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Presenting the Case for School Choice

by Jason Stverak
Roll Call
January 28, 2013

Year after year, studies release details how America’s education system is floundering. Test scores are on the decline, and math and science programs are failing. Despite an abundance of research and strong indicators for options that can help heal education in the United States, our government — at the state and federal levels — unfortunately continues to pour taxpayer money into a deteriorating infrastructure.

Sadly, Congress is sitting idly by, afraid to disrupt the status quo for fear of political retribution. A 2009 survey found that at least 44 percent of senators and 36 percent of representatives sent their children to private schools, and close to 20 percent of the members themselves attended private high schools. Unfortunately, many of them argued against giving the same opportunity to their constituents.

Now, with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act up for reauthorization, Congress has the opportunity to revolutionize how we approach education and invest in methods that work, as opposed to pursuing the same policies and simply throwing more resources at the problem.

Forcing parents to send their children to schools that fail to provide the tools they need to excel and denying them the option to choose which educational program is best suited for a child’s specific learning needs is the chief reason our children suffer. Let’s offer them a choice.

National School Choice Week, from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, promotes a common-sense notion that gives parents the freedom to choose their child’s educational environment, regardless of where they live or how much money they have.

By using public funds already set aside for education and allowing parents to choose the best option for their child, each student can receive a unique educational approach that is tailored to

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Pa. gets good grades in education reform ranking

by Damon C. Williams
Philadelphia Tribune
January 26, 2013

The Center for Education Reform, a national non-profit tasked with improving public education, has released an encompassing report that grades parental empowerment, solid educational choices, teacher quality and access to digital learning, among other factors. That Pennsylvania ranks in the top ten of all states can be viewed as proof educational reforms in the commonwealth are beginning to take hold.

According to the annual findings released in the Parent Power Index, Pennsylvania trails Indiana, which ranks first; Florida; Ohio; Arizona; Washington, D.C.; Louisiana and Minnesota. Wisconsin and Utah round out the top ten.

The PPI is an interactive, accessible online tool that collects and itemizes data critical to judging the gains and deficiencies in a parent’s control of their child’s education. The index is designed to provide in-depth information to not only parents, but to stakeholders, politicians and education policymakers as well.

“All across America, parents are demanding more power over their children’s education, but the task of sorting through all the information out there is daunting,” said Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen. “There are a variety of resources available to evaluate how students are achieving, but there is widespread disagreement about what constitutes sound education reform policy.

As the mother of college students, I liken the PPI to a cumulative GPA, which is a composite of grades from varying professors,” Allen continued. “In this case, these professors are among the nation’s leading authorities and critical evaluators of education policy.”

Each state is graded on five broad categories: school choice, charter schools, online learning, teacher quality and transparency, and the findings related to Pennsylvania are interesting.

For example, the state received points for having a pro-education reform governor in Tom Corbett, but suffered due to limitations in the so-called parent-trigger law, which allows parents

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School Choice is — and was — Bipartisan

January 17, 2013

We’ve got a treat for you this Thursday afternoon with this blast from the past letter we found in our archives and couldn’t help but share, especially with National School Choice Week only 10 days away and an Arkansas Senator just yesterday proposing new school choice legislation :

(click on the image to see a copy of the actual letter)


October 18, 1990

Representative Polly Williams
State Capitol
Room 18 East
P. O. Box 8953
Madison, Wisconsin 53708

Dear Polly:

I read Don Lambro’s recent column about your version of the school choice bill in Milwaukee. I am fascinated by that proposal and am having my staff analyze it. I’m concerned that the traditional Democratic Party establishment has not given you more encouragement. The visionary is rarely embraced by the status quo.

Keep up the good work.

Bill Clinton

Improving American Education With School Choice

Download or print your PDF copy of Improving American Education With School Choice

Inside Hawaii Charter School’s 12-Year Success

“A School of Choice”
by Susan Halas
Maui Weekly
November 29, 2012

What Maui public high school ranks near the top of all Hawai’i schools in reading and math scores?

