Posts tagged ‘School choice’

May 22, 2015

New York Governor Cuomo pushes tax credits for private schools

by Grace

New York Governor Cuomo has proposed a “Parental Choice in Education Act”, a $150 million tax credit benefiting private schools.

… The Act provides for $150 million in education tax credits annually that will provide:

  1. Tax credits to low-income families who send their children to nonpublic schools,
  2. Scholarships to low- and middle-income students to attend either a public school outside of their district or a nonpublic school,
  3. Incentives to public schools for enhanced educational programming (like after school programs); and,
  4. Tax credits to public school teachers for the purchase of supplies.

It’s no surprise that teacher unions oppose these proposals, while religious leaders support them.  The outlook is uncertain for passage, and the outcome may give a clue about the strength of the school choice movement in New York.

April 23, 2015

Success Academy is not for everyone

by Grace

After a New York Times critical piece on the “Polarizing Tactics” of Success Academy charter schools, its founder and supporters come to its defense.

SA teachers “who do well can expect quick promotions” while those who struggle may be demoted if coaching is ineffective.  With tough workloads and high pressure, it would not be surprising to find high teacher turnover, although exact figure for both SA and traditional NYC schools are in dispute.

SA’s policy of publicly posting grades is harsh punishment for some students, but apparently others thrive under that system.

SA is certainly not typical of most public schools today.

Rules are explicit and expectations precise. Students must sit with hands clasped and eyes following the speaker; reading passages must be neatly annotated with a main idea.

Yet waiting lists of thousands of students indicate many families want an atypical public school, as noted by school founder Eva Moskowitz.

Your article acknowledges Success’s 9-to-1 application ratio but fails to draw the obvious conclusion: that parents of the more than 22,000 applicants — as well as those of our current 9,000 students — plainly disagree with your dreary portrait of our schools.

Parents should have school choice, writes Education Week blogger Walt Gardner.

In the final analysis, Success Academy Charter Schools underscore the need for parental choice. For some families, the network is a virtual godsend, while for other families, it is truly anathema. But the same thing can be said about military, Catholic and Montessori schools, as well as for traditional public schools.

Parents know their children’s needs and interests better than anyone else. That’s why efforts to provide them with greater opportunities are more important today than at any other time in the history of education in this country.

Charter schools like Success Academy give poor minority families an alternative to the dismal options among failing traditional schools in New York City.  Not all families find SA to their liking, as demonstrated by some of the follow-up “Stories From Current and Former Success Academy Parents”.  But many students thrive at SA, and feel thankful for having school choice.


Kate Taylor, “At Success Academy Charter Schools, High Scores and Polarizing Tactics”, New York Times, April 6, 2015.

April 9, 2015

School choice may follow from opting out of Common Core testing

by Grace

If opting out of Common Core testing is increasingly approved and even promoted, can school choice be the next cause for supporters of parental freedom?

The logical next step for the anti-Common Core ‘opt-out’ movement is opting out of entire schools.

Teacher unions strongly encourage opting out of testing.

… To be clear, the opt-out movement is not some organic happening. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García tried to claim it was during a discussion I moderated a few weeks ago at the Council of Chief State School Officers legislative conference. When I asked her about the millions of dollars some of her state affiliates are spending to encourage test boycotts she didn’t have a response. That’s not very grassroots. In New York the state teachers unionis openly encouraging opt-outs and some PTAs are circulating warmed-over versions of union talking points….

Teachers who promote opting out may be paving the way for expanded school choice.

Fundamentally, the call for opt-outs is a call for more parental freedom. In contemporary America, accountability is usually regulatory-based (think financial markets), choice and market-based (for instance clothes) or some combination of the two (like restaurants). It may well be that test-based accountability has run its course in public education. If so, the opt-out movement – ironically fueled by self-interested teachers unions – may be pointing us to what’s next: a lot more choice and unbundling of services in public education.

That might not be so bad. If it turns out we can’t come together around school accountability schemes that look after the poor – especially while the same elite progressives boycotting tests can’t stop talking about inequality – then we at least ought to give the poor real choice about the schooling of their children given how crucial education is to social mobility.


Andrew J. Rotherham, “‘Opting Out’ Into School Choice”, U.S. News & World Report, April 7, 2015.

January 29, 2015

School choice is making ‘steady progress’

by Grace

Momentum for school choice has grown in recent years, and “courtroom victories are overwhelming teachers union obstacles”.

