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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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Experts’ views about Obama and Romney on Education

by Howard Blume
Los Angels Times
October 12, 2012

The following are edited excerpts from telephone interviews and email exchanges with leading education analysts, writers and researchers regarding the policies and positions of the presidential candidates.

Michelle Rhee

Chief executive, StudentsFirst; former chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Both support expanding educational options for families. President Obama did this, for example, by encouraging states to get rid of unnecessary caps on public charter schools through Race to the Top . At the same time, Gov. Romney supports dramatically expanding choices parents can make about where to send their kids to school. But he doesn’t tie that increased flexibility to strong rules ensuring any school — private or public — that takes the public funds will be held accountable for student learning.

Jonathan Kozol

Author whose books about education include “Death at an Early Age” (1967) and “Savage Inequalities” (1991). His new book is “Fire in the Ashes.”

As we saw in Wisconsin, there is a constituency out there that would like to do away with public-sector unions. The teachers are the loudest of those unions. Romney could not do away with teachers unions, but I think he will do his very best to move us in that direction.

President Obama simply wants to challenge the teachers unions to be more flexible in their demands but obviously recognizes they have a useful role in our society.

I regret the President’s apparent willingness to continue relying on standardized exams in evaluating teachers because I think it’s a simplistic way of judging what happens in the classroom and excludes so many aspects of a good education that are not reduceable to numbers.

The President recognizes that a demoralized teaching force is not going to bring passionate determination to the education of children — no matter how you measure them, castigate them or

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Voucher Talk Resumes

“Tennessee planning for school vouchers nears final stages”
by Richard Locker
Commercial Appeal
October 1, 2012

A special commission appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam is about to begin drafting its final recommendations on how a Tennessee school-voucher program would operate, including who would be eligible for taxpayer dollars for private school tuition.

The voucher issue returns to the state legislature in January after a year’s hiatus. The state Senate narrowly approved a voucher bill in 2011, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, that allowed students whose family incomes were low enough to qualify them for free or discounted school lunches to take half the taxpayer money spent per-pupil in their school district to pay private school tuition.

House leaders were more reluctant to open a political battle over vouchers and just before the 2012 session opened, Haslam asked lawmakers to stand down and let him appoint a task force to examine the issue and make recommendations this fall for the 2013 legislature to consider.

He said Tennessee needed time for the major changes in state education policy to get up and running before embarking on another. The earlier changes included the end of collective bargaining by teachers, major changes to teacher tenure and performance evaluations, and higher standards for a revised core curriculum for K-12, plus a shift from enrollment-based funding for higher education to performance-based funding.

The “Governor’s Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships” held its fourth meeting Wednesday and although differences among its members continue, its chairman, state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, made it clear that the panel’s charge from the governor is not to debate whether to have a voucher program but rather how a program should operate — its legal parameters — if lawmakers create one.

Key issues include when to launch a program; whether to put family-income limits on participation; whether to limit

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New Study: Vouchers Boost College Attainment

A new study from The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings Institution reveals the positive impact that school vouchers may have on college enrollment. In 1997, a privately funded scholarship program in New York City was created for low-income families. As is typical today, demand far outweighed supply and there were 20,000 applicants for 1,300 scholarships to attend mostly Catholic, private schools.

This study used the gold standard of research by using a randomized experiment to compare students who received the voucher with those who applied but did not receive one. The data show that African-American students who received a voucher were 9 percentage points more likely to enroll in college than those students who did not receive a voucher, an increase of 24 percent. For Hispanics, impact was much less positive at 1.7 percentage points.

The variance may be explained by reasons for attending Catholic private schools. Hispanics are predominantly Catholic, so families may have chosen a Catholic school simply not because they found it more academically successful than their local public school. African-Americans in this study, generally were from an area with a lower-performing school and would not have chosen a Catholic private school if not for a voucher, so their reasons for attending were purely academic.

This study, in conjunction with recent research on the DC Opportunity Scholarship, and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, makes a strong case that are producing long-term results for students that receive them.

