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(disclaimer: I am currently working on a much more in-depth presentation on School Choice. I realize that this excerpt alone does not do justice in supporting School Choice. Also, it is important to note that this is NOT an attack on public school teachers. The public school teachers I know are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.)
This piece is now finished (5/5/05) 'A Charter School Tale'.
How else can we take what we've learned about Welfare and apply it in a broader sense? Take Education. America's public schools have been under-performing for the past 50-60 years. Nothing has been done and Democrats in Congress and teachers unions block every attempt at reform. Charter schools and voucher school are popular wherever they are implemented and often cater to the most disadvantaged students. Yet our Government forces us to spend our own tax dollars at the public school closest to us. This is especially harmful to the poorest communities because they often can't afford to move.
Washington D.C. spends the most (depending on the time period, some sources say 2nd most) per pupil in the entire country and have the worst test scores (218), (219), (220). On December 23, 2003, from the Associated Press (on CNN) :
President Bush wants to use Washington as a test
case for using taxpayer money to send children to private and religious schools. Under a five-year
plan pushed by Republicans and agreed to by congressional negotiators, $13 million would be provided
to let at least 1,700 poor children attend private or parochial schools. In return, D.C. public
schools would get an extra $13 million in federal funds.
(why are they so afraid?)
(why are they so afraid?)
Board of Education member Dwight E. Singleton
opposed the idea.
"Charter schools and private school vouchers
are instruments of exploitation and experimentation that members of Congress are reluctant to impose
in their home states," he said.
Singleton and some other board members said
Congress does not spend enough on the capital's schools. And they want more time for the board to
implement changes made in the last two years. (216)
What do we find? The same tired old story; teachers unions and education associations, who one would think would place the success of their pupils in the highest consideration, are actually doing their utmost to preserve the status quo and minimize the learning of their students. More money won't fix the problem because money isn't the problem! Here is a member of the D.C. Board of Education, whose schools spend almost 50% more per pupil then the national average, demanding more money! We have the same demagaugery that we saw with Welfare Reform; public schools will go bankrupt, students will fail, minorities will be hurt.. yada yada yada... We find the same shoddy reporting going on in the press. Contrary to what the D.C. council person claims, 38 states passed Charter school legislation and over half a million students across the country are enrolled in them. (217) The story continues:
The problems are prompting some parents to remove children from public schools. Enrollment has fallen nearly 16 percent since 1998, from 77,111 to 65,099. During that period, 10,147 students chose instead to enroll in the 22 publicly funded charter schools created in the city. (216)
The bill was eventually passed, despite Democratic objections and a close vote in the Senate. The Washington Post ran a story on June 23rd, 2004 (221):
Shorter, 33, could not have afforded the Catholic school's tuition in the past. But her children were among 1,249 low-income students selected last week to receive the District's first tax-funded private-school vouchers, and she wanted them to be first on the school's list.
The public schools in Southeast Washington that her children have attended have low scores and limited programs, she said, "and I want them to be able to get all kinds of learning."
Shorter and the families of more than 500 other voucher recipients jammed into the small building, now called the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust, Monday evening and yesterday afternoon to visit tables staffed by representatives of 44 private D.C. schools that have agreed to participate in the program.
She and the other parents soon learned that arriving early did not boost their children's chances of getting into any particular school. The voucher holders still need to submit formal applications to the schools that interest them, and the schools will determine which students qualify for admission after reviewing their records.
But the line to get into the school fair was an indication of the excitement among the families who will be pioneers in the school-choice initiative, which Congress approved in January.
The vouchers are worth up to $7,500 per child. Of the students who won grants for this fall, 1,049 attend public school or are about to start kindergarten, and those entering a grade in which the program had more applicants than slots were selected through a lottery. The remaining 200 voucher winners already are enrolled in private school but met the income guidelines for the federal assistance; they also were picked by lottery. (221)
Notice that the $7,500 is less than the over $10,000 per pupil the District spends on it's public schools. Allowing parents instead of government to choose where to spend money for their child's education can only result in a positive outcome. Once again the Republicans do the most to aid the poor (and largely minority) children of D.C. while liberal blacks and other Democrats do their utmost to prevent progress.
What is the NAACP's position on Voucher and Charter Schools? The same as their position on Welfare Reform (222):
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said today the Supreme Court decision upholding the use of taxpayer-paid school vouchers to send children to private schools will eventually leave public schools systems in dire straits.
Kweisi Mfume, NAACP President & CEO, said: "The congress and state legislatures should act immediately to counteract the court's decision. The NAACP opposes the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for school vouchers because it will mean fewer dollars for public schools where most Americans are educated. School voucher programs siphon scarce tax money away from struggling public schools. Education must be a fundamental guarantee for each child.
