Trying to Sort Out All the Concerns about Charters and Vouchers

janresseger

After today, this blog will take a two week summer break.  Look for a new post on Tuesday, July 11.

I recently spent far too much time slogging through the over 80 pages of the new report on Charter Management Organizations from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Stanford CREDO is affiliated with the Hoover Institution. The study compares test score gains in four types of charter schools—the independent, stand-alone, charters; the charters run by Charter Management Organizations (that operate “at least three separate charter schools and the CMO is the charter holder for each school”); what CREDO calls Vendor Operated Schools (organizations which operate “at least three separate charter schools, but do not hold the charter for any school they serve”); and finally what CREDO calls hybrids (that “have aspects of both a CMO and a VOS).  After trying to sort through all these definitions plus…

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“Socialism? But Look at Venezuela!” Debunking Anti-Socialist Propaganda w/ Actual Logic »

“Socialism? But Look at Venezuela!” Debunking Anti-Socialist Propaganda w/ Actual Logic
by John Laurits
If you want an online socialist to feel exasperated, one of the best ways is to ask them “so, what do you think about Venezuela?” Then — before they type a response — say “checkmate!” That will usually do the trick. Any socialist or leftist with enough patience take up the cause on the interwebs has … Continue reading “Socialism? But Look at Venezuela!” Debunking Anti-Socialist Propaganda w/ Actual Logic

Read more of this post https://www.johnlaurits.com/2017/venezuela-socialism-propaganda-logic/

CURMUDGUCATION: Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall

The basic question was minor. The implications are huge. The bottom line is that supporters of using public tax dollars to support private religious schools got some major support from the Supreme Court today.

A church in Missouri wanted a shot at some public monies to resurface a playground. The state said no. The trip up through the levels of US courts began. Five years later, here we are.

What matters in a case like this is the reasoning. Here’s the oft-quoted excerpt from the majority:

“The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution … and cannot stand,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

As Bloomberg notes, this is a big deal:

It’s the first time the court has used the free exercise clause of the Constitution to require a direct transfer of taxpayers’ money to a church. In other words, the free exercise clause has trumped the establishment clause, which was created precisely to stop government money going to religious purposes. Somewhere, James Madison is shaking his head in disbelief.

A portion of the majority made an attempt to mitigate the effects of the decision with a small footnote (the full opinion is here).

That note may be meant to indicate that the ruling is meant to be narrow– but not all of the seven justices who ruled against the state signed off on this footnote.
Reading through the decision leaves little mystery about where the majority are headed. The church argued that it was being disqualified from a public benefit for which it was otherwise qualified. The majority agrees:
The State has pursued its preferred policy to the point of expressly denying a qualified religious entity a public benefit solely because of its religious quality. Under our precedents, that goes too far.
 
And just in case that’s not clear enough, here’s Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Thomas, explaining why they don’t agree with footnote three. They argue that there is no point in distinguishing between religious purposes and activities, and that the exercise clause does not care, either.
…the general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise– whether on the playground or anywhere else.
 
In other words, giving public tax dollars to a church-run private school would be just fine. In fact, it’s hard to know exactly where the court would draw the line. If an organization is in the community, competing for community funds for an activity, you can’t rule them out just because they are a religious organization. If a church wants money to pave a playground or run a school, you can’t deny them just because they’re a church.
The dissenting opinion sees this pretty clearly:
 
To hear the Court tell it, this is a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground.  The stakes are higher. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government—that is, between church and state.  The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church.
 
That sounds about right. With this decision, the wall between church and state is pretty well shot, and there is nothing to stand in the way of, say, a federally-financed multi-billion dollar program that would funnel money to private religious schools. Trump and DeVos could not have a brighter green light for their voucher program.
I’ll argue, as always, that churches will rue the day the wall is taken down. The separation of church and state doesn’t just protect the state– it protects the church, too. When you mix religion and politics, you get politics. And where federal money goes, federal strings follow. Sooner or later the right combination of misbehavior and people in federal power will result in a call for accountability for private schools that get federal money– even religious schools. And as the requests for private religious vouchers roll in, folks will be shocked and surprised to find that Muslim and satanic and flying spaghetti monster houses of worship will line up for money, then the feds will have to come up with a mechanism for determining “legitimacy” and voila! That’s how you get the federal department of church oversight. Of course, this will only happen once we’re finally tired of the idea that charter and voucher schools don’t have to be accountable for anything to anyone.
But that’s further down the road. For right now, what we know is that the Supremes just punched a huge hole in the wall and a bunch of voucher-loving religious private schools are about to start sucking up public tax money through that breach. A bunch of public tax money is about to disappear into a black hole, and we won’t know where it went or how it was used. Education, religion, law, and American society will all be a little bit worse for it.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall

CURMUDGUCATION: What Choice Won’t Do

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

What Choice Won’t Do

When it comes to the advocates of school choice, there are many points with which I disagree. I disagree with many of their assessments of the public school situation (“a dead end for which we spend more money than God and get results lower than dirt”). I disagree with many of their policy goals (why exactly should parents– and no other taxpayers– have a say about how tax dollars are spent).