ACT Results: Only 25% Ready For College

Only 25% of 2012 ACT test takers met college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects tested. The ACT is a college-entrance exam that tests high schoolers in English, Reading, Math, and Science. The ACT defines college and career readiness as “the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs
to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a 2- or 4-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation.”

Breaking down college readiness by subject yields better numbers. For instance, 67% of students tested met English college readiness benchmarks. However, that means 33% of students taking the ACT have not been sufficiently prepared by their schools for learning at the next level. And that’s just students taking the ACT.

The number of 2012 ACT test takers underprepared for colleges and careers gets worse by subject — 48% failed to meet Reading benchmarks, 54% failed to meet Math benchmarks, and a whopping 69% failed to meet Science benchmarks.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently released data indicating that America continues to lose ground internationally when it comes to producing college graduates. Well, it’s not hard to see from these ACT statistics why this is the case. Ensuring students can graduate college means ensuring that students are first adequately prepared.

So just how do we get U.S. high schools to do a better job preparing students for post-secondary success? Try choice.

School choice research indicates that options are helping educational attainment, and our nation’s economic security depends on giving students a quality education that ensures they are prepared for life after high school.

Vouchers Boost College Attainment

“Do private school vouchers help? New study offers data.”
by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo
Christian Science Monitor
August 23, 2012

new study suggests that private school vouchers can have a positive impact on the rate at which African-American students attend college.

The study takes a rare long-term view of vouchers, which are often studied for shorter-term effects such as gains on test scores.

“We want to have our students college-ready, and to learn that for African-American students, this is a way of improving their chances of being college-ready … is a really important finding,” says voucher advocate Paul Peterson, a Harvard professor and director of the university’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, which published the study with the Brookings Institution on Thursday.

The randomized experiment compared about 1,300 students who won a New York City lottery in the late 1990s for privately funded vouchers with a control group that applied for but did not win the lottery.

Tracking them until 2011, it found no significant effect in the overall group, but African-American students who used the vouchers to attend private schools were 24 percent more likely to go on to college than African-Americans in the control group. For private four-year college attendance, the increase was 58 percent.

Because vouchers are such a politicized issue, the study has stirred up a variety of reactions. Voucher proponents cite it as another reason to support programs that provide public dollars to low-income parents who want to send their children to private or parochial schools. Groups opposed to vouchers, as well as some academic researchers, point to the limited scope of the study and raise questions about the methodology.

“Pundits may dismiss vouchers, but African-American parents know they work, and strong scientific data prove they work,” said Robert Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in Read More …

Voucher Battle Isn't Over

“Court fight over Louisiana school vouchers isn’t over”
by Mike Hasten
Alexandria Town Talk
July 15, 2012

It’s been an eventful week.

A Baton Rouge judge cleared the way for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program to go into effect Aug. 1, the Department of Health and Hospitals approved a budget reduction plan that shifts most of the cuts to the LSU hospitals that provide care largely to the poor and uninsured, and Jindal racked up more miles on the state’s credit card.

It’s not that Judge Tim Kelley approved the voucher plan, which uses public money to fund tuition at private schools. He just agreed with the state’s attorney, Jimmy Faircloth of Pineville, that his hands were tied by a state law that says if a state official declares that a judge’s decision would force a budget deficit, the judge can’t do it.

Kelley saw the flaws in that provision of law before the attorneys from the Louisiana Association of Educators. Louisiana Federation of Teachers and Louisiana School Boards Association had their say.

Anyone could “stick an affidavit in there saying anything you want it to say and you remove my jurisdiction,” Kelley said. “If the certifications are false, there are perjury issues” but that wouldn’t come up until long after the funding was distributed.

And what about those affidavits? Superintendent of Education John C. White’s original one said there would be a $23 million deficit. He filed a second one, along with Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, that says there would be a $3.4 billion deficit — the total amount of school funding.

LAE attorney Brian Blackwell says the law goes against everything that court is supposed to be about. There’s no chance to offer evidence that the affidavits could be false, no chance to cross examine the state officials that claim there would be

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Over 10,000 Voucher Applicants

“Voucher demand soars”
by Will Sentell
The Advocate
July 12, 2012

More than 10,000 students have applied for state vouchers to attend private or parochial schools rather than troubled public schools, which is well above initial estimates, officials said Wednesday.

