The amount the Michigan Education Association contributed to the committee
Source: The Detroit News
Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, appears to have hit upon a proposal that has equal support among voters who identify themselves as either Republican or Democrat in the Wolverine State.
Among several education reform measures Snyder has proposed recently — which include an expansion of charter schools — the governor has put faith into the idea that all public schools should be schools of choice.
While news reports generally have focused on Snyder’s controversial charter school ambitions, several wealthy districts bordering more impoverished urban school systems have lobbied aggressively against Senate Bill 624, which essentially orders schools to open their doors to students from other districts as long as they have seats. Most Michigan school systems already participate in the program, but the holdouts include affluent suburban districts, such as Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills, where school boards and city councils have openly declared that their quality of life and “premium housing stock” will suffer from this urban encroachment.
A new poll shows these attitudes are out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Michigan voters. The Republican polling and political consulting firm Marketing Resource Group surveyed a sample of 600 likely voters in Michigan early in October to determine support for the bill and found that 82 percent of respondents supported this option. And while MRG is a partisan research firm, it broke its results down by party. Republicans and Democrats responded the same way: 83 percent said they supported the measure. A third group, which MRG identified as ticket-splitters, backed the bill with 79 percent saying they supported it. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, and it was commissioned by the Michigan Catholic Conference, which supports Snyder’s school choice initiatives.
Before this is skewered as a favorable poll commissioned by a special-interest group who wanted to promote a favorable poll, the Catholic Conference can at least unequivocally show that the majority of Michigan voters shares its sense of social and economic justice in this matter. Most Michigan voters care more about equal educational opportunity than they do about Grosse Pointe’s premium housing stock.
“Regardless of the respondent’s location, race, gender, union membership or party affiliation, the results of this survey clearly indicate that Michigan families have grown lethargic of the status quo and want the ability to choose where and how their children receive the best education possible,” said Paul A. Long, the president of the Michigan Catholic Conference. “It is the hope of the Michigan Catholic Conference that these polling numbers will help members of the Michigan Legislature look past what is a very small yet vocal minority of special interests and listen to everyday parents and families who want better educational options for their children.”
“It’s unfortunate, but we saw democracy at work.”
Frank Lopez, a parent of a fifth-grader at the Bank of America Learning Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., a specialty school of the Duval County School District. The Duval School Board voted Tuesday to close the school to save $309,000 annually in its $1.7 billion budget. (Source: The Florida Times-Union)
“Sometimes the district that a bureaucrat draws that says you have to go here because it works in my bus route doesn’t necessarily translate into academic excellence.”
“The very idea that we continue to restrict children from getting a high-quality education by where they live — and perpetuate Zip Code education — is absolutely senseless.”
RiShawn Biddle, editor of Dropout Nation, writing about the move of seven California families who asked a state superior court to bar the Los Angeles Unified School District from striking a new collective bargaining agreement with the union that fails to consider student test data in teacher evaluations. (Source: Dropout Nation)
Among the newest contributors to redefinED is Boston University professor Charles Glenn, an expert on educational history and comparative policy who last summer served as a witness in the court challenge to Douglas County’s school voucher pilot. His testimony showcased not only the 19th-century American history of providing public educations funds to religious schools and institutions, it notably shined a spotlight on the attacks Catholics faced when Colorado adopted its Blaine Amendment.
In direct examination and in a chapter from his forthcoming book introduced as evidence, Glenn points to the perceived “Catholic menace” in Colorado as the state convened its Constitutional Convention in 1875. The scaremongering of that time led some Catholic leaders to call not only for a Catholic voice in the convention, but a voice for reason and deliberation. And no one made that plea more eloquently than Bishop Joseph Projectus Machebeuf.
Machebeuf, who insisted that Catholics would remain loyal to the State of Colorado and that their rights as citizens should be respected, sent a message to convention delegates urging them to let future legislatures deal with the question of “separate schools and denominational education,” not engrave the answer into a constitutional clause. His reason: emotions were running too hot:
… the question itself has never been fully and dispassionately discussed in this country, and can not be said to have been discussed at all in Colorado. We have had, so far as I am informed, nothing said on our side of the question in your honorable body … So far, both in this country at large and in Colorado, the language of passion has been more often uttered than that of reason … The present is no time for the exposition of the arguments in favor of denominational schools. But we look forward hopefully to the future. A day shall at last dawn – surely it shall – when the passions of this hour will have subsided; when the exigencies of partisan politics will no longer stand in the way of right and justice, and political and religious equality shall again seem the heritage of the American citizen.
That day has not yet come. Indeed, the hearing during which Glenn testified resulted in a permanent injunction against the Douglas County voucher effort. Glenn writes, “Were he alive today, Bishop Machebeuf would no doubt be surprised and disappointed to learn that (unlike every other Western democracy) the United States still maintains barriers against reasoned deliberation about the merits of schooling that responds to the choices of parents. It is striking how, whether in Massachusetts, or Colorado, or in federal court litigation, opponents of making faith-based schooling available to parents without financial penalty seek to remove this issue from the sphere of democratic decision-making.”
From The Associated Press:
The state Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on a bill that is designed to meet Gov. Tom Corbett’s desire to overhaul Pennsylvania’s public schools by helping thousands more of those students afford private and parochial school tuition with taxpayer help and making it easier to open charter schools.
A rewritten version of legislation that had stalled in the Senate in the spring easily passed the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, just a day after the committee chairman released the new draft.
The rewritten bill adds a chapter on charter schools, but also it substantially scales back the scope of Piccola’s earlier voucher program that would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars more and been available to children of the state’s poorest families.