These are disagreements about policy and systems that can be debated and argued (when people on both sides of the discussion are speaking in good faith). But what I find frustrating in the choice debates is the pro-choice arguments that simply aren’t so.

There are some things that school choice simply won’t do.

Choice Will Not Save Money

Multiple duplicate school systems must cost more than one single system. When businesses want to save money, they consolidate operations. They don’t open more branches and raise their costs.

School Choice Will Not Unleash Competition That Will Spur Excellence

This will not (and has not) happen. For one thing, it’s a zero-sum system in which losing means having less of what’s needed to compete. It’s a race in which the laggards must take off their shoes and give them to the leaders. But the very nature of the competition is problematic anyway.

It’s Greene’s Law of the Free Market: The free market does not foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing.

Betamax was better than VHS, but VHS made better marketing choices. McDonald’s does not dominate its market by producing top-notch gourmet food. Pepsi and Coke do not dominate their market by producing artificially flavored carbonated water that is significantly superior to other artificially flavored carbonated water.

Sure, product quality can be useful as a marketing tool. But it is often expensive, and more companies than we can count have decided they would rather save some money on production and get the product sold with marketing. And in a world jam packed with shiny spinny marketing, even quality is not enough to break through. On the other hand, a huge number of mediocre products that have ridden to success on the back of fancy, expensive marketing.

School choice will unleash marketing, schools promising any number of things they can’t deliver. Worse, the drive to market affects the product. If, for instance, we push out all the students who aren’t high-achieving, we’ll be able to promote ourselves as a school where 100% of the seniors go to college (because everyone who isn’t likely to go to college doesn’t get to be a senior).

Schools in a free market choice system will not be asking, “How can we become better schools?” They will be asking “How can we convince more students to enroll here?” There will be many answers to that question, from flashier marketing to celebrity spokesperson to– well, every sort of marketing approach used to sell breakfast cereal or beer. And as long as school attendance is mandatory, there will also be a market for people who choose schools for entirely non-educational reasons. We’ve already seen this, from basketball academies that minimize academics so students can shoot hoops all day, to the segregation academies where families can keep their children away from black kids.

Choice Will Not Put The Power in Parents’ Hands

Choice advocates talk about how choice gives all the power to parents. It does not.

Parents, like any other customers in a free market system, will get exactly the choices that businesses choose to give them. Businesses get to choose the location at which they open. Businesses get to chose their pricing structure. In the case of education-flavored businesses, they get to choose what the requirements of admission are. And charter school businesses routinely set limits on when a student may enroll– only at particular grade levels and almost never during the school year.

So to start, the only choices available will be the ones that businesses choose for the parents of a community. And choice schools will be highly motivated to choose which students they prefer to take on (see also above marketing section). The schools get to choose– not the parents. This will work great if your child is a highly desirable recruit, not so much if your child belongs to the other 98%.

But then, there’s also the question of how parents will exercise whatever limited choices are available, because the information available to them for making such choices is going to be limited, if not just plain packed with a bunch of noise. Marketing– choosing a school will be like trying to choose a new car based strictly on car advertisements. It will be in the interests of many choice schools– particularly the not-so-great ones– to flood the decision space with inaccurate, misleading, and (depending on their ethics) false information.

Finally, once in a selected choice school, parents may well have no avenue for talking to school management. No monthly board meeting to attend, no local elected board members to call, no central office that has to respond to customer complaints. And schools don’t need to keep customers happy, because those customers will be moving on shortly anyway. Who cares if these parents are unhappy– we were already busy recruiting their replacements anyway?

For high-powered high-information high-clout parents with high-achieving students in wealthy markets, there will be some power in choice. For everyone else, there will not. Not unlike choosing a college– you can “pick” Harvard, but Harvard will have the final say. There will be big winners, but most customers will be powerless before, during and after the choosing.

