may really be about school vouchers

Laura Waters:

This past Monday, parents of three young Camden City Public Schools students filed a class action complaint with N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. The parents contend that enrollment in Camden’s bleak public school system constitutes a breach of their children’s constitutional right to a “thorough and efficient public education system.”
Are the parents’ children being denied their constitutional rights? Sure. Twenty-three of Camden’s 26 schools are on the State’s list of our worst schools (the bottom 5 percent). Based on SAT scores, less than 1 percent of Camden High School’s graduates are ready for college. One plaintiff has a twelve-year-old son, Keanu Vargas, who attends 7th grade at Pyne Point Family School. The most recent data from the N.J. DOE (2010-2011) shows that hardly any kids at Pyne Point pass the state standardized tests in language arts and math. Forty-two percent of the student body was suspended during the year.
Not so hard to make an argument that Keanu doesn’t have access to a decent education system. By way of contrast, at Cherry Hill Public Schools, a mere seven miles away, just about all kids achieve proficiency on state tests.

Related Homeless and hungry: Sobering images of Camden, New Jersey, expose the poverty plaguing the United States’ most destitute city.

Recent lawsuit against Camden schools may really be about school vouchers

Laura Waters:

This past Monday, parents of three young Camden City Public Schools students filed a class action complaint with N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. The parents contend that enrollment in Camden’s bleak public school system constitutes a breach of their children’s constitutional right to a “thorough and efficient public education system.”
Are the parents’ children being denied their constitutional rights? Sure. Twenty-three of Camden’s 26 schools are on the State’s list of our worst schools (the bottom 5 percent). Based on SAT scores, less than 1 percent of Camden High School’s graduates are ready for college. One plaintiff has a twelve-year-old son, Keanu Vargas, who attends 7th grade at Pyne Point Family School. The most recent data from the N.J. DOE (2010-2011) shows that hardly any kids at Pyne Point pass the state standardized tests in language arts and math. Forty-two percent of the student body was suspended during the year.

Know your history: Both Democrats and Republicans have switched on vouchers

Doug Tuthill:

Long-time Democratic education activist Jack Jennings, in a recent Huffington Post column, argued that Republican support for private school choice is a somewhat recent (i.e., the last 45 years) phenomenon, driven by a political desire to appeal to segregationists and weaken teacher unions. Jennings writes, “The Republicans’ talk about giving parents the right to choose is a politically expedient strategy … Just beneath the surface of the education rhetoric are political motivations to thwart integration, weaken the Democratic coalition, and cripple the teachers’ unions.”
Jennings is being disingenuous by not acknowledging that Democrats have also changed their position on public funding for private school choice over the years. Democrats George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey both ran for president on platforms supporting tuition tax credits for private schools, and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., was the U.S. Senate’s leading advocate for giving parents public funding to attend private schools. The Democratic Party reversed its support of public funding for private school choice in the late 1970s – as a political payback to the National Education Association for giving Jimmy Carter its first ever presidential endorsement.

School vouchers make a comeback amid concerns about quality

Sarah Carr:

As Louisiana debuts one of the nation’s most extensive private-school voucher programs, deep divides persist over who should be accountable for ferreting out academic failure and financial abuse: the government or parents.
Across the country, vouchers have resurged in a big way over the last two years–both as a form of school choice and a political lightning rod. Republican governors in Louisiana, Indiana, New Jersey and other states have championed them as a solution to the challenges besetting public education. More recently, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined the chorus, saying he hopes to turn an eight-year-old voucher program in Washington, D.C. into a “national showcase.”

Questions on Louisiana School Vouchers

Mike Hastens:

After the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved state Superintendent John C. White’s version of accountability for voucher schools this week, some people were asking “what accountability?”
They especially feel that way since White reserved the right to waive any and all restrictions imposed in the accountability plan if he believes it’s merited.
If a school doesn’t have 40 students, there are no repercussions, even if every voucher student fails the state assessment tests.

It matters that Obama is wrong on school vouchers

Doug Tuthill:

The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews mused last month about the similarities between the education platforms of President Obama and Mitt Romney, but he was also a little too eager to dismiss their differences on school vouchers as irrelevant. The issue of equal access to private schools speaks to the core values of each party, but the topic is particularly important to Democrats who were deeply divided on the issue in the 1970s, and are so again today.
Let’s start with some history. In 1922, the Ku Klux Klan pushed a referendum in Oregon, which the voters passed, making it illegal for children to attend private schools. The Klan thought outlawing private schooling, especially Catholic schools, would help reduce cultural pluralism in the United States. The Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, which ran a Catholic girls school in Oregon, sued, and the law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925 (Pierce v. Society of Sisters).

