Tag Archives: school choice

Arizona Fails Another Test

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Yesterday, the Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation for Public Education, released a report titled “Grading the States” that serves as a report card on our nation’s commitment to public schools. At the onset, they challenge the belief in privatization as the solution and write,

Although the public school system is not perfect and has continual room for improvement, it is still the cornerstone of community empowerment and advancement in American society.

Therein, I believe, lies the rub. Those driving America’s economic engine, don’t want everyone aboard the train. Instead, those who most “have”, are working very hard to leave the “have nots” at the station. As Stephen Brill writes in his new book “Tailspin”,

Conservatives have always preached self-reliance while liberals favored an activist government that assures the common good. However, [what we are seeing now] is a new, wider, and more dangerous divide – between those at the top, who enjoy unprecendented power, and everyone else. For those at the top, the common good is no longer good for them.

Even though many Americans have become polarized into either the Conservative or Liberal camps, the real fight isn’t there. Increasingly, it is between the MEGA “haves” and the “have-nots”. Truth is, for these MEGA “haves”, political ideology and allegiance to our nation, are likely much less important than maintaining and improving their status. After all, in our global economy, our country’s borders are no barrier to their multi-national interests and in their gilded worlds, not only do they increasingly not care about the common good, they don’t even need it. And nothing, is more all about the “common good” than public education. It provides opportunity to all and is largely responsible for building the strongest middle class in the world, once making the American Dream a possibility for many. Continue reading

School Choice in Arizona talk on June 9

“School Choice in Arizona: Privatization, Charter Schools, and Vouchers”
Saturday, June 9, 2018 (11:00AM – 12:30PM)
Joel D Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Avenue

“Join us for a FRANK Talk about school choice.

Arizona is one of the nation’s most “choice friendly” states regarding educational opportunities at the K-12 level.School choice is a term for K–12 public education options in the U.S. describing a wide array of programs offering students and their families alternatives to public schools, that students are usually assigned to based on where their family lives.

The legislature approved Arizona’s charter school law in 1994 and currently Arizona has over 540 charter schools with more than 180,000 students. Since then the expansion of charter schools and vouchers (often called educational savings accounts) is not without controversy. Does school choice improve school quality? Does school choice increase educational opportunity for all students? Has school choice fostered the privatization of education in the U.S.? Join us for a FRANK talk about the policy and practical implications of school choice.

This community conversation is facilitated by Dr. Angelina Castagno, Northern Arizona University, Educational Foundations.

Additional reading:

FRANK Talks are sponsored by Arizona Humanities.

State Sponsored Discrimination

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

Some parents don’t know best. There. I said it. Let’s face it, some parents aren’t present, some are abusive, and some are drug addicts. Then there are those who are trying their damnedest to provide for their children but their minimum wage jobs (without benefits) just don’t pay enough to make ends meet. Bottom line is, not all parents know how, or care enough to provide, the best they can for their children. Where that is the case, or, when hard working parents need a little help, it is up to all of us in a civil society, to ensure all children are safe and that their basic needs are met. As education reformer John Dewey said over a century ago, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos evidently doesn’t agree. In recent testimony to Congress, no matter what question she was asked about how far states would be allowed to go in discriminating against certain types of students, she kept deflecting to “states rights” and “parental rights,” failing to say at any point in the testimony that she would ensure states receiving federal dollars would not discriminate. From watching her testimony, if she had been the Secretary of Education with Donald Trump as President back in the early 1960s, the Alabama National Guard would undoubtedly never have been called up to integrate the schools. Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day…NOT!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

On this Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d ask, when it comes to our public schools students in Arizona, “who loves you baby?”  Yesterday, I was listening in on the AZ House Education Committee meeting. There were many bills on the agenda, but I was primarily interested in HB 2394; empowerment scholarship accounts [ESAs]; expansion; phase-in. I wasn’t hopeful the bill would die, as its companion bill SB 1431, had already been given a due-pass by the Senate Education Committee. As expected, HB 2394 followed suit on a 6–5 vote as did HB 2465, which will allow all students eligible for an ESA account to remain on the program until age 22 and for up to $2,000 a year to be put into a 529 savings account.