There Are Other Goals

There are plenty of bad ideas wrapped up in the school choice movement. There are things we shouldn’t want to do, but these are things that choice will not do. There may be reasons to have a serious, honest conversation about choice, but these arguments for choice do not belong in that conversation.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: What Choice Won’t Do

CURMUDGUCATION: NY: Competition, Shmompetition

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

NY: Competition, Shmompetition

Eva Moscowitz has some kind of magical power. Maybe it’s money or pheremones or some sort of magical aura, but her record in getting New York leaders to roll over and play fetch for her is impressive.

At the beginning of the month, NY court declared that her Success Academy is not accountable to the taxpayers when it comes to her Pre-K program; the city can not hold her to any sort of performance requirement. That flies directly in the face of the old ideal that a charter works by promising the taxpayer certain results and then is held to those results. Not for Moscowitz– she remains free to do as she pleases.

Lawmakers in Albany handed her another win. Buried amidst new legislation dealing with mayoral control of schools, there is reportedly this nugget:

The SUNY Charter Institute, the regulations read, “acknowledges that many schools and education corporations it oversees that have demonstrated strong student performance have had difficulty hiring teachers certified in accordance with the requirements of the regulations of the commissioner of education.” SUNY is now planning to create “an alternative teacher certification pathway to charter schools.” 

So New York joins the roster of states where anyone with a pulse and a degree can be certified a teacher.

There are many reasons to be annoyed by this. It degrades the teaching profession, codifying that it is a job that literally anybody could do. It thumbs its nose at all the teachers who went to the trouble and expense to get real certification. And it underlines how charter backers often support ideas for charters that they would never accept in the schools attended by their own children.

But I’m also wondering– what about the competition?

Charters, particularly in markets like NYC, were supposed to spark competition, as each school worked hard to become the very best, to chart new courses to the Land of Excellence. But isn’t that supposed to work like a high jump competition? You know– we keep setting the bar higher and higher and the jumpers improve their skills– literally up their game– to meet the new requirements.

This is the opposite. This is “We can’t clear the bar at that height, so we’d like the legislature to lower the bar for us.” This is “We’ll settle for what the leaders of the best schools and the parents who send children to them would never settle for. We will deliberately not live up to that standard.”

Competition is allegedly supposed to weed out those who can’t cut it. If you can’t manage to adequately staff your school, you aren’t cutting it.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: NY: Competition, Shmompetition

Serena Williams Signs On as New “Purple Purse” Ambassador to Promote Financial Empowerment for Domestic Abuse Victims – The Catalysts for Change

Reblogged on WordPress.com

Source: Serena Williams Signs On as New “Purple Purse” Ambassador to Promote Financial Empowerment for Domestic Abuse Victims – The Catalysts for Change

CURMUDGUCATION: Rural Life vs. Free Market

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Rural Life vs. Free Market

I live in a small town and rural county in northwest Pennsylvania. Our population is a little over 50,000. The median value of a home is a little over $80K. Per capita income is a little over $23K, and our official poverty rate is 13.5%. As of 2010, we had about 81 persons per square mile. Our biggest city contains maybe 7,000 people, though our towns are surrounded by stretches of villages, farmland, and boroughs.

My town. My house is an inch or two beyond the right edge

We are not gut-wrenchingly poor. We are not Montana-style sparse. We are not Kentucky hollow rural. We are just on the northern tip of Appalachia, and most residents would deny we live in that region. We have major cities (Pittsburgh, Cleveland) within a couple hours’ drive. I’d call us a typical, if not extreme, example of a rural/small town area.

We have one mall. It has a Sears for an anchor store. We have a couple of McDonalds (first one arrived about forty-five years ago), a Wendy’s, a Burger King. We have one Wal-Mart. We have no Chipotle, no Red Lobster, no higher-end retail chains. We have one movie theater. We have a couple of regional family restaurants, but no national chains like Perkins or Denny’s, and if you want to go out to eat after 10 PM on any night of the week, well, you can’t (well, you can get food at a bar or at Sheetz, a regional– and far superiors– version of 7-11). There are chunks of the county where FedEx and UPS do not deliver (they just hand the package off to USPS).

We are fortunate for regions of our sort because we do have a hospital. It’s a branch of UPMC, and it’s here because of a long convoluted story involving lawyers, angry doctors, mergers, and court orders, and while it provides plenty of decent care, like most rural residents, if we want any kind of more advanced treatment or procedures, we have to go to Pittsburgh or Erie. In surrounding counties, hospital health care is always a long drive away.

This is how the free market works. Businesses go where the customers and the money are, and if the local market can’t sustain a particular business, the business will either avoid that market or fold after it opens.