What K-12 school tests well above the national norms across all grade levels, has a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and achieves remarkable results for considerably less than the cost of other public schools?

If you didn’t know it’s Kihei Charter School (KCS), you are not alone.

KCS, Maui’s only public charter school, is one of only 32 public charter schools statewide.

It celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2011, but unless you’re a student, parent or community partner, chances are you might not have noticed.

The charter school’s presence isn’t conspicuous. Its decentralized classrooms are spread out in repurposed commercial space in Kihei at the Kihei Commercial Center and Lipoa Shopping Center, with three additional classrooms leased from St. Theresa Church.

There is no gym, no playing fields and few sports activities. There is an outdoor meeting area and large school garden on the backside of the shopping center. It’s possibly the only public school with a commercial coin-op laundry tucked between its classrooms.

You may not have heard of the school because, as Dan Kuhar, one of KCS’s two directors put it, “We’re not too good at blowing our own horn but, we’re a success by whatever metric you want to use. We’re not for everybody. We’re a school of choice. We are an option and we can be a very good fit.”

KCS’ Many Accomplishments

Just because they’re not so hot in the hype department doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to crow about.

According to Gail Weaver, KCS’s other director, the school:

Leads the state public high schools in both reading and math test scores

90 percent proficient in reading (ranking second statewide*)

73% proficient in math

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BLOB fights Louisiana Reforms

“Louisiana Voucher Test”
Review & Outlook
Wall Street Journal
November 28, 2012

Here’s the bizarre world in which we live: In 2007 Gabriel Evans attended a public school in New Orleans graded “F” by the Louisiana Department of Education. Thanks to a New Orleans voucher program, Gabriel moved in 2008 to a Catholic school. His mother, Valerie Evans, calls the voucher a “lifesaver,” allowing him to get “out of a public school system that is filled with fear, confusion and violence.”

So what is the response of the teachers union? Sue the state to force 11-year-old Gabriel back to the failing school.

This week a state court in Baton Rouge is hearing the union challenge to Louisiana’s Act 2, which expanded the New Orleans program statewide and allows families with a household income less than 250% of the federal poverty line to get a voucher to escape schools ranked C or worse by the state. Gabriel’s voucher covers $4,315 in annual tuition.

The tragedy is how many students qualify for the program. According to the state, 953 of the state’s 1,373 public schools (K-12) were ranked C, D or F. Under the new program, more than 4,900 students have received scholarships allowing them to attend non-public schools.

Enter the teachers unions, which sued this summer to stop the incursion into their rotting enterprise. According to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators, the voucher program steals money from public schools.

But teachers who do their homework know that the state constitution has no prohibition on where money may be allocated, as long as it is going to educate Louisiana children. Louisiana school funding is determined by a designated Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, instead of directly by lawmakers. According to the state’s constitution, the Board must set a “minimum foundation” for funding

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Newswire: November 27, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 32

WE’RE BACK. Okay, stop the calls and emails. We’ve heard you! You like our insightful and relevant commentary and news vignettes better than anyone’s, and you’ve told us loud and clear that we need to step it up. We’ve loved hearing that we write what you’re thinking and provide useful information that helps you do your job better. As we shared when we stopped a few months back, we took a pause and began providing you daily news clips instead, available on our website, and stepped up our News & Analysis section so that you’d have ready access to MORE news and MORE information. But, websites are so passé, and you apparently like getting millions of emails more than you like going to check out what you’ve missed online, so because you are the reason we exist to fight and to create more choice and accountability for all children, Newswire is back. Enjoy — and keep in touch.

