Legislation to create the state’s first school choice "voucher" program for low and middle-income families is before the Indiana House. Please share this message with your employees and colleagues.
House Bill 1003 would create the Choice Scholarship Program to allow lower-income families to take a portion of the per-pupil funding being spent on their child in their assigned public school and use it to pay tuition and fees at the public or private school of their choice.
The proposal is part of the K-12 education reform package being advocated by legislative leaders, Gov. Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett. Thousands of Indiana students, for the first time, could choose their own schools and have per-pupil funding follow them.
The plan is under assault from teacher unions and much of the public school establishment because it would introduce real competition and empower parents to choose the best school setting, public or private, for their children.
If you support providing parents with more school choices, your state legislator needs to hear from you today! Please contact your state legislator today to urge passage of HB 1003.
Oh, California. You gave us good wine, the Grateful Dead, and Reggie Miller. We should probably be a little kinder to you than we are. But you don’t make it easy. The Heartland Institute asserts the Golden State just isn’t getting it when it comes to education, throwing money at a failing system instead of letting the system work for the kids. Here’s an excerpt:
Frustrated by some tough budget years, California public school officials want a court to declare the state’s Byzantine school finance system unconstitutional. The stated goal of the lawsuit is to circumvent lawmakers (and reality) by asking a judge to force billions of dollars in unaffordable education spending increases.
But the system isn’t "unconstitutional" so much as unworkable. The way to achieve an equitable and affordable public school system in the Golden State isn’t more funding to prop up a bloated bureaucracy. The answer is to fund all children equally by letting the funding follow the child. The answer is choice.
This is hardly a radical idea. Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania, for example, offer tax credits to corporations and individuals who finance scholarships for children from low-income families. Even Sweden lets families choose the school they want, public or private, backed by a tax-subsidized scholarship…
The education establishment views the case as a bureaucracy preservation problem, which evades the real problem – the failure of that bureaucracy to educate California’s children. Students only enter the equation as a pretext for propping up the salaries and benefits of public employees.
The fact is, court-ordered school spending has never translated to academic success. A federal court judge ruled in 1985 that school officials in Kansas City, Mo., had to double local property taxes to fund $2 billion aimed at improving performance in low-income and mostly minority schools. In the blizzard of spending that followed over the next two decades, students got state-of-the-art science facilities, Olympic-size swimming pools, small classes – and no measurable improvement in academic outcomes.
Voters’ efforts to boost school funding haven’t translated to success either. Proposition 98, which Californians passed in 1988, locked California into a budget-busting mandate directing at least 40 percent of the state budget toward elementary and secondary education. Since its passage, California has seen negligible gains in academic outcomes and lagged well behind mediocre national trends.
What the California case needs is a second group of plaintiffs to intervene and argue the only workable way to secure the fundamental right to an education in a truly equitable fashion is to fund every child equally. The court certainly could declare the entire system unconstitutional – and then insist that funding follow the child to any school that meets California’s content standards.
Lasting reform requires shifting from the stifling chaos of the current "bureaucracy-based" system to the spontaneous order that will unfold as we fund the child. That’s the only system that comports with the spirit and the letter of the "equal protection" clause in any constitution.
Kevin Chavous doesn’t mince words when it comes to education. And if a few more people shared his passion for truly leaving no child behind, all of us (particularly our students) would be the beneficiaries.
During his Wednesday speech to the Economic Club of Indiana, the Indianapolis native and Wabash College graduate said (and backed up the opinions):
“Nothing is more important to the future of this country than the education of our young people.”
“Public education is, by and large, failing our children.” He called it unconscionable that as many as 80% of African American males that enter the Indianapolis Public Schools system eventually are dropouts
“It’s intolerable to accept mediocrity (in our schools), and that is what we do.”
“Innovation and creativity need to be tailored toward kids’ best interest, not the systems’ best interest.”
“The system snuffs the lifeblood out of the best and brightest teachers.”
“No bureaucracy has reformed itself from within. It has to come from citizens and parents.”
Need proof of a system that is broken? Chavous offers New York’s “rubber room,” where incompetent teachers sit (and get paid, sometimes for years) while in the process of being fired; California teachers get automatic tenure for life with no reviews after two years on the job (while the union itself admits it takes five to seven years to know if a teacher is capable of doing a good job); and a Washington, D.C. union negotiating plank that all teachers must leave the building by 3:15 p.m. or police will be called (no more working or helping students than the minimum).
A lawyer in Washington, Chavous has been an education reformer within the city and around the country. He gives three reasons why Americans should be outraged at our country’s declining education performance:
A moral imperative to not abandon the many students who are not given a chance to succeed beyond their early years
A public safety analysis that revealed a 10% high school graduation increase would lead to a 20% reduction in the murder rate, fewer incarcerations and more productive citizens
An economic report that showed closing the achievement gaps of students of color, poor students and students compared to their international peers would result in gross domestic product increases of billions and trillions of dollars
Chavous served on President Obama’s education policy team during the campaign, but vehemently opposed the administration’s decision to cut funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. His guiding principles on education policy: “The question I ask myself is, ‘Will this proposal help a child or group of children learn? If the answer is yes, I support it.’" And his closing comment on what all need to focus on moving forward – "what’s in the best interest of children, not adults?"
Education makes an encore appearance at the February 23 Economic Club luncheon with Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College.
Our very own Candace Gwaltney recently scribed an interesting piece in BizVoice about former Wabash College grad and now Washington D.C. attorney/school choice advocate Kevin Chavous. In the article, Chavous offers evident outrage over the current state of public education, explaining 40% of all fourth graders in the U.S. are not reading at grade level, and students attending public high schools in urban areas have less than a 65% chance of graduating (way less, in many cases).
But for politicos, what you might find most interesting are the political ramifications of school choice and how it could change the shape of the left/right paradigm as we know it:
Chavous, who has served on president-elect Barack Obama’s education policy committee, says national reform can occur with bipartisan efforts locally and nationally. “That’s a challenge because the traditional Democratic, union-led education policy folks, some of which are on that policy committee as well, clearly are going to be resistant to some of the radical change that needs to happen in education.”
He notes Obama is a strong supporter of charter schools and in the last presidential debate “he didn’t pound the table on vouchers.” Chavous predicts Obama will “come to support all forms of parent choice,” which will cause a shift in the Democratic Party.
“The way forward in terms of parental choice is bipartisanship,” Chavous emphasizes. “And there are members of your (Indiana) legislature on the other side of the aisle who will be a part of this.”