The free market does not like rural areas. The people there are too spread out and they don’t have all that much money. Some retailers have learned how to work around that. Wal-Mart is the most notable example of a company that has figured out how to make money from spread out rural non-wealthy folks (hint: it doesn’t involve providing them with outstanding, excellent products). There are also variations of remainder stores– businesses that buy up inventory that big retailers couldn’t sell and then sell those at discount prices. We have several of those.

Bottom line. When you say that you want rural areas to depend on the free market for goods and services, you’re saying that rural areas will just have to make do with less. When we’re talking about burgers or clothing or movies or late-night dining, that’s not so big a deal. But when we start talking about health care and roads and education, it’s not so okay.

In some ways, rural communities can be at a disadvantage compared to high-poverty urban areas. Urban poverty is generally dense– if the government offers businesses a ten-cent-per-person profit for providing services or goods, the business has a chance to make money by dealing in bulk. Rural communities offer no such opportunity.

The free market says that what you deserve is what you can afford, and when we talk about services that are provided to the community as a whole– like roads and health care and education– what rural communities can afford is not much. Every call to privatize such services is a call to rural communities saying, “You deserve less.”

Privatizers slip around this point a couple of ways, most notably by erasing the idea of services to a community and replacing it with the idea of commodities sold to individuals. So a school is not an institution that provides a backbone of the community, but just a business that sells education to individual students (and has nothing to do with everyone else).

Rural communities are also ripe for internet-based businesses. Can’t get it locally? Just order it on line. That’s definitely a blessing in many instances, but it comes at a price. Our local hospital branch is happy to offer distance doctoring, where you can do your consulting with a far-away physician on a screen, which is not exactly a big boon at a moment when you’re facing all the fear and uncertainty that comes with illness or injury. Better than nothing? That may be true, but I bet nobody who can actually get a face-to-face flesh-and-blood doctor is saying, “Never mind– I’d rather just talk to her on a computer screen.”

And internet-based businesses suck at customer service. Cyber schools have descended on some rural areas and sucked up buckets of money, seriously damaging the tax base for the local community school. At the same time, they leave students with little human interaction or parents with any recourse when things aren’t quite working out. And they leave local taxpayers who aren’t actual customers of the business (but whose taxes pay the bills) absolutely no recourse for complaint at all.

Rural schools are branching out beyond straight-up cyber school to “course choice,” a means of saying, “Why sure, we offer Chinese language studies here” and then plunking the student down in front of software driven cyber school. My own school offered Chinese language courses at one point. A few students tried them and found them boring, lacking any human touch, isolating, and boring. Internet-based course choice in many cases seems to be nothing more than a computerized version of handing a student a textbook and saying, “Go teach yourself this subject.”

Better than nothing? Probably. But when your argument for a business is “We’re better than nothing!” you’re not exactly raising the flag for excellence.

Abandoning rural areas to a free market education system is deciding that rural communities deserve less, should get less, will have to settle for something whose greatest virtue is “Better than nothing.” As with much of ed reform, it would be easier to have a conversation about all of this if folks would say, “Look, we don’t want to spend money on Those Children in Those Communities. We think they should just settle for less because that’s what their socio-economic level entitles them to.” That would be hard to defend, but at least it would be honest.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Rural Life vs. Free Market

Betsy DeVos Watch: On Charter Schools and possible new Student Loan Chief

Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke to a gathering of people at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is an organization committed to the growth of Charter Schools and lobbies at both the state and national level on education policy. You can see from the graphic below, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has spent several million dollars over the years to influence federal education policy, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke to a gathering of people at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is an organization committed to the growth of Charter Schools and lobbies at both the state and national level on education policy. You can see from the graphic below, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has spent several million dollars over the years to influence federal education policy, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools relies on some of the richest family foundations, like the Walton and Gates Foundations and they boast being in partnership with some of the most anti-Public School groups in the country. A few of the groups they partner with have strong ties to Dick & Betsy DeVos, such as the Alliance for School Choice and…

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Georgia District 06 2018 Race • OpenSecrets

OpenSecrets.org coverage of the Georgia District 06 election held in 2018

Campaign spending vs Outside Groups

Jon Ossoff’s personal campaign committee vastly out performed Karen Handel’s in fundraising thanks to a national grassroots effort. At the same time, conservative outside spending groups supporting her (and attacking him) helped close the gap, outspending the outside groups that were supporting him.Source: Georgia District 06 2018 Race • OpenSecrets