Home » Newswire Weekly » Newswire: August 16, 2011

Newswire: August 16, 2011

CER Newswire
Vol. 13, No. 32
August 16, 2011

CHOICE CHESS. Legal ploys to stop democratically created choice programs seem to be in vogue this year, with union bosses’ taking their cases to court. Score a win in Indiana (now considered the Reformiest State– see story below) where Judge Michael Keele refused to stop the state’s voucher program because the plaintiffs “failed to demonstrate any likelihood of success on the merits” of the case, which is essential to win a preliminary injunction. The union-led challenge claimed the program is unconstitutional because it benefits primarily religious schools. The Judge’s smack down of the injunction, though, shows he’s not buying this wrong-headed argument. Tony Bennett, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, is confident of the constitutionality of scholarships given to families, not schools. “I don’t think there’s a question that this is one of what will likely be a number of steps that will validate the fact that this is constitutional and in the best interests of Indiana children and families,” said Bennett. Meanwhile, the union leader is not sure if she will continue on with her lawsuit. Indiana supporters of choice, it’s your turn to speak out in support of vouchers.

AND MORE LEGAL TALES. The status quo claimed victory in Douglas County, Colorado, though, where Denver District Judge Michael Martinez issued a permanent injunction of the Douglas County district’s pilot Choice Scholarship Program. Translation: Students in the newly passed, local voucher program are in limbo because their vouchers cannot continue while the lawsuit proceeds. While opponents of choice like to argue to state lawmakers that any reforms should be a local decision, here’s the case of a local school district who did just that – made school choice possible for their district only. Uniquely reform-minded, the Douglas County school board believed its best response to ailing budgets and a need for more and better choices was to use schools that already exist and let parents decide. But the ACLU and Americans for the Separation of Church and State somehow failed to read the US Supreme Court’s rulings on such programs that parents, not schools, are the conduit in making a choice and want the Colorado courts to rule that this violates religious liberties. Hello? No school gets any money from the state, but from families who are making a choice for their child’s education. As school board President John Carson puts it “the court’s ruling today limits the opportunity for Douglas County parents to determine the best school fit for their children.”

SAVING THE CAMDENS. For all those in Indiana and Colorado who say forget about vouchers, just pump more money into traditional public schools, take a look at cities like Camden, New Jersey. All the Abbot dollars that flooded into this school district, and others around the state, and are students achieving at higher levels? Is the dropout rate down? No. Not. At. All. Kids remain trapped inside these intellectually rotted schools and they, the kids, are going nowhere – not on to college nor into the world of work. Saving at least some of these kids is key for their sake and also, for those who need a larger policy view, to boost the economy and, hopefully, infuse the system with some competition to improve. The NJ Daily Record shouts out its support for these kids when they back the proposed Scholarship Opportunity Act, a bill that would offer tax credits to businesses that donate money to a scholarship fund. Students in chronically failing schools can then apply for a scholarship from these funds. From the paper: “So we support spending a few million dollars on scholarships/vouchers — whatever you want to call them — as a pilot program because, why not. For all the billions we spend in the Abbotts, to not get results is maddening.” Calling on all of our New Jersey friends to get mad and do what it takes to pass Assembly Bill 2819, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, when the state legislature meets again this fall.

“YOU CAN BET YOUR LIFE WE’RE NOT FINISHED,” said Tony Bennett, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction. And, that is yet another compelling reason Indiana won the Fordham Institute’s Education’s American Reform Idol competition. Runner-up Illinois, we fear, is getting the “we’re-the-nice-guys” vote, which may be nice, but doesn’t mean their reform measures have any teeth. Judges included Bruno Manno (Walton Family Foundation), Richard Lee Colvin (Ed Sector) and our own Jeanne Allen, along with the audience! Indiana boasted a comprehension reform plan that’s about “competition, freedom and accountability.” Expansion of high-quality charter schools, the broadest needs-based voucher program in the nation, a focus on ensuring teacher quality and local flexibility all are hallmarks of this state’s education agenda. Here’s the breakdown of call-in and in-house voting for the “Reformiest State 2011:”

Indiana, with 47% of the vote, beat out Illinois (20%), Florida (17%), Ohio (12%), Wisconsin (6%). Hats off the Hoosier State and school choice in Indiana!

OPINIONS AND FACTS. The late, great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once reminded us that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” His admonishment to policymakers and pundits rings true especially with the release of the Annual Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup Survey. Embargoed until tomorrow, it sounds like this is another case of people being asked what they think without any data to guide their responses. Some interesting tidbits will clearly emerge but hard to put stock in what American’s think when they’ve been given little to think about. Hmm, sounds like the same problem we have in our education system! Keep your eyes peeled on www.edreform.com for more.

In Other News. . .

Hearings this week in the Pennsylvania State House continue on school choice, as leaders on both side are tapped to share their thoughts about why the ruckus debate last session should continue – and be completed – this coming session. A bill to provide choice for children in more than a hundred failing schools (not unlike Indiana, for example) is being supported by prominent Rs and Ds in the Keystone state. Some have a hard time recognizing that even the better school districts have their share of problems. Testimony from tomorrow’s hearing – including comments from CER president Jeanne Allen – will be available after tomorrow on www.edreform.com. You can now access Jeanne’s testimony here.