Under the new bill, vouchers would be limited to children in the worst-performing school districts, but income limits would be higher.
The Huffington Post got a copy of Walter Isaacson’s forthcoming biography of Steve Jobs, focusing particularly on a revealing conversation between Jobs and President Obama. In his meeting with the president, during which he said Obama was “headed for a one-term presidency,” Jobs criticized America’s education system, saying “it was crippled by union work rules,” Isaacson reports. “Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.”
Lest this be a surprise to the center-left, Jobs embraced education reform generally and school vouchers specifically with even more vigor during a 1995 interview with the Smithsonian Institution:
I’ve been a very strong believer in that what we need to do in education is to go to the full voucher system … One of the things I feel is that, right now, if you ask who are the customers of education, the customers of education are the society at large, the employers who hire people, things like that. But ultimately I think the customers are the parents. Not even the students but the parents …
… in schools people don’t feel that they’re spending their own money. They feel like it’s free, right? No one does any comparison shopping. A matter of fact if you want to put your kid in a private school, you can’t take the forty-four hundred dollars a year out of the public school and use it, you have to come up with five or six thousand of your own money. I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for forty-four hundred dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school several things would happen. Number one schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting. I’ve suggested as an example, if you go to Stanford Business School, they have a public policy track; they could start a school administrator track. You could get a bunch of people coming out of college tying up with someone out of the business school, they could be starting their own school. You could have twenty-five year old students out of college, very idealistic, full of energy instead of starting a Silicon Valley company, they’d start a school. I believe that they would do far better than any of our public schools would. The third thing you’d see is I believe, is the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise. Some of the schools would go broke. A lot of the public schools would go broke. There’s no question about it. It would be rather painful for the first several years.
Is it fair to classify as “dopes” those parents who choose schools that report poor test performance? Not if we only focus on test performance, which may be a muddy measure of how kids are benefitting, Rick Hess writes. Hess directs readers to a recent paper by several economists who examined the open-enrollment initiative at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and found substantive long-term gains. The enrollment plan launched in 2001, yielding, according to the study, higher graduation rates with no cream skimming.
“Among applicants with low-quality neighborhood schools, lottery winners are more likely than lottery losers to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college, and earn a bachelor’s degree,” authors David Deming, Justine Hastings, Thomas Kane and Douglas Staiger conclude. “They are twice as likely to earn a degree from an elite university. The results suggest that school choice can improve students’ longer-term life chances when they gain access to schools that are better on observed dimensions of quality.”
Earlier today on this page, Alan Bonsteel, the president of California Parents for Educational Choice, urged school choice groups to embrace the argument that enhanced levels of school choice can yield higher graduation rates. Similarly, Hess writes:
Maybe parents aren’t dopes. Maybe reading and math scores, at least on today’s assessments, are actually muddy measures of how much kids are benefiting. Maybe parents who express high levels of satisfaction with choice see that their kids are better behaved and more focused, disciplined, and academically engaged. Maybe they judge that this gives their kids a much better shot at a bright future, even if their short-term reading and math scores aren’t moving a lot …
… Now, let’s be clear. I don’t know that any of this is true. But it seems as viable as the “parents are dopes” hypothesis. Yet school choice researchers have been so focused for two decades on examining whether choice lifts test scores that they’ve not yet spent much time exploring just why it is that parental satisfaction seems to so dramatically exceed the test score evidence. On the bright side that just means there are huge opportunities ahead. So, guys, how about it?
The Fordham Institute’s enterprise in Ohio weighed in over the weekend on the prospects of additional school options in the Buckeye State, and it did so with characteristic balance. Neither Terry Ryan nor Mike Petrilli are ever bashful to highlight the mixed results of many school options, and they’re smart to embrace “accountability done right” in a way that many advocates for choice do not. But just as importantly, they’re deft at bringing clarity to debates that too quickly rage out of control.
“The genie of school choice is out of the bottle,” Ryan wrote in the The Columbus Dispatch in response to the coming political storm in Ohio over the proposed Parental Choice and Taxpayer Saving Scholarship Program. In other words, though one more private option may feel like “piling on to some,” Ryan says, private and public options have thrived in Ohio since the 1990s, and it’s time we had a new conversation where we leave old fears behind.
More than 75,000 students are enrolled in some 350 charter schools. The EdChoice Scholarship Program provides vouchers to students in failing schools, and it is set to expand from 14,000 to 30,000 students next year. The Autism Scholarship Program now serves more than 1,300 youngsters. More than 7,200 students participate in the Cleveland scholarship program, Ohio’s oldest. In June, Ohio added a special-needs voucher program that will provide support of up to $20,000 to eligible students to attend private schools.
Ohio’s school districts also have a number of choice programs: magnet schools and alternative programs, STEM high schools and Early College Academies. And 429 districts allow students from anywhere in the state to attend their schools via open enrollment. (Another 90 allow students from adjacent districts to enroll.) And thousands of families have moved in pursuit of better educational options for their children.
The challenge, Ryan adds, “is to ensure that quality keeps pace with quantity and availability.” Regulation is a four-letter word to many voucher proponents, but Ryan makes the case that “accountability is the partner of choice”:
The latter creates space for innovation and new options, while the former drives change and pushes for continuous improvement. Accountability exposes poor performers and charlatans, while also highlighting successful schools.
The challenge facing policymakers is that, while many voices clamor for widened choice and the opportunities that go with it, far fewer demand accountability for performance. Getting the balance right will determine whether school choice in Ohio succeeds or fails to improve student outcomes. It also could serve as the basis for political détente around school-choice issues.