Pennsylvania & School Vouchers

David Feith:

The recent Wisconsin recall election showed that even voters in blue states are willing to reward leaders who take on entrenched government unions. Have Pennsylvania Republicans missed the memo?
The question is raised by Pennsylvania’s continued failure to enact school vouchers, even as Harrisburg has been run for two years by Republicans who campaigned on school choice. Gov. Tom Corbett has talked the talk, calling education “the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” blasting a system in which “some students are consigned to failure because of their ZIP codes,” and identifying vouchers as his top educational priority. But with legislators’ summer break approaching on June 30 (and elections dominating the calendar after that), vouchers are already off the table. Apparently the fury of teachers unions would be too much for the Keystone State to bear.
Last October, Pennsylvania’s Senate passed a bipartisan voucher bill to throw an immediate lifeline to low-income students in the worst 5% of schools, with roughly 550,000 low-income kids becoming eligible within three years. Eight months later, Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai–both Republicans who claim to support choice–haven’t brought the bill up for a vote in the House.

Vouchers Breathe New Life Into Shrinking Catholic Schools

Stephanie Banchero & Jennifer Levitz:

It had been years since Principal Kathleen Lowry pulled extra desks from the dusty attic of St. Stanislaus, the only Catholic school left in this port city. But after Indiana began offering parents vouchers in the spring of 2011 to pay for private tuition, she had to bring down 30 spare desks and hire three teachers’ aides.
Thanks to vouchers, St. Stanislaus, which was $140,000 in debt to the Catholic Diocese of Gary at the end of 2010, picked up 72 new students, boosting enrollment by 38%.
“God has been good to us,” says Ms. Lowry. “Growth is a good problem to have.”
For the first time in decades, Catholic education is showing signs of life. Driven by expanding voucher programs, outreach to Hispanic Catholics and donations by business leaders, Catholic schools in several major cities are swinging back from

Vouchers, Mini-Vouchers: Louisiana’s bold bid to privatize schools

Stephanie Simon: Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools. The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers that they can use to pay a range of private-sector … Continue reading Vouchers, Mini-Vouchers: Louisiana’s bold bid to privatize schools

California’s toe in the water on school “vouchers”?

Peter Hanley:

Editor’s note: Progress in the parental school choice movement is measured not only by big gains in states like Indiana and Louisiana, but by the flurry of incremental developments in more states every year. Peter Hanley, executive director of the California-based American Center for School Choice, offers a look at encouraging developments in his home state.
California has the nation’s largest charter school program, with 982 charter schools serving 412,000 students. But with nearly a two-thirds Democratic legislature heavily influenced by the California Teachers Association, tax credit scholarships or vouchers have been entirely off the table. In fact, charter schools’ flexibility is under near constant attack. Now, though, two legislators have introduced innovative approaches that address a unique feature in California’s constitution and attempt to bring educational tax credits to the state.

From big-city superintendent to supporter of vouchers and charters – Arlene Ackerman, podcastED

Ron Matus:

Last fall, Arlene Ackerman, the former schools superintendent in Philadelphia, made a stunning announcement for someone of her status. In a newspaper op-ed, she forcefully came out in favor of expanded school choice options, including more charter schools and yes, even vouchers. “I’ve come to a sad realization,” she wrote. “Real reform will never come from within the system.”
In this redefinED podcast, Ackerman talks more about her evolution.
For years, she pushed change from the highest perches in K-12 education. Before Philly, she headed the school districts in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. She led the latter when it became a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize, annually awarded to the best urban school district in the country, in 2005. But the kinds of sweeping reform needed to help poor and minority kids, she said, too often met with resistance from unions, politicians, vendors and others who benefited from not budging.