CH,CH,CHANGES… Maybe? Not so much? Washington will be different in January, not the same, as some are suggesting. We’ll be here reporting and working and yes, pushing to make sure we don’t get more regulation over reform, that we don’t make inadvertent and frankly, illogical decisions about spending and accountability, like the proposals being discussed that would in effect put the feds in charge of determining what charter accountability is all about. What? You didn’t know about that? While accountability for traditional public schools is discussed in terms of school improvement grants and turn around models, proposals for charter school accountability are much more highly regulated, taking a movement born to welcome entrepreneurial enterprise and demonstrate performance-based accountability and turning it into a new “system” that requires a heavy hand from federal policymakers. Click here to

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Growing Voucher Program Under Attack

“Indiana school voucher program taking off; lawsuit over popular program will be heard Wednesday”
by Scott Elliott
Indianapolis Star
November 20, 2012

Indiana’s private school voucher program grew at an unprecedented rate this fall, more than doubling the number of students in its second year.

If the state’s program continues to grow at that pace, Indiana could challenge Ohio and Wisconsin as the nation’s biggest program as soon as next year.

However, today the Indiana Supreme Court is to hear arguments challenging the program’s constitutionality.

The Indiana Department of Education announced Thursday that 9,324 students are now signed up for state-funded vouchers to attend private schools statewide, surging from 3,919 students in the first year and making the program the fastest growing in history.

The number of schools participating jumped to 289 from 241. The program is now redirecting more than $38 million in state aid from public schools to private schools, although state officials say it saved $4.2 million that was redistributed among all public schools.

The controversial program is also still under attack.

The Indiana State Teachers Association, the biggest statewide teacher’s union, is aiming to shut it down. The ISTA-supported lawsuit before the state Supreme Court today charges the program is an unconstitutional mingling of state money and religious institutions. The vast majority of schools accepting vouchers are religiously affiliated.
“When you look at the dollars coming into program, those are coming right off the top of money going to our public schools,” said Teresa Meredith, ISTA vice president and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I see that as a real concern.”

Indiana’s big voucher numbers are due in large part to the design of the program, which is less limited than those in other states.

Ohio has a statewide program, but it restricts vouchers to communities with failing schools. Wisconsin limits the program to one city

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Missed Opportunity: Education Reform Could’ve Been Winning Issue

So where was the issue of education reform during the presidential campaign? Republicans didn’t even visit the cities that owe their education salvation to this leadership. While strong reformers who are Republicans continue to run and win elections in states, Republicans at the national level seem not to understand that in supporting educational choice they are supporting a civil right, and that they are the leaders in this support. Republican embrace of individual freedom and liberties over government at the local, state and federal level is an anchor for education reform. And it is repulsive to those who manage and protect the status quo.

Tuesday’s results are not the only wake-up call. Here’s another one: Democrats are working hard to own this issue. Do they deserve the credit? Will they advance the movement? No, but President Obama and his party have vowed to make their party the party of education reform. A recent missive from the Democrats for Education Reform declared Obama “EdReformer in Chief.” He has done little to merit such a title.

We’ve praised Obama’s candor and vocalization of the problems facing American education. We’ve commended the power his Education secretary has wielded to talk about issues that most reformers embrace. But his Administration is conspicuously quiet on the issue of real school choice. And while they talk about ensuring real performance pay for teachers, underneath the talk, the teachers unions are still in charge.

Think about the Democratic Party and this bedrock constituency. Unions once helped those most in need, but today they are keeping those poorest children, those who cannot afford to change zip codes or pay tuition to escape, in failing schools.

President Obama and his majority at the national level continue to oppose attempts to give those students choices. Absent leadership, the nation sits quietly as we

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ED-lection Roundup: Senators

Earlier we pointed out four races worth watching because wins would usher in extremely pro-education reformers to the U.S. Senate.

Two of the four races ended up as “wins” for education reform with victories for Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Ted has a national reputation for defending school choice and parent rights for over a decade, and Jeff is the author of Arizona’s pioneering charter school law and a stalwart supporter of school choice.

Another result that bodes well for education reform is the return of Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.). Carper is a relatively reliable reform vote, at least on charter schools and teacher issues, and has proven to be a friend to reform in Delaware and across the United States.

Wins for Cruz, Flake, and Carper all count as victories for education reform, otherwise, there’s not much in the Senate to report right now. More to come as we watch these folks assemble and start considering what their agendas will be.

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