“It is fair to say that the number exceeds the numbers that were anticipated at the outset,” state Superintendent of Education John White told reporters.

White said families will be notified of school assignments in about two weeks, and after a possible lottery when demand exceeds classroom supply.

In addition, private and parochial schools that have proposed huge enrollment increases fueled by the state-financed vouchers — some of which have been the subject of news stories — will face scrutiny before they are approved, White said.

He said those decisions will try to strike a balance between parental demand for classroom seats and the need for schools to grow responsibly.

All the activity stems from legislation pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, and approved by the Legislature in April.

Under the new law, students who attend public schools rated C, D or F by the state, and who meet income requirements, can apply for vouchers that are supposed to finance tuition and mandatory fees at about 125 private and parochial schools that are offering slots.

About 2,300 students took part in Louisiana’s initial voucher program, which was limited to New Orleans.

White said earlier this year that he expected about 2,000 students to apply for the new vouchers, which Jindal calls scholarships.

But more than 8,000 students have sought the new openings, which means 10,300 students have applied for what officials said earlier were 7,450 existing and new slots statewide.

If applications for specific grades exceed capacity, seats will be awarded through a prioritized lottery during the week of July 16.

One option for students not placed at their top school choice is to

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Newswire: June 26, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 26

ALL IS NOT WELL. Delusion is rampant among the status quo when it comes to the state of American education. In Idaho, they fought to get on the November ballot three referenda that, if passed, will annihilate Superintendent Tom Luna’s sweeping reform efforts that could bring about a quality education for all students in the state. As the Wall Street Journal aptly notes, a state like Idaho doesn’t fit the “familiar education narrative of inner-city hopelessness. “That’s where the delusion kicks in. CER’s Jeanne Allen compares Idaho’s attempt to block reform to the Lake Wobegon effect. “In states like this, the assumption is all is well. The reality is they’ve been simply going through the motions for years, and the result is a kind of Third World education status. “Incredibly, after international report after international report, some in Idaho continue to believe in the myth of their grand success. For a reality test, read the Atlantic on Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and colleagues’ study.

NEW JERSEY’S OPPORTUNITY. E3, and others, are pushing for passage of the New Jersey Opportunity Scholarship Act, a pilot corporate tax credit bill designed to fund scholarships for low-income students attending the state’s lowest performing and chronically failing public schools. The battle is furious and your support is needed now so students can quickly transfer from dysfunctional schools to ones that will put them on track to a successful future in college and the world of work. New Jersey can redeem itself by passing this bill after bowing to status quo pressure and sidestepping seniority reform.

LYNCH’S LOSER MOVE. Muttering something about how New Hampshire’s voucher bill would be available to families regardless of their income, Governor Lynch vetoes the bill. Apparently someone actually read the bill and a few

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Call To Restore DC Vouchers

“Congress to restore D.C. school vouchers”
by Roxanne Turnbull
Washington Examiner
June 18, 2012

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Monday that they intend to restore funding for a school voucher program in the District that President Obama wants to cut.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allows low-income students to attend private schools, “has provided a lifeline to many disadvantaged kids in the District, and I hope that Congress will fully fund the program this year,” said Lieberman.

While Senate and House leaders agreed to restore the funding that Obama sought to cut, they haven’t decided how much money to provide. The House wants to restore $20 million. The Senate proposes $13.5 million. Both versions would lift the cap on the number of participating students imposed by Obama.

Obama’s proposed cut would not have eliminated the scholarship program, but it would have reduced the number of students who could participate, said Ed Davies of the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp.

The scholarship program now pays to send about 1,800 students to private schools. Of the nearly 1,200 students who applied this year, 522 are eligible for scholarships if there is funding.

“I think it restores a lot of confidence for the families,” Davies said of the congressional efforts to restore funding. “It also will serve as an advertisement for families interested next year.”

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