Michelle Rhee’s misread on vouchers, why teachers unions aren’t to blame and more

redefined:

Michelle Rhee’s faith in regulation is odd. The public school system is super-heavily regulated with laws and policies streaming down from the federal, state and local levels. Despite all of that, much of the system performs at a tragically poor level. That of course is not to say that vouchers should have no regulation, but the right level of regulation is not “heavy.”
Rhee also places far too much weight on the results of standardized test and gives far too little deference to the judgment of parents. Parents make decisions about schools for a large variety of reasons- including things like school safety, peer groups and the availability of specialized programs. In addition to missing the whole point about school choices being multifaceted with parents best able to judge all the factors, individual test scores bounce around from year to year, they often take a temporary hit when a child transfers and adjusts to a new school.
The notion of having program administrators looking at the math and reading tests and deciding to cast children back to their ‘failing neighborhood school’ is very problematic. Pity the poor voucher program apparatchiks who have to drag children back to a public school where they had been continually bullied because they had the flu on testing day. Pity the children more. The subject of what to do about poorly performing private schools in a choice system is a complex topic and opinions vary widely. Rhee’s proposed solution however does not begin to capture this complexity. Full post here.

Florida education commissioner suggests critics have double standard with charter schools, vouchers

Ron Matus:

Do critics have a double standard when it comes to scrutinizing school choice options like charter schools and vouchers? Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson suggested as much in an interview published today by the Tampa Bay Times’ Gradebook education blog.
In response to a question from the Times editorial board, Robinson noted that charter schools that struggle academically and/or financially can be shut down (in Florida, that has happened many times) but that same ultimate penalty is rarely leveled at traditional public schools (off hand, we can’t think of any examples in Florida). “For the bad charter schools that aren’t working, they should close,” Robinson said. “But for the traditional schools that have also failed a number of our kids, we don’t see the same level of righteous indignation.”
Robinson has deep roots in the school choice movement, having once served as president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. And interestingly enough, the editorial board’s questions focused mostly on choice options. Here are some other excerpts:

School Vouchers Gain Ground

NCPA:

The Louisiana state legislature has approved a new school vouchers system that, when signed by Governor Bobby Jindal, will be one of the largest in the country. The move caps 18 months of extensive expansion of voucher programs nationwide and broadens the national argument about the future of public education, says the Wall Street Journal.
With growing systems in Florida, Virginia and Indiana joining older programs such as those in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the use of vouchers has increased rapidly since 2010.

  • Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have either voucher systems or “scholarship” programs that provide tax benefits to individuals and businesses for contributions that help pay for students to attend private school.
  • The vast majority of these programs are targeted at specific groups of at-risk students, such as low-income or those with special needs.
  • The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an organization that advocates vouchers, estimates that about 220,000 students are currently enrolled in the programs nationwide.

The Louisiana program would add hundreds of thousands of students to the voucher camp, and would also implement several innovative policy provisions that would help put the program at the cutting edge of education.

Political, legal fights over school vouchers’ fate

Kimberly Hefling:

Students like Delano Coffy are at the heart of brewing political fights and court battles over whether public dollars should go to school vouchers to help make private schools more affordable.
He was failing in his neighborhood public elementary school in Indianapolis until his mother enrolled him in a Roman Catholic school. Heather Coffy has scraped by for years to pay the tuition for Delano, now 16 and in a Catholic high school, and his two younger siblings, who attend the same Catholic elementary as their brother did. She’s getting help today from a voucher program, passed last year at the urging of GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels, that allows her to use state money for her children’s education.
“I can’t even tell you how easy I can breathe now knowing that for at least for this year my kids can stay at the school,” said the single mother, who filed a petition in court in support of the law. The state Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the law, which provides vouchers worth on average more than $4,000 a year to low- and middle-income families. A family of four making about $60,000 a year qualifies.

Wis. Republicans and ALEC Push Vouchers on Disabled Kids

Ruth Conniff:

It’s crunch time on school vouchers for disabled kids in Wisconsin.
Last summer, I wrote about how Republicans and school choice groups are targeting kids in special ed.
A particularly noxious piece of “school reform” legislation, drafted by ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council) and pushed by Republicans in statehouses around the country, would get unsophisticated parents to swap their kids’ federally protected right to a free, appropriate public education for school vouchers of highly dubious value to the kids.
How dubious? An expose in the Miami New Times tracked the fly-by-night academies housed in strip malls where special ed kids with vouchers wasted hours crammed into makeshift classrooms with bored, untrained, and sometimes abusive teachers.

