Tag Archives: education vouchers

Beyond Choice: The Invisible Hand v. Lady Justice

by P. L. Thomas, The Becoming Radical, 4/5/13

Free market advocates have sought a series of talking points and justifications for an equally wide array of school choice formats over the past twenty to twenty-five years, primarily because the public has been resistant to school choice plans.

One tactic common among choice advocates is to associate the Invisible Hand of the market with Lady Justice, blurring the essential nature of choice and competition as sorting mechanisms with the goal of equity among educators seeking social justice: “People in poverty deserve the same choice affluent people have,” goes the claim.

American capitalism has a long history of demonizing the Commons as “government” and idealizing corporate America as the “free” market, and part of that narrative includes ignoring the place of the Commons as a foundation upon which a free market can thrive.

The Invisible Hand, however, driven by choice and competition always sorts and never attends to social justice or equity….

People in poverty deserve essential Commons—such as a police force and judicial system, a military, a highway system, a healthcare system, and universal public education—that make choice unnecessary. In short, among the essentials of a free people, choice shouldn’t be needed by anyone.

No child should have to wait for good schools while the market sorts some out, no human should have to wait for quality medical care while the market sorts some out, no African American teen gunned down in the street should have to wait for the market to sort out justice—the Commons must be the promise of the essential equity and justice that both make freedom possible and free people embrace.

And then it is upon this Commons beyond choice that the Invisible Hand may create an economy that a free people deserve.

read the whole post at The Becoming Radical

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Vouchers hurt public schools

by Patrick Elliott, Wisconsin State Journal, 1/31/13

With voucher advocates trumpeting “National School Choice Week,” it is a fitting time to examine the proposed expansion of private school vouchers in Wisconsin. Some politicians are intent on slowly doing away with our public education system in favor of privatized education paid for with taxpayer money.

Voucher money largely flows to religious schools. In the newly expanded “choice” of schools in Racine, 10 out of the 11 schools are parochial schools. Based on a review of Department of Public Instruction data on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, more than 21,000 of nearly 25,000 enrolled students at the beginning of this school year attended readily identifiable religious schools.

This amounts to more than $133 million in taxpayer money going to religious institutions in Milwaukee this school year alone.

Funding private and religious schools through vouchers is an end run around our constitutionally created public education system. The Wisconsin Constitution requires the Legislature to “provide by law for the establishment of district schools, which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable; and such schools shall be free and without charge … and no sectarian instruction shall be allowed therein.”

Proposals to continue to chip away at public education and expand vouchers by increasing the geographic area, income limits and funding are contrary to our long-valued public education system.

Schools do not exist just to benefit parents. They serve to educate the next generation to create an educated citizenry and to ensure the vitality of the state. This is a public good supported by all, including those who do not have school-aged children. This social value is recognized by our constitutionally created public schools and our compulsory education laws.

While parents pick the school of their choice in using vouchers, taxpayers pay the bills. And taxpayers have no means of holding voucher schools accountable. Low performing voucher schools, which have little state oversight, can do as they please. Voucher schools are not governed by publicly elected school boards that have to answer to constituents.

Some of the Milwaukee choice schools are not holding up their duty to provide a comprehensive education. Take, for instance, the Clara Mohammed School. According to its IRS filings, the school’s purpose is to engage in “a Qur’an-guided journey toward active global citizenship.” It is funded almost exclusively through vouchers. In 2011, only 0.8 percent of its students (1 out of 123) tested proficient in math and 5.7 percent tested proficient in reading on state exams.

Other Milwaukee choice schools are using unscientific and outdated curriculum from fundamentalist Christian textbook publishers such as A Beka Books. Carter’s Christian Academy in Milwaukee describes the A Beka materials, covering normal school subjects, as being “presented from God’s point of view.” Of the 69 Carter’s Christian students tested in 2011, none tested proficient in reading by state standards and only three tested proficient in math….

continue reading at Wisconsin State Journal

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How the Religious Right Is Helping De-Educate America’s Youth: The bogus “school reform” movement isn’t just about union-busting.

by K. C. Boyd, AlterNet, 2/22/13

One can trace the development of today’s right wing Christian think takes to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Religiously conservative people, motivated by their perceived degradation of society, quietly perfected their skills, all the while grooming their own young adherents, played an effective long-game that continues to win (and corrupt) the hearts and minds of a significant segment of our youth. Indeed, there is no better way to affect the future than by propagandizing the young. In this current post election season, the Biblically driven, often racist, members of society are once again regrouping to fight another day.

With the money of wealth funders like Richard and Betsy DeVos (sister of Blackwater scion Eric Prince and daughter of Elsa and Edgar Prince of the Amway fortune) and the Walton, Koch and Scaife Foundations, simpatico politicians are hard at work bringing Dominionist ideals quietly into the forefront of American education policy. While much of the country argues about budgets, deficits, and guns, a cleverly camouflaged package of School Choice and ”Bible-driven curricula“ make their way up the ladder.

On the surface, School Choice is purportedly about increasing opportunities for inner city and rural youth. The all-important subtext, however, is that School Choice is really about freeing up dollars for Christian-based education. An important arrow that energizes today’s religious quiver is the intentional misuse of language in changing the debate by referring to public schools as “government schools” and public education as a “government school monopoly,” thus instantly and directly speaking to Tea Partiers and Libertarians.

To still relatively scant notice, the call for “School Choice” or Vouchers continues to play out in state capitols across the nation in an effort to increase Biblically based education through a redirection of tax dollars from public to private religious schools….

continue reading and see links at AlterNet

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Religious schools fare best under new state’s ‘voucher lite’ program

by Evan Brandt, The Mercury, 8/26/12.  The first of two parts

POTTSTOWN — As the state program which labeled Pottstown High School an “under-achieving” school gears up for the new school year, an analysis shows that Christian schools make up vast majority of those which have signed up to accept the scholarships the program provides.

Called “vouchers lite” by some and adopted during this year’s budget process in Harrisburg, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program allows businesses to make donations to non-profit organizations, for which the businesses receive a tax break of as much as 90 percent of the contribution.

This chart shows how the new state scholarship program covers tuition to area private schools, but not to public schools, whose tuition is set by state formula.

The non-profits — which are called Educational Scholarship Organizations and which must be certified by the state — in turn use those donations to cover their costs and to provide scholarships to lower-income students who live within the attendance area of a school the state has declared to be “under-achieving.”

That “under achieving” designation is based solely on the high-stakes standardized test called the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA.

To qualify for a scholarship this year, those students must come from families with a household income under $60,000.

Of the 384 schools that had been approved by the state for the program as of Tuesday, only five public schools — two in Clarion County and three in Schuylkill County — had signed up to accept the lower-income students from the “under-achieving” schools.

Three-hundred forty, or fully 89 percent of the schools on the state’s list, had some religious affiliation, according to a Mercury analysis….

Continue reading at The Mercury, 8/26/12.

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