The passage of these bills, along with the companion ones in the Senate, demonstrate the disdain many GOP legislators have for our district schools and, for the underpaid educators who toil within. This, because ESAs divert more general fund revenue per student to private schools than district schools receive. As reported by the Arizona School Boards Association, an ESA student, on average, costs the state general fund $1,083 more in grades K–8, and $1,286 more in grades 9–12 than a district student. This is in part because there are many school districts that enjoy a fair amount of locally controlled support in the way of overrides and bonds. The state therefore, is relieved of providing equalization funding to them, but when students leave to go to private schools, all the funding must come from the state general fund. ESA students also receive charter additional assistance funding of roughly $1,200 per student, which district schools do not receive. Turns out that the claim of voucher proponents that they save the state money, is not just “alternative facts” but totally untrue. And, although voucher proponents love to claim there is no harm to district schools when students take their funding and leave, the truth is that about 19 percent of a districts costs are fixed (teacher salaries, transportation, facility repair and maintenance, utilities) and can’t be reduced with each student’s departure. Continue reading

School Choice: Get informed, then join the fight!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

This week is National School Choice Week and not surprisingly, there is a fair amount of confusion about just what school choice is. Maybe because even in Arizona, (the state the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) rates as #1 for its school choice policies), over 80% of Arizona students actually “choose” their community district schools and therefore don’t pay much attention to the school choice debate. But, that percentage may be at risk since corporate profiteers are well-funded and persistent and continue to purchase influence with lawmakers who chip away at district resources and ease the way for the commercialization of our community schools.

This commercialization has been fed by a lucrative $700 billion education market and the Conservative mantra that all human endeavors placed in the hands of private enterprise succeed, whereas those run by the government do poorly. President Reagan famously quipped after all, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”

I believe though, there are some services that government is best suited for. These include those that provide for our security, safety such as our military, fire and police services, and  yes, those whose mission is to ensure the education of ALL children. Can private entities provide these services? Yes, but from my 22 year experience in the military, they are likely to cost more (contract creep), less likely to serve all equitably, and more likely to be concerned about making a profit than focused on meeting the needs of those they are hired to served. Continue reading

Ooops, there it is!

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

We knew it was coming and awaited it with dread. And, drumroll please…crash goes the cymbal! Yes, here it is, this year’s attempt to exponentially expand Arzona’s voucher (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESA) program. Of course, the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) chief water carrier for Arizona, Senator Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, is the one proposing the expansion. Lesko claims the expansion of ESAs will “not lead to a mass exodus of children from public schools.” I, for the most part, agree with that statement since Arizona parents have made it clear district schools are their choice with 80% of students attending district schools and another almost 15% in charter schools.

But, to infer a massive voucher expansion will have no negative impact on district schools is disingenuous at best. No matter how slowly students may attrit from district schools, each student’s departure leaves behind a 19% budget shortfall. That’s because there are numerous fixed costs (teacher salaries, facility maintenance, utilities, buses, etc.) that cannot be reduced student by student. The siphoning of dollars from our district schools has been steadily increasing and just exacerbates an already inadequately resourced system.

This isn’t the first year the Legislature has attempted to expand the voucher program. In fact, they’ve been successful in expansions every year since the ESA program was launched in 2011. This isn’t even the first time a full expansion has been attempted, with a very similar proposal going down in flames last year due to public outcry and a perceived conflict with securing voter approval of Prop. 123. This year though, Lesko has sweetened the deal by requiring the testing of students attending private schools on vouchers. She says she “doesn’t personally think this requirement is necessary,” but obviously is trying to defuse the argument from voucher opponents that there is no accountability or return on investment for vouchered students. Continue reading