New Jersey Education Association Executive Director Compensation & Vouchers in the News

Mike Antonucci:

* Rafael Pi Roman, host of New Jersey Capitol Report, discussing school vouchers: “They can’t afford to pay, you know that. Some of these parents can’t afford to take their child out of these schools.”

  • Vincent Giordano, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, responding: “Life’s not always fair and I’m sorry about that.”
  • Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, on that response: “You know, as Vince drives out of the palace on State Street every day in his big luxury car with his $500,000 salary, I’m sure life’s really fair for him…. That level of arrogance, that level of puffed-up, rich man baloney, is unacceptable in this state. He should resign. He should resign today.”
  • Giordano, replying: “I have no intention of resigning. If he thinks he’s going to bully me like he bullies everyone else, he doesn’t understand who I am, or how deeply I care about the work I do…. For his abysmal record on education and his hypocrisy in claiming to care about children in urban districts while pursuing policies that have hurt them deeply, I call on Gov. Christie to resign from office immediately.

Vouchers and Low-Income: Reality Check

Jay Greene:

Have school vouchers moved away from their historic focus on low-income students? The political hacks at the Center on Education Policy think so. And as we know, whenever CEP weighs in, that’s reason enough to check the facts.
Paul DiPerna of the Friedman Foundation did a headcount and found that as of now:
11 of 17 existing voucher programs have no income limits
7 of these are statewide special-needs programs (FL, GA, LA, OHx2, OK & UT), 3 have geographic caps (ME, VT & OH) and one has a numeric cap (CO)
Of the 6 programs with income limits, 5 have limits that are above 200% of the poverty line
What do you know? CEP is right!

State Senate blocks expansion of school vouchers

Todd Richmond:

The Senate approved a measure Tuesday that would curtail the expansion of school vouchers in Wisconsin, at least for now.
The voucher program provides parents in eligible school districts with state subsidies to help defray their children’s private school tuition. The subsidies have been a point of contention in Wisconsin for years. Conservatives insist the program gives children in struggling school districts an alternative, but opponents see it as vote of no confidence in public education and complain it pulls precious state dollars away from public schools.
The state Department of Public Instruction estimated it handed out $130.7 million in vouchers during the 2010-11 school year. Nearly 40 percent of that money came from a reduction in state aid for public schools in the city of Milwaukee, while the rest came from tax dollars, according to DPI.
The state budget Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed earlier this year laid out new qualifying criteria for vouchers based on a city’s size, poverty levels and per-pupil spending. The new standards made districts across Milwaukee County as well as in the city of Racine eligible.

Pennsylvania Governer touts vouchers in larger education agenda

Marc Levy:

Citing Pennsylvania’s high dropout rates, Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday promoted taxpayer-paid vouchers as the ticket to a better education for low-income students in the state’s worst-performing school districts as he detailed a broader plan to improve and reshape public education in Pennsylvania.
Under the proposal, parents who qualify could use the vouchers — dubbed “opportunity scholarships” by Corbett — to send their children not only to private or religious schools, but also to better-performing public schools. His plan also calls for changing how charter schools are established and teachers are evaluated, and expanding tax credits for businesses that fund scholarships.

School vouchers require open hearing

Green Bay Press Gazette:

We’re glad state lawmakers are attempting to fix a potential problem created when the controversial school voucher provision was hurriedly stuck into the biennial budget passed in June.
Senate Bill 174 would prevent the state’s voucher program from expanding to districts that don’t already qualify. The Green Bay School District falls into that category, but could eventually meet the qualifications.
Without the legislation, districts such as Green Bay could become eligible and begin the process of offering school vouchers without a full public hearing process. That would be unfair to taxpayers, parents, students and the public at large.

Indiana vouchers prompt thousands to change schools

Tom Coyne:

Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.
It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.
In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.
“The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools,” said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Test scores same at Milwaukee public, voucher schools, auditors say; Vouchers Spend 50% Less Per Student

Dinesh Ramde:

State auditors on Wednesday confirmed a report that found little difference in test scores between students in Milwaukee’s school voucher program and those in the city’s public schools.
Wisconsin lawmakers had asked the state Legislative Audit Bureau to evaluate a study, conducted by privately funded education researchers, that analyzed test scores from both groups of students. The study had found no significant difference, a conclusion that state auditors also reached.
The researchers studied the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, a voucher program that allows low-income children in Milwaukee to attend private schools at taxpayers’ expense. The two-year budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker in June repealed the enrollment limit for voucher schools in Milwaukee and expanded vouchers to schools in suburban Milwaukee and Racine.

