School Choice: The Message Gets Through

School Choice: The Message Gets Through
May 1, 1999



The ongoing debate over school choice continues to advance the idea of parental choice in education, as evidenced by the following:



1999 World Book Year Book

Under the Education topic heading in the 1999 World Book Year Book--A Review of the Events of 1998 is listed not one but two sections referencing school choice events: one describes the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the second describes the CEO Horizon program in San Antonio. This is the first time that World Book has included in its Year Book any information regarding school choice.



Milwaukee

In a March 14 editorial titled "Competition in education proving its worth," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel__long opposed to school choice reforms__had this to say about increasing educational choice in Milwaukee:

"This new path (charter schools) also helps to show that the school_choice and charter_school movements may have been right when they insisted that competition would do public_school systems good. Competition has gotten MPS' rigid system to loosen up a bit, to venture down unfamiliar paths . . .

"In short, alternatives to traditional public education are proving their worth as a vehicle for reforming MPS. We always liked the idea of alternatives, though we still object to one form, the use of publicly financed vouchers at religious schools. That practice entangles church with state too much.

"But the courts have ruled otherwise, and the presence of the religious schools does give the alternative movement critical mass and thereby likely accelerates even further change within MPS.

“[Competition] is helping to drive MPS to its senses, as the system takes baby steps toward becoming the first choice for parents."



Two Lies about Vouchers

Concerned that the dishonesty of voucher opponents was misinforming the public and preventing parents from hearing the real story about vouchers, a March 8 editorial in the New York Post set the record straight on two lies about vouchers.

"According to Big Lie No. 1, vouchers steal money from public schools to give to private schools. . . . The truth of the matter is that vouchers give money to parents, not to schools. They are a form of tax rebate on money that parents have already paid. Vouchers give parents a choice in where they send their child. . . .

"Big Lie No. 2, even more sinister, claims that vouchers produce ambiguous academic results. This canard has gained ground because opponents consistently cite the research of John Witte, who reported in 1995 that voucher students scored no differently on tests than did their public-school peers. But when two independent teams analyzed Witte's research, they could not validate his results. . . .

"Plenty of credible research has been conducted, and the bulk of it confirms that vouchers can improve test scores. A study last year by Harvard University and Mathematica Research documented gains in achievement for voucher students and in satisfaction for their parents. The same is true of at least three other studies that address academics and school environment."



Should Your Taxes Pay for What You Oppose?

In a recent debate on school vouchers in the Arizona Legislature, GOP Representative John Verkamp argued that it was wrong for those who opposed certain principles or beliefs to be forced to pay taxes for vouchers that would be redeemed at schools promoting those principles or beliefs.

"There are going to be tax dollars being used for many different purposes that [taxpayers] don't agree with," he warned.

In a March 14 essay in the Arizona Republic, Ruben Navarette Jr. set Verkamp straight with the following brief civics lesson:

"Americans don't hold referendums to approve every government expenditure. That's what elected officials are paid to do. If they do it improperly, voters can remove them.

"But in the meantime, people will pay for things they may not support. Pacifists pay taxes that go to buy missiles. Neighborhood activists worried about police brutality watch their tax dollars go to fund cops' pensions. And pro-life Americans send their taxes to pay for publicly-funded procedures as barbaric as late-term abortions.

"Those who are concerned with taxpayers paying for educational reforms with which they may not agree should be just as concerned about who pays the price now. As long as public schools underserve poor students, those students will continue to be shortchanged and cheated out of something much more valuable than tax dollars."



Center for New Black Leadership Supports Miami Program

The Center for New Black Leadership (CNBL) has donated $20,000 to CEO America in support of the Miami Inner_City Angels (MICA), a privately funded school choice program.

MICA announced the creation of South Florida's first privately funded school choice program, Overtown Vouchers for School Choice, last year. The program allows low_income families living in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami to choose the school their child will attend.

"Low_income parents must have the same rights as middle- and upper_income parents: to determine where their children go to school," commented CNBL Vice Chairman Peter Bell. "Until they do, the future of minority and low_income children will be held captive by an incompetent, crumbling public education system. And until they do, CNBL will join with others to help provide a future for as many disadvantaged children as possible with private funds."

CNBL, which considers school choice a key component of any effort to reform public schools, will donate a percentage of the proceeds from its annual dinner to support private voucher programs, such as MICA, that are affiliated with CEO America.

CNBL is a Washington, DC_based research and advocacy institute devoted to developing and promoting a market_oriented, community_based vision of public leadership for black communities in America. The Center's web sit is at http://www.cnbl.org.