Kweisi Mfume June 27, 2002, "Supreme Court Decision On
School Vouchers Harmful To Future Of Public School Education." (222)
Just like the Children's Defense Fund decried and fought Welfare Reform, the National Education Association's (NEA) President Bob Case said (222):
The National Education Association pledges to continue to fight for children and public education - and oppose divisive and counterproductive proposals to divert energy, attention, and resources to private school tuition vouchers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Cleveland private school voucher case. Just because vouchers may be legal in some circumstances doesn't make them a good idea.
Vouchers are a divisive and expensive diversion from continuing progress in these areas.
Make no mistake, vouchers are not reform. If policymakers
want to act on the issues that parents care most about - the kitchen table discussions about
education opportunity for their children - they will address teacher quality, class size, making
sure all schools have high expectations for every child, and providing the resources to help
students succeed. (222)
Recall the incestuous nature of the NAACP, Children's Defense Fund, N.O.W, other liberals black leaders and Democratic lawmakers who fought against Welfare Reform? Usanewswire:
A group of national leaders in education today announced the largest-ever grassroots mobilization for public education on a conference call with reporters. The National Education Association, MoveOn.org, Campaign for America's Future, ACORN, NAACP Voter Fund and U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute joined forces to drive the National Mobilization for Great Public Schools. (224)
The Republican chair of the house committee on Education and Workforce committee released the following press release (225):
WASHINGTON , D.C. – U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) today criticized the National Education Association (NEA) for linking arms with a radical liberal political organization that recently compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler. NEA officials today participated in a press conference call along with MoveOn.org, the so-called Campaign for America ’s Future, and other openly partisan political groups representing the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party.
“This is more evidence that the NEA lobby is out of touch with the views of most American teachers and parents, who would be outraged to know their hard-earned dues money is being used to coordinate with a group that compared the President of the United States to the fanatical leader of Nazi Germany,” Boehner said. “The NEA has reached a new low in its quest for lower education standards.”
Boehner also criticized the so-called Campaign for
“Under President Bush, federal K-12 education
spending has increased by 49 percent, and the
It is misleading to say that Moveon.org compared Bush to Hitler without further clarification. They ran a competition in which ads were submitted by their members and then placed some of the ads on their website. They quickly took the Hitler ad down and said it had been a mistake to put it up. A townhall (conservative) columnist states (226):
To no one's surprise, delegates to the annual National Education Association convention voted 7,390 to 1,153 to endorse U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., for president. (226)
The NEA's non-education-related lobbying goals include funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, national health care, reparations to African-Americans (223), statehood for the District of Columbia, taxpayer funding of federal elections and a national holiday for Cesar Chavez. (226)
But what do I know? I am a mere uneducated citizen. During an online chat with a D.C. 'education reporter', Sewell Chan, at WashingtonPost.com I decided to ask this 'expert' about the problems in the district (240):
Chapel Hill, N.C.: What's your opinion on charter schools and voucher schools? It seems the parents of children in the District love them, but the teachers unions and the Democrats in Congress block them. Why is an obviously broke system resisting the only possible meaningful reform? I mean ... D.C. students have the highest spending per pupil in the nation, but the lowest test scores! More money won't work!Sewell Chan: Urban education experts are very much interested in the two developments you mention: charter schools, which have proliferated in the District since they were first authorized in 1995, and the nation's first federally funded voucher program, which President Bush signed into law this year.
Recall that during Welfare Reform the 'experts' were divided or, more likely, against the reform. Liberal Senators claimed no reforms had ever been successful. Also, remember the JCPEC poll showed 63% of African Americans support vouchers (187). Besides being wrong about public opinion, this reporter is dancing around the liberal line that more money will 'fix' the problems, by making excuses for the bloated D.C. budget. Notice her emphasis on 'teacher qualifications'. Teachers frequently get large pay raises if they return to school and complete a Masters or PhD program. Does this really help them teach better? In most states, to be hired you have to have a college degree in education and pass specific exams. Remember Milton Freidmen and the social workers?
But don't just take my word for it. Let's go to Sewell Chan's own paper. On September 4, 2004 the Washington Post Editoral titled D.C. School daze lambasted Eastern high school, a school whose average SAT score is 731 (241):
There is reason neither to doubt his otherwise positive assessment of opening day nor to take issue with his firing of three officials held accountable for scheduling failures that resulted in hundreds of students being turned away from Eastern on the first day of school.