View the 950K PDF report, here.
Milwaukee Voucher School WKCE Headlines: “Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better in state tests”, “Test results show choice schools perform worse than public schools”, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS”; Spend 50% Less Per Student.

School Vouchers – Panacea or Snake Oil?

Ross Meyer:

As most Coloradans know, at least those who keep up with statewide education news, the Douglas County school board recently approved — unanimously — a groundbreaking plan to help pay the tuition costs for hundreds of students so that they can attend private schools.
This plan, known colloquially as a school voucher program, enjoys ardent support from some quarters, but vigorous opposition elsewhere.
Is such a plan useful, does it seem a wise use of taxpayer provided money, and is it available to all students?
Or, as many think, should public money earmarked for education be used exclusively for public schools to benefit all students? As with so many topics dotting the American sociological landscape, the answers lie in the murky sea of the individual’s political leanings.

Keeping Informed about School Vouchers

Center on Education Policy 555K PDF:

With Republicans controlling a majority of state houses and the U.S. House of Representatives, interest in school vouchers has spiked during the past year at the federal, state, and local levels. Vouchers are payments that parents use to finance private school tuition for their children. Although vouchers can be privately funded, the programs that attract the most attention and controversy provide vouchers paid for with public tax dollars.
In the deal that ended the stalemate over the federal fiscal year 2011 budget, Congress restored funding for the District of Columbia voucher program, which had been discontinued in 2009 by the Obama Administration and the previous Democratic- controlled Congress. Vouchers are also likely to be a hot-button issue during the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the 2012 national elections. Indiana recently enacted a statewide voucher program, and other states are actively considering voucher proposals with strong support from key legislators and governors. The school board in Douglas County, Colorado, adopted a local private school voucher program this spring.
In 2000, the Center on Education Policy (CEP), an independent nonprofit organization, reviewed and summarized the major research on school vouchers in the report School Vouchers: What We Know and Don’t Know and How We Could Learn More, available at www.cep-dc.org. Since 2000, much has changed in the voucher landscape. On the legislative front, new voucher programs have been established during the past decade in D.C., Ohio, and New Orleans, in addition to the recently adopted programs in Douglas County and Indiana. Citizens’ referenda on vouchers in California, Michigan, and Utah were defeated by sizeable margins. On the judicial front, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the longstanding Cleveland voucher program was constitutional, but state Supreme Courts struck down an established voucher program in Florida and a new statewide program in Colorado. On the research front, numerous studies have added to the knowledge base about vouchers, including comprehensive studies examining the longer-term effects of vouchers in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and D.C.
This CEP report provides updated information for policymakers and others about the status of publicly funded voucher programs and the findings of major voucher studies published since 2000. Other types of programs also subsidize private school tuition including tuition tax credits, specialized vouchers for students with disabilities, town tuition programs for remote rural students, and privately funded vouchers but in order to produce a succinct report focusing on the most controversial form of subsidy, we limited our review to publicly funded voucher programs for general education students.

More, here.

Chicago needs school vouchers. And Rahm needs to meditate.

John Kass:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel certainly made news over his angry, finger-wagging scolding of NBC Chicago TV reporter Mary Ann Ahern the other day.
Ahern dared ask the Rahmfather whether he’d send his kids to the public schools he controls. He reportedly became indignant, took off his microphone and ended the interview.
Later, and with great courtesy, Emanuel revisited the topic with a rival station — which then reported the big exclusive that the mayor was sending his children to a private school.
Emanuel runs Chicago Public Schools. He’s shown grit to stand publicly and admonish the teachers union to improve the product. But he decided his children will not attend the public schools.

Indiana Website explains vouchers Parents’ 1st step: Apply to an approved private school

Niki Kelly:

The Indiana Department of Education on Friday unveiled a website to provide information about the newly approved state voucher system.
The site includes an initial list of eligible private schools and answers to frequently asked questions.
Lawmakers in April approved vouchers, which will provide state dollars to Hoosier kids who want to attend private or parochial schools.
The amount of money available for a student depends on the household income and the local district’s state funding. . A family of four, for example, could make up to $62,000 and still be eligible for a partial voucher.

