Rebuilding from the Roots
The Educational Freedom Foundation’s fundraising efforts have begun to bear fruit with several significant contributions, according to EFF chairman Herman L. Kriegshauser and president Martin L. Duggan. The new contributions will enable EFF to go forward with plans to expand its national office and achieve its primary goal for the year 2000: “a re-birth of freedom, in the form of parental school choice for all children.”
“The Educational Freedom Foundation is dedicated to rebuilding its national network of pro-voucher chapters: a grassroots organization that once spanned the continent,” said Kriegshauser and Duggan in a joint statement issued in February. The effort will require hiring a new Executive Director and a Chapter Organizer.
Other plans being developed for 1998 include a national convention on school choice, a speakers bureau brochure, and a new parental choice video.
Armey Pitches DC Vouchers at White House
Although House Majority Leader Dick Armey made no comment to reporters after he had met privately with President Bill Clinton on March 3 to discuss the GOP plan for school vouchers in the District of Columbia, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the President remains opposed to the plan. McCurry did, however, offer a glimmer of hope.
“But we were further enlightened by the powerful arguments the majority leader makes,” said McCurry, according to a report in The Dallas Morning News.
The President’s rationale for opposing school vouchers mirrors the position of the two major teacher unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Vouchers, he says, “would diminish our country’s commitment to public education by siphoning badly needed funds away from public schools” for the benefit of just a few private students.
Ohio Education Opportunity Grants Proposed
A child-centered education funding bill, establishing an “Education Opportunity Grant” for each child, has been introduced into the Ohio Legislature by Representative Jim Jordan of West Liberty. The bill provides that--with the exception of children needing special consideration--each child would receive the same amount of school funding, in the form of an Education Opportunity Grant that would follow the child to his or her school of choice.
New methods for funding schools are under consideration because last year the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the present property tax-based system is unconstitutional, with some districts spending up to $12,000 per student and others spending as little as $1,000. Since the high-spending districts do not want their spending reduced, proposed solutions have not focused on how to find a reasonable level of spending per student, but rather on how to increase overall spending beyond the 1996 state average of $5,550 per student.
On May 5, voters will be asked to increase school spending by approving a one-cent hike in the state sales tax. But after increasing spending by almost 20 percent after inflation since 1986, Ohio’s high school graduation rates over the same period dropped from 80 percent to 74.3 percent. Cleveland’s rate dropped even lower, to 32 percent, despite spending $7,176 per child in 1996. Ohio University economist Richard Vedder found that student performance was better in schools that received less money.
Let the Money Follow the Child
Child-centered funding, vouchers, and charter schools are all the same in one key respect, says Citizens for Educational Freedom secretary Sr. Renee Oliver: the money follows the child. Charter schools are like voucher schools in that parents choose to send their child to the school and the money follows the child. Thus, even if parents only transfer their children to another public school, it gets the attention of the school the child leaves.
“Everything would be so much simpler if the money followed the child,” says Sr. Renee. She recommends depositing each child’s education funds into an Individual Education Account for spending on K-12 education, with any leftover funds available for college tuition. Parents thus have an incentive to shop around for the best prices, which in turn encourages schools to keep prices down.
Taxation Without Representation In Michigan
When Michigan Governor John Engler was promoting his school finance and education reform package in 1993, he told individuals with second homes or vacation homes that their school tax rates would not increase by a vote in which they could not participate. But after the reform package was implemented, non-homesteaders found themselves socked with property tax rates 168 percent higher than those levied on local residents whose children are attending school in Michigan.
That is “unconstitutional taxation without representation against non-homestead property owners,” charges Jack Weiss of South Bend, Indiana, who owns a summer waterfront home in northern Michigan. Weiss is a member of Citizens for Uniform Taxation, which has filed a class action lawsuit challenging Michigan’s Proposition A. Engler’s “false promise” is part of that lawsuit, says Weiss.