On Thursday two school system managers were terminated based on internal audits. That case, involving questionable contracting for copy machine services and the possible misspending of millions of dollars, has been turned over to the city's inspector general and the U.S. attorney's office. In addition, the inspector general has been called in to investigate the evaluation and award of the school system's multimillion-dollar security contract. In both instances, school leaders believe the attention of professional investigators and prosecutors is warranted. (241)
On September 2nd an article appeared in the Washington Post titled, Pay Raises Prompt Veto of School Funds, (242):
Owens was upset that the money included about $625,000 for what she considered "excessive" and "improvident" salary increases for many school administrators. Matt Diehl, a county spokesman, said the raises ranged from $4,000 to $16,000 and in many cases were going to administrators who already make more than $70,000. (242)
A December 23, 2003 article in the Washington Post headlined, D.C.'s Public Schools Floundering, stated (216):
Gang violence is rising. School buildings are crumbling. An embezzlement scandal plagues the teachers' union. The superintendent abruptly quit. And with a budget deficit of about $21 million, school officials said this month they would cut 771 jobs -- 545 of them teaching positions. (216)
Just like the Pine Wood Indian reservation Welfare Reform exemptions, it appears D.C. schools and other inner city schools don't even have to comply with No Child Left behind. An August 3rd 2004 article in the Washington Post, Despite 'No Child' Law, Few Transfer Slots in D.C. Schools states (242):
Students at nearly half of the District's public schools are entitled to switch schools under the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to test scores released yesterday, but D.C. officials said such transfers will be highly restricted because there are not enough open slots at higher-performing schools.
Sixty-eight of the 149 city schools that were assessed failed for the second year in a row to make adequate yearly progress in reading and math, as measured by the Stanford 9 tests administered in April. Under the federal law, those schools now are deemed in need of improvement, and their students must be offered the option of transferring. (so it appears many students and parents want this option, or else they wouldn't be having trouble transferring eh? this is why they were so afraid of the voucher bill despite getting $13 million more, Parents want out!)
But school officials said many students, especially at the secondary level, cannot be accommodated if they seek transfers.
The New York and Chicago school systems have had similar problems accommodating transfers. Last month, New York officials announced that transfers would be restricted because of a lack of space at higher-performing schools. (if these were private schools do you think they would they turn down the chance for a higher profit? I bet they would make space tomorrow)
The results also illustrated the limited reach of the 2001 No Child Left Behind law in providing options to students stuck in academically troubled schools. A U.S. Department of Education official acknowledged yesterday that the student-transfer provision is not practical in districts where a large percentage of schools are failing. (one would think it would be the most practical here - if - private schools were allowed to compete with these bloated, corrupt, public monstrosities)
A school that fails to make adequate progress for four straight years can be subjected, under the federal law, to corrective actions that include replacing its staff, privatizing its management and even closing the school and reopening it as a charter school. (don't hold your breath on this happening)
Tommy Wells, who represents Wards 5 and 6 on the D.C. Board of Education, said the federal law imposes new requirements without providing funds to meet them. "It continually forces the school system to try to allocate and prioritize its resources to go to the lowest-performing schools and students, which means that we have less money for the schools that are doing what they are supposed to be doing," he said. "And so it will be difficult to maintain the higher-performing schools."
Susan M. Aspey, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, countered that the District's share of money under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 -- the major source of federal funds for public schools -- has risen from $28.3 million in fiscal 2001 to a proposed $55.6 million in fiscal 2005. (242)
Meanwhile.... the 'experts' ponder what needs to be done and reporters diligently report their ponderances, making sure to include helpful statements from our favorite advocacy groups......
In other news, Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry, who voted for President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act - which was written in large part by Democrats, especially Ted Kennedy - now opposes it. The No Child Left Behind Act lets the states set standards that schools must meet or children would be given the option of transferring schools (notice the similarities to the state waivers with Welfare Reform). The fact that kids can't transfer schools (regardless of how they perform) is eerily comparable to the stagnating housing units on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and other inner city public housing units across the United States. Kerry has come out against the bill, saying the plan was sound but hasn't been funded. (227)
My point in going into such detail over the Educational battles, is to show the similarity to the battles over Welfare; Democrats demagogue the issue and make dire pronouncements, the press reports it and slants it, studies are done which say new ideas are terrible (228), liberal groups team up with each other and minority leaders, teachers try to get higher pay, and Kerry tries to do a balancing act and stay in the middle. And this all combines to work against the education of children. This is exactly what happened in Welfare Reform!
A Charter School Tale
A fictional tale of a poor inner city black family told through the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Jones as they discuss life before and after the passage of the 'Charter School Act'. Also included is a detailed discussion and analysis of Charter and Voucher legislation and a contribution from a former Charter school teacher. News articles with commentary elaborate on the realities of the patterns found in the story.
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