January 26-31 is National School Choice Week, and supporters believe there is much to celebrate.

… There are more than 50 such school choice programs — including school vouchers and tax-credit scholarship programs — in 25 states serving more than 300,000 children. Furthermore, about half of these programs were enacted in the past five years, which indicates that momentum for school choice is rapidly accelerating.

300,000 doesn’t actually seem like much, considering there are approximately 56 million K-12 student in this country.

Wealthier families have always had school choice.

School choice is shaking up the public education establishment, but it would be wrong to say that it’s a new, or even radical, idea. After all, if you are the child of middle- or upper-class parents, then it is almost certain that you benefited from school choice. Perhaps your parents chose where to buy a home based on the quality of the local public school. Or perhaps they paid to send you to a private school. In any event, the reason you got a quality education is because your parents were able to afford choices that put you in a school, public or private, that they determined best suited your needs. Your educational fate was not determined solely by the ZIP code into which you were born.

The present battle is being fought mainly for lower-income families, against teachers’ unions and their allies.

… In recent years, they have challenged school-choice programs in Arizona, Indiana and New Hampshire — where they’ve suffered decisive losses — and Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina — where their lawsuits are ongoing, but have suffered big setbacks. (They prevailed in Louisiana, but the state legislature quickly undid their victory.) When more states pass school-choice programs, the unions will no doubt file more lawsuits.

Bert Gall, an Institute for Justice attorney who is at the heart of the battle, is optimistic.

… the unions’ legal onslaught is not a sign of strength, but of desperation. Their lawsuits are often a collection of weak legal claims that are thrown against the wall in the hope that one will stick. While the unions may win the occasional skirmish, they will ultimately lose the legal battle — with the result that school-choice programs will expand to serve more and more families.

Success Academy Bronx 2 scholars perform the School Choice Week Dance.


In addition to dancing skills, these student have consistently demonstrated high academic achievement levels.


ADDED:  Charter schools serve 4% of school-age children in the U.S.



Bert Gall, “The steady progress of school choice”, Washington Times, January 25, 2015.

February 28, 2014

‘We have 500 cable channels and a one-size-fits all school system’

by Grace

Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic political strategist. has been a proponent of school choice ever since he was a kindergartener and his mother fought to allow him to attend a safer school outside his neighborhood.

Trippi was recently interviewed by at a National School Choice Week event.

“… The status quo is not working.  Let’s put everybody’s ideas on the table.  If you’re in support of current public school system the way it is let’s talk about it, but I don’t think it’s working….

The reason for School Choice Week is because technology is moving so fast that most government bureaucracies can’t keep up with it.  One of them is education….

We have 500 cable channels and a one-size-fits all school system.”

Not having school choice has “been wrong for 50 years”.

“…  we have more choice at a 7-Eleven them in the way we educate our children. That’s crazy….”

School choice is becoming more of a bipartisan movement.

Democrats and school choice have a long, tangled relationship. Few know better than Trippi. He’s been deep inside Democratic politics since the 1970s, and his firm, Trippi & Associates, has advised National School Choice Week since its inception in 2010. So what’s he seeing on the ground now? A lot of Democrats coming around on school choice, especially at the local level, especially in inner cities.

Along with the trend of increased support for school choice, Trippi sees a libertarian president in the near future.

… Four important changes in American politics are creating this opportunity: a socially tolerant public, the effective end of the two-party system, disruptive technologies, and the growing popularity of politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

“The younger generation is probably the most libertarian and sort of tolerant, and has more libertarian values, I’d say, than any generation in American history” …


January 30, 2014

Support for school choice unites strange political bedfellows

by Grace

Support for school choice unites Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who is about as liberal as it gets, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s about as conservative, reports Reason.


74% of Americans favor school choice, and this popularity may be pushed even higher by the growing dissatisfaction with Common Core Standards, newly adopted by most public schools.

. . .

Two senators have proposed redirecting $35 billion in federal funds to supplement school choice


Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., proposed plans Tuesday to redirect nearly $35 billion in existing federal education funds to supplement school choice programs in different states. Under Alexander’s Scholarships for Kids Act, students in eligible states would receive $2,100 scholarships that would follow those children from families in poverty to the school of their choice. Alexander said the legislation would reach about 11 million American students….

Piggybacking off Alexander’s proposal, Scott said he plans to introduce legislation, known as the CHOICE Act, which would also redirect federal funds to three areas in education: students with disabilities, students from military families and students in the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship program (DC OSP).