Questions linger for Indiana school vouchers

Mikel Livingston:

Public schools aren’t the only ones divided over the state’s new private school voucher program that became law Friday and is supposed to be in place by the time classes start in August.
Greater Lafayette private schools are split over the new system — one that some say will expand educational opportunities but others fear could drag state regulations into the mix and restrict freedoms their classrooms currently enjoy.
A handful of Lafayette area schools will be taking advantage of the program. But with such a short time before the new school year starts, the most basic information about how to use the voucher program created by the General Assembly in April still is not available — not even the online application form.
The process likely will face even greater delays in light of a lawsuit filed Friday in Marion County Superior Court by the Indiana State Teacher’s Association. The lawsuit, which seeks an injunction to prevent the disbursement of funds under the new program, will continue to stall the process as it winds its way through the court system. All the while, private schools hoping to participate wait for answers.

Are we creating dual school systems with charters, vouchers?

Bill McDiarmid:

Recently I participated in a panel discussion following a showing of the film ” Waiting for Superman .” The film is deeply moving. Only a heart of granite would remain unmoved by the plight of the children and caretakers as they learn they would not get into their schools of choice.
In the discussion, Jim Johnson, a UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School professor and founder of the Union Independent School in Durham, made a crucial observation. He noted that the debate around public charter schools versus traditional public schools, or private versus public schools, deflected us from the underlying issue: the plight of children who have no adult advocates.
As Johnson pointed out, despite failing to win a place in their school of choice, the students featured in the film all had a least one adult in their lives who knowledgeably advocated for them and cared deeply about their learning opportunities.

Wealthy don’t need vouchers for private school

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Giving children in poverty private-school vouchers to escape failing public schools in Milwaukee is one thing.
But Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to hand vouchers to wealthy families in Milwaukee and other cities isn’t justified or affordable for taxpayers.
This is especially true given the state’s budget problems and cuts in aid to public schools. Walker’s proposal could result in beleaguered taxpayers having to subsidize private school tuition for wealthy families who never intended to send their kids to public schools in the first place.
The Republican-run Legislature should keep Milwaukee’s private school choice program as it is: focused on needy, urban children.

Racine School officials: vouchers ‘morally wrong’

Lindsay Fiori:

Public school officials called vouchers “morally wrong” and potentially “crippling” for Racine at a press conference Thursday.
A school choice voucher program in Racine would cost taxpayers money while hurting the academic chances of public school students, officials said during the afternoon press conference at Walden middle and high school, 1012 Center St. The press conference was held in response to a proposal from Gov. Scott Walker to expand Milwaukee’s school choice voucher program, which allows low-income Milwaukee students to receive state-funded vouchers to attend participating private schools. Walker has proposed removing the low-income requirement while also expanding the program to other cities.
Public school officials who spoke in Racine Thursday think that’s a bad idea.
“School vouchers have been called ‘a dagger in the heart of public education’ and I think there’s some truth to that,” Racine Unified Superintendent Jim Shaw said at the conference. He explained vouchers take needed funds away from public schools — when a child leaves a school with a voucher about $6,000 in per pupil state aid to that school leaves with them to pay for private school tuition.

The Evidence Is In: School Vouchers Work

Jason Riley:

‘Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement,” said the White House in a statement on March 29. “The Administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students.” But less than three weeks later, President Obama signed a budget deal with Republicans that includes a renewal and expansion of the popular D.C. program, which finances tuition vouchers for low-income kids to attend private schools.
School reformers cheered the administration’s about-face though fully aware that it was motivated by political expediency rather than any acknowledgment that vouchers work.
When Mr. Obama first moved to phase out the D.C. voucher program in 2009, his Education Department was in possession of a federal study showing that voucher recipients, who number more than 3,300, made gains in reading scores and didn’t decline in math. The administration claims that the reading gains were not large enough to be significant. Yet even smaller positive effects were championed by the administration as justification for expanding Head Start.

Pennsylvania Education’s Future: School Vouchers?

Jaccii Farris:

Some advocates think vouchers are the future of Pennsylvania’s troubled schools.
They say those vouchers will give parents choices and promote competition among the schools.
But the idea isn’t getting straight A’s across the board.
It’s an issue state legislators are hashing out in Harrisburg and some area school districts say they don’t want any part of.
Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett has already thrown his support behind vouchers..
While state Democratic leaders continue to debate the $730 million plan.

