Issue #1: North Carolina Considers Big Reforms
One of the advantages of allowing people to choose the schools that fit their needs and preferences is that it breeds more social tolerance, integration, and respect--contrary to the myth choice opponents commonly purvey. Although charges of greater intolerance and segregation come up more often in debates over vouchers, charter school proponents also hear them. The myth popped up again this week in the Hechinger Report:
“The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles, which has documented charter school segregation for years, has found that in several western and southern states white students are disproportionately represented in charter schools,” Sarah Butrymowicz writes. “These patterns ‘suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools,’ according to a 2010 report from the group.”
First of all, charter schools are public schools, so they don’t manifest any kind of flight from public schools, only an alternative to bad public schools, of which there are far too many, as the popularity of charters suggests. The article hints charter schools are to blame for the composition of their enrollment because some charters do not aggressively recruit certain politically correct groups. But restricting choice once again is not the answer. In fact, families need more choice: Research shows even more expansive school choice in the form of vouchers, which allow families to select a religious school, promotes tolerance and social harmony better than public schools. Of the 21 studies on this topic, some by Harvard, Notre Dame, and University of Chicago researchers, nine found no “tolerance” difference between schools and 11 found private school students are significantly more tolerant.
“It is not clear why private schools have an advantage in producing more tolerant students,” writes Jay Greene, a professor at the University of Arkansas. “It may be that private schools are better at teaching civic values like tolerance, just as they may be more effective at teaching math or reading. It is also possible that, contrary to elite suspicion, religion can teach important lessons about human equality and dignity that inspire tolerance.”
SOURCES: Hechinger Report, The Wall Street Journal
IN THIS ISSUE:
- NORTH CAROLINA: Lawmakers consider special-needs vouchers, vouchers for poor kids, flexibility in teacher employment, and more reforms. The special-needs voucher has already passed the legislature. If it and the other voucher proposal become law, half of North Carolina kids would be eligible for school choice.
- MISSOURI: Gov. Jay Nixon signs into law the state’s first school choice program--a tax-credit scholarship for children with special needs. The Show-Me Institute’s James Shuls explains one of the many reasons why school choice should spread: It gives teachers more freedom and control, too.
- TESTING: Cato’s Andrew Coulson reviews the research that shows why the Fordham Institute is wrong: School choice is better with less regulation. In fact, his review of the best-available research all over the world shows that the more free-market education gets, the lower the costs and better-educated the students.
- LOUISIANA: So many students want to join the state’s mini-voucher program, which gives them a choice of classes among several schools, that it’s full early, with a waiting list of 500. Louisiana and Arizona are the only two states where families can customize education beyond just picking a school to attend full-time.
- TEST COSTS: One of two Common Core testing groups announces a price hike for the national tests. Georgia immediately withdraws from plans to administer the tests. The price hike puts the national tests above what several states currently pay for state-controlled tests.
- HIGHER TAXES: The FCC commissioners release more details on their proposed Common Core tax through the federal program known as E-Rate. The big news: Instead of calling for an end to the troubled K-12 tech subsidy, this is the first time a Republican commissioner instead suggests ways to revamp and expand it. A few weeks earlier, the federal agency discussed increasing phone taxes by $5 per line per year to subsidize the tech buildup necessary for Common Core tests.
- CLOSED LIPS: A Kansas board of education member wants to know why the people who worked on national science standards had to sign confidentiality agreements. Shouldn’t public affairs be conducted in public? he asks. That same question hangs, unanswered, over the English and math Common Core standards.
- FLORIDA: The state’s top legislators tell Superintendent Tony Bennett to drop national Common Core tests. The federally funded national testing group is still low on details lawmakers want, just one year out from their tests hitting school computers.
- OHIO: A lawmaker plans to introduce a bill to reconsider Common Core. Gov. Kasich indicates he’ll veto it.
- DETROIT: An Education Week columnist says Detroit’s bankruptcy provides lessons applicable to similar bad financial management among school districts nationwide. The biggest is that school districts everywhere have felt free to promise more compensation to school staff than taxpayers now or in the future can hope to afford. Exorbitant, unfunded teacher pensions are one of the nation’s many ticking fiscal time bombs.
- NCLB: The GOP-led U.S. House passes a bill to revamp No Child Left Behind . Although the bill dials back the federal role in education and therefore received a veto threat from President Barack Obama, the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey proposes an alternative that would accomplish the same goal more efficiently.
- SCHOOL LUNCH: Michelle Obama’s rules create high costs and absurd arrangements for schools, a federal report says. Federal investigators found students throwing away massive amounts of food and schools reducing the nutrition in lunches in direct response to conflicting, one-size-fits-none mandates.
- CHICAGO: Citing budget holes, the city lays off 2,000 school employees, including more than 1,000 teachers, as it struggles to avoid becoming the next Detroit.
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