Issue #8: Why School Choice Got Quiet
The Common Core controversy seems to have sucked the air out of an exploding school choice movement. The Wall Street Journal labeled 2011 “the year of school choice” because 13 states adopted new choice programs, while 2012 saw five new voucher or tax-credit scholarship programs and a few expansions (figures from the Friedman Foundation). So far this year looks on track to mimic 2012, with three new choice states and eight expansions. The growth is significant, but AEI’s Rick Hess suggests Common Core has become a distraction:
“[T]he Common Core has bitterly split conservative supporters of school reform. Just two years ago, conservatives were starting to regain their footing on school reform and were looking to build on important state-level victories won by Republican governors in places like Louisiana, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Now, conservative reformers are deeply split, resigned to spending enormous time and energy in a bitter back-and-forth over the merits of the Common Core.
Certainly the media has finally caught onto Common Core--the topic has exploded this year. It will probably be fair to call 2013 “the year of Common Core.” The question is whether this controversy is an utter waste of time.
That all depends, of course, on whether Common Core critics are right in charging the initiative damages school choice by standardizing curriculum and tests. As Dr. Jay Greene wrote this spring, “To become something meaningful Common Core requires more centralization of power than is possible under our current political system. Pushing it forward requires frightening reductions in parental control over education and expansions of federal power.”
It appears likely school choice momentum didn’t go away in 2013 and 2012, but has been flanked by another anti-choice initiative under the guise of “higher, clearer, fewer” education standards. This is why those who care about education freedom must also care about Common Core.
SOURCES: Rick Hess Straight Up, JayPGreene.com
IN THIS ISSUE:
- LOUISIANA: On September 19, a Louisiana court will hear a federal challenge to the state’s voucher program. The Obama administration contends the vouchers change the racial percentages of students enrolled at some schools under desegregation orders.
- NEW JERSEY: A poll finds 52 percent of minorities support vouchers, while 65 percent of voters overall think giving parents vouchers would lead to a major or minor improvement in education. Republicans, men, and those with less education were more likely to support vouchers in the poll.
- PARENT TRIGGER: John Merrifield discusses why it’s a bad long-term idea and good short-term idea. The Parent Trigger “facilitate[s] raids on the current system,” which helps some families, but everyone should have school choice, he says.
- PENNSYLVANIA: The state board of education re-adopts Common Core national education standards, with some unspecified additions.
- SOFT PORN: Parents are up in arms over sexually graphic selections from several novels that appear on Common Core’s recommended reading list (warning: adult language). Ohio’s Board of Education president, who supports Common Core, has proposed the state remove from its approved book list a Toni Morrison novel that speaks favorably of and vividly describes child rape.
- KENTUCKY: The governor will override a legislative panel to implement national science standards. The standards firmly endorse debunked portions of Darwinian evolution and man-made, catastrophic global warming.
- WISCONSIN: Thirty-four lawmakers pressure their colleagues to hold hearings on Common Core. Legislative leader Sen. Luther Olsen says he’s just been too busy to conduct the hearings a spring law requests.
- CALIFORNIA: State lawmakers are battling the U.S. Department of Education on what looks like a union-fueled mission to suspend state tests ahead of Common Core. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has threatened the state with a loss of federal funds if Gov. Brown signs the bill.
- ARKANSAS: The first randomized study of field trips to an art museum finds they increase students’ tolerance, historical empathy, thinking skills, and art knowledge. The study authors say they hope to bring more attention to the benefits of civic and cultural education because many consider education test-score-based job prep.
- WISCONSIN: A federal judge upholds contentious collective bargaining limits embedded in the infamous Act 10. He ruled the law does not infringe on employees’ rights. The state supreme court hears another case against the law in October.
- SPENDING: A report claiming 34 states have reduced education spending since the recession leaves out local spending. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report has been popping up in state and local news stories this week, but Census Bureau figures show a nationwide increase in education spending over the past five years.