Vouchers Aren’t the Answer

Lisa Kaiser:

Today the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released new results for the statewide exam.
Not surprising to those who have been paying attention, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) did better than schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), otherwise known as the voucher program.
Overall, MPS had 47.8% of its students scoring as proficient in math, with 59% proficient in reading.
Among economically disadvantaged kids, MPS scored 43.9% in math and 55.3% in reading.
Those scores are lower for students in the voucher program–all of whom are economically disadvantaged, although that could change if Gov. Scott Walker has his way and opens up the program to middle-class and wealthy kids. Only 34.4% of voucher students scored proficient in math, while 55.2% were proficient in reading, about the same as MPS.

Obama team opposes Boehner’s school vouchers bill

Catalina Camia:

The Obama administration “strongly opposes” a bill championed by House Speaker John Boehner that would revive and expand vouchers for low-income students in the District of Columbia.
The administration’s statement stops short of saying President Obama will veto the measure, known as the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act or SOAR.
“Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement,” said the Office of Management and Budget statement. “The administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students.”

Milwaukee could become first American city to use universal vouchers for education

Alan Borsuk:

Milwaukee’s private school voucher program has broken new and controversial ground often in its 21-year history. Now, it is headed toward what might well be another amazing national first.
If Gov. Scott Walker and leading voucher advocates prevail, Milwaukee will become the first city in American history where any child, regardless of income, can go to a private school, including a religious school, using public money to pay the bill.
Universal vouchers have been a concept favored by many free-market economists and libertarians since they were suggested by famed economist Milton Friedman more than half a century ago. Friedman’s theory was that if all parents could apply their fair share of public money for educating their children at whatever school they thought best, their choices would drive educational quality higher.
Coming soon (fairly likely): Milwaukee as the biggest testing ground of Friedman’s idea.
But not only is it hard to figure out what to say about the future of vouchers, it’s not easy to know what to say about the past of Milwaukee’s 21-year-old program of vouchers limited to low-income students except that it has been popular (more than 20,000 students using vouchers this year to attend more than 100 private schools) and there is not much of a case (except in some specific schools) that it has driven quality higher, both when it comes to many of the private schools specifically and when it comes to the educational waterfront of Milwaukee.

A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Vouchers

Greg Forster, Ph.D.

This report collects the results of all available empirical studies using the best available scientific methods to measure how school vouchers affect academic outcomes for participants, and all available studies on how vouchers affect outcomes in public schools. Contrary to the widespread claim that vouchers do not benefit participants and hurt public schools, the empirical evidence consistently shows that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools. In addition to helping the participants by giving them more options, there are a variety of explanations for why vouchers might improve public schools as well. The most important is that competition from vouchers introduces healthy incentives for public schools to improve.
Key findings include:

Vouchers advance in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

The Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. is enjoying a new spring of education reform, with challenges to teacher tenure and “parent-trigger” for charter schools. So it’s natural that the mother of all school choice reforms–vouchers–is also making a comeback.
Last week a House committee voted to restore Washington, D.C.’s opportunity scholarship program, which lets kids in persistently failing schools attend a private school of the family’s choosing. Joe Lieberman is pushing similar legislation in the Senate, where it enjoys bipartisan support. The White House and teachers unions killed the program in 2009, despite clear evidence of academic gains.
Meanwhile, more states are realizing that true educational choice extends beyond charter schools. The most promising development is occurring in Pennsylvania, where a state-wide voucher bill supported by new Governor Tom Corbett is moving through the Republican-controlled legislature.

The 5 Biggest Myths About School Vouchers

Andrew Rotherham:

One of the most contentious budget debates this year may be over something the president did not include in his 2012 spending plan — school vouchers. Now more often called “scholarships,” vouchers have been debated for decades, but support for these initiatives is on the rise.’
Let’s start with D.C. After years of discussion, Congress established a plan in 2004 to give 1,700 students in Washington a voucher of up to $7,500 to attend private and religious schools in the city as alternatives to the frequently lousy neighborhood schools. The program was controversial from the start — it was the first federal funding for vouchers in three decades. But in 2009, under intense pressure from the teachers unions, Congress and the Administration began to dismantle the program and no new students are participating today. New Speaker of the House John Boehner says restoring the program is a top priority.