The CHOICE Act would direct federal IDEA funds to offer school choice for special education students.

National School Choice Week is January 26 — February1.

Related:  Confidence in public schools at historic low (Cost of College)

March 22, 2012

New York’s flawed teacher evaluations are a step towards a ‘choice-based educational system’

by Grace

Many school principals and teachers are protesting the new teacher evaluation system scheduled to be phased in this year in New York State, believing it has been rushed into place.  They have concerns that it is flawed and that its introduction has been “confusing, contradictory and, frankly, disastrous.”  From what I’ve seen, I would agree there are serious problems, ranging from questionable state test data to the diversion of scarce resources for implementation.  However, I wonder if many parents are like me, willing to go with this flawed system because we’re so frustrated with things as they are, including the tenure system and the practice of laying off teachers based solely on seniority.

Walter Russell Mead writes about the growing public pressure.

But just because current methods of teacher evaluation are, to say the least, imperfect, doesn’t mean teachers can escape growing public pressure to show results. Teacher unions would like for virtually all teachers to have lifetime tenure and for evaluation to play little or no role in their lives. Principals don’t want parents nosing into administrative decisions or complaining that their kids are getting stuck with subpar math teachers. Pointing to the deep and real flaws in everything from standardized tests to score students to individual teacher assessments is, among other things, a way to stave off public pressure for more accountability in the schools.

The public wants a look inside the “black box” of the American school. Some parents are too ignorant, too dysfunctional or just too laid back to care, but increasingly parents want to make sure that their kids are getting the best available teachers—or at least avoiding the turkeys.

This pressure isn’t going away; school districts and teachers are going to have to live with it. Demand for parental choice is growing, and it will grow further as more educational opportunities arise. Between charter schooling, homeschooling, and new forms of online education, there are now opportunities that simply weren’t available thirty years ago.

He predicts this is one step on the road to school choice.

Ultimately most parents are going to insist on the right to choose which schools their children attend. Schools will have to provide information about their teachers and their success in order to attract pupils. Today’s crude and often unfair bureaucratic evaluation methods are a baby step in the direction of a choice-based educational system. More and better steps will come.

Change will come, but I’d really like to know how many generations will it take.

November 24, 2011

‘Homeschooled N.J. Students Can Now Play Public High School Sports’

by Grace

Homeschooled student-athletes in New Jersey can now participate in public high school sports, under rule changes approved Wednesday by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Any homeschooled students interested in playing public school sports will need to prove to their local board of education that they meet the same eligibility standards as a typical public school student-athlete—age, residency, and academics.

“These ground-breaking polices related to home schooling and school choice will help ensure that there’s no uncertainty about what is and isn’t permissible,” said Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA, in a statement. “The fact that there had previously existed a kind of ‘gray’ area on both of these subjects led to quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion. Now, we’ve remedied that situation.”

New Jersey isn’t the first state to allow homeschooled students access to public school sports. More than 20 other states have laws governing what public school activities homeschooled students have access to, according to a brief from the Home School Legal Defense Association.

New York does not allow homeschooled students to participate in interscholastic sports.

October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs supported a ‘full voucher system’ for public education

by Grace

He also didn’t have much use for teacher unions.

The problem there of course is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can’t teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible.

Going to a full voucher system would improve public schools.

I’ve been a very strong believer in that what we need to do in education is to go to the full voucher system…. One of the things I feel is that, right now, if you ask who are the customers of education, the customers of education are the society at large, the employers who hire people, things like that. But ultimately I think the customers are the parents. Not even the students but the parents….

I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for $4,400 [1995 interview] dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school several things would happen. Number one schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students.

Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting….  The third thing you’d see is I believe, is the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise. Some of the schools would go broke. A lot of the public schools would go broke. There’s no question about it.

Whatever the intermediate pain, it would be better than our present system.

It would be rather painful for the first several years, but far less painful I think than the kids going through the system as it is right now. The biggest complaint of course is that schools would pick off all the good kids and all the bad kids would be left to wallow together in either a private school or remnants of a public school system. To me that’s like saying “Well, all the car manufacturers are going to make BMWs and Mercedes and nobody’s going to make a $10,000 car.” I think the most hotly competitive market right now is the $10,000 car area.

From a 1995 Smithsonian Institution interview with Steve Jobs


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