Washington, DC Mayor Gray is misguided on school vouchers

The Washington Post

IF D.C. MAYOR Vincent C. Gray isn’t careful, he could well argue the District out of $60 million in federal education dollars. Testifying before a Senate committee against the voucher program that enables low-income students to attend private schools, Mr. Gray (D) was warned that extra money for the city’s traditional and public schools was likely conditioned on congressional reauthorization of vouchers. Money alone isn’t reason for Mr. Gray to change his mind, but given that District children benefit from the program and that parents are desperate for the choice if affords, it’s unfathomable that he is opposing this worthwhile program.
Mr. Gray was among those who appeared Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs as it considered legislation to extend the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, including an important provision to allow new students to be enrolled. Mr. Gray said that efforts should be focused on improving public schools, that Congress was inappropriately intruding into local affairs and that D.C. parents have enough education choices, given the number of flourishing charter schools and the public school reforms starting to take hold.

Colorado school district has wealth, success — and an eye on vouchers

Nicholas Riccardi:

Douglas County, a swath of subdivisions just south of here that is one of the nation’s wealthiest, is something of a public school paradise.
The K-12 district, with 60,000 students, boasts high test scores and a strong graduation rate. Surveys show that 90% of its parents are satisfied with their children’s schools.
That makes the Douglas County School District an unlikely frontier in the latest battle over school vouchers.
But a new, conservative school board is exploring a voucher system to give parents — regardless of income — taxpayer money to pay for their children to attend private schools that agree to abide by district regulations. If it’s implemented, parents could receive more than $4,000 per child.
The proposal’s supporters argue that competition can only improve already-high-performing schools.

Related: A School Board Thinks Differently About Delivering Education, and spends less.
Colorado’s Douglas County School District spends $8512.74 per student ($476,977,336 for 56,031 students in 2009). Madison spent $15,241 per student in 2009, a whopping $6,728.26, 79% more than the “wealthy Denver suburbs”.

What school vouchers have bought for my family

Vivian Butler:

I worried constantly about my daughter Jerlisa when she attended our neighborhood elementary school. I knew that I wanted a better education for her, but I didn’t know how to make that happen. In 2005, I took a chance and applied to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Little did I know how much more than $7,500 I would be gaining.
I grew up in the District and attended D.C. public schools. Jerlisa started off the same way. We enrolled her at Gibbs Elementary School for kindergarten, and as the years went by she started to fall behind. There was so much going on around the school and in the classroom. Every morning, I walked with her to school, and every afternoon I waited outside the school gates to walk her home again. She got teased for that, but I was worried about the drug dealers, addicts and bullies in the neighborhood. I didn’t have any other choice. I had to make sure she was safe.
When Jerlisa was in fifth grade, she became anxious and didn’t want to return to school. It was clear to me she wasn’t getting the help that she needed. That’s when I received fliers about the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Although I didn’t know everything about the OSP, I knew I had to do something different, even if it meant getting out of my comfort zone. When you’re a single mother on a fixed income, sometimes simple things like filling out your name, address or income on a form can be a scary thing to do.

Indiana Charter schools, vouchers get lift

Nikki Kelly:

Gov. Mitch Daniels has never been patient when it comes to pushing progress for Indiana. And Tuesday night he implored legislators not to wait any longer on key education and local government proposals.
“Wishing won’t make it so. Waiting won’t make it so. But those of you in this assembly have a priceless and unprecedented opportunity to make it so. It’s more than a proposal, it’s an assignment. It’s more than an opportunity, it’s a duty,” he said.
Although some were searching for a hint about his presidential aspirations, Daniels used his seventh State of the State address to focus on Indiana – sticking to a familiar formula of highlighting successes and seeking improvement.
He reminded legislators of the progress they have made in road construction, cutting property taxes and keeping Indiana fiscally solvent. And he asked them to do more – much more.

Low Income Vouchers for Indiana

Deena Martin:

Supporters of expanded charter schools and school vouchers say most Hoosiers want more education options for their children, and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels will outline plans Tuesday to bring those choices to more Indiana families, especially low-income ones.
Advocates met at the Statehouse Monday to push education proposals that have renewed life during this legislative session because of support from Daniels and leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate. They say a poll they’ve paid for shows two-thirds of the state supports vouchers and expanded charter schools.
“This session brings the best opportunity for education reform in a generation,” said Luke Messer, executive director of School Choice Indiana.

Another view, here.