Private school choice initiatives have become increasingly common across the United States. Far from being rare and untested, private school choice policies are an integral part of the fabric of American education policy.
In the United States today, 56 different school choice policies exist in 28 states plus the District of Columbia, and the number of choice policies has approximately doubled every four years from 2000 to 2012.
The District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program remains the nation’s only federally sponsored private school choice initiative. It provides scholarships worth up to $8,000 in grades K-8 and $12,000 in high school to low-income children in D.C. to attend any of more than 50 participating private schools.
When the Opportunity Scholarship Program was launched in 2004, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences selected me to lead the initial government evaluation of this pilot program in parental school choice. Demand for scholarships exceeded supply, so most applicants faced a lottery to determine if they would receive an Opportunity Scholarship, permitting us to use a “gold standard” experimental research design to determine what impact the program had on participants.
Students in our pioneering study graduated from high school at a rate 21 percentage points higher than they otherwise would have as a result of using an Opportunity Scholarship. In scientific terms, we are more than 99 percent confident that access to school choice through the Opportunity Scholarship Program was the reason students in the program graduated at these much higher rates.
But that’s just one program, how about some others?
My research team similarly found the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program significantly increased the rates of high school graduation, college enrollment and persistence in college for the low-income students participating in our nation’s oldest urban private school choice program.
Researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution determined that a privately funded K-12 scholarship program in New York City significantly increased the rate at which black and immigrant students enrolled in college. Increasingly and consistently, researchers are finding that private school choice programs like the Opportunity Scholarship Program enable students to go farther in school.
It is so good for the poor, minority children if we let their parents get money for school tuition directly. We should let parents make the choice about which school is best for their child. But, Democrats oppose school choice, because they want their allies in the teacher unions to be insulated from competition from better-performing private schools.
The scenes of Baltimore set ablaze have many Americans thinking: What can be done to rescue families trapped in an inner-city culture of violence, despair and joblessness?
There are no easy answers, but down the road from Baltimore in Washington, D.C., an education program is giving children in poor neighborhoods a big lift up.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which George W. Bush signed into law in 2004, has so far funded private school tuition for nearly 5,000 students, 95 percent of whom are African-American. They attend religious schools, music and arts schools, even elite college-prep schools. Last month at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, I met with about 20 parents and children who participate in the program. I also visited several of these families in their homes—which are located in some of the most beaten-down neighborhoods in the city, places that in many ways resemble the trouble spots in Baltimore.
These families have now pulled together to brace for a David vs. Goliath fight to save the program. For the seventh straight year, President Obama has proposed eliminating this relatively tiny scholarship fund, which at $20 million accounts for a microscopic 0.0005 percent of the $4 trillion federal budget.
Why would Obama want to end the program? Because if children can choose schools that don’t fail them, the teachers are the failing schools might lose their jobs. Since Obama needs the votes and the political support of the teacher unions, he cannot put the interests of the children above the interests of the unionized teachers.
More from the article:
An Education Department-funded study at the University of Arkansas recently found that graduation rates rose 21 percentage points—to 91 percent, from 70 percent—for students awarded the scholarship vouchers through a lottery, compared with a control group of those who applied for but didn’t get the scholarships. For all D.C. public schools, the high school graduation rate is closer to an abysmal 56 percent.
“If you’ve got a program that’s clearly working and helping these kids, why end it?” asks Pamela Battle, whose son Carlos received a voucher and was able to attend the elite Georgetown Day School. He’s now at Northeastern University in Boston. She says Carlos “almost surely wouldn’t have gone to college” without the voucher. “We send all this money overseas for foreign aid,” she adds, “why not save the kids here at home first?”
Well, as I said, the Democrats don’t like the law:
Amazingly, these energized parents are opposed by almost every liberal group, even the NAACP, and nearly every Democrat in Congress—including Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia in Congress but opposes a program that benefits her own constituents.
There is little question what stirs this opposition. The teachers union sees the program as taking away union jobs, and it is so powerful that the Democratic establishment falls in line. “It is so sad that our public schools aren’t doing what’s best for the kids,” laments Ford, but instead are looking out for “the adults.”
[…]Obama won’t even meet with these parents. A few years ago the voucher supporters held a rally with 3,000 minority and disadvantaged families in front of the Capitol to protest President Obama’s proposed elimination of the program for all new students. Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, one of the program’s strongest supporters, stood in solidarity with the families, while Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues were nowhere to be seen.
So, the next time someone accuses conservatives of not caring about children, be sure and tell them the story of the D.C. voucher program. We conservatives are very much in favor of helping poor children. It’s the people on the left who are not. Don’t let your conversations with leftists be about vague things like racism and “the rich”. Bring it down to the level of details – “I support voucher programs for poor children to get out of failing schools. Do you? Why don’t your Democrat leaders support them?” Go on the attack with the facts.
By the way, read the whole post by Moore – it’s chock full of parents giving their opinion about the program, and telling stories of how vouchers worked for them. Children first, adults second. That has to be our rule.
This is an editorial from the Washington Examiner, authored by school choice champion Bobby Jindal.
What is school choice?
On the most basic level, school choice represents the freedom to choose — empowering parents to select the best educational options for their sons and daughters. That could be a charter school, a private school, a religious school, home schooling, or even online learning. Governments should provide parents with the personalized and individualized tools they need to help their children excel academically.
That freedom to choose in turn will provide children with the freedom to succeed. With the right educational environment, teachers and academic training; students from all locations, income brackets and demographic groups will have better tools to compete in the global economy. We need to develop the talents of every American — no matter where he or she is from, and no matter the color of his or her skin — to maximize our country’s potential.
School choice also serves another important purpose — freeing low-income children from failing schools. No child should see his God-given talents go to waste because he is stuck in a failing school — and no parent should face the disempowerment that comes from knowing her son or daughter remains trapped in a poor school, and she lacks the financial means to move that child elsewhere. We can do better — and, by allowing parents dissatisfied with their school to move with their feet, school choice gives both high-performing and low-performing schools more incentive and motivation to improve their offerings.
Finally, school choice provides parents with freedom from the status quo — an educational-industrial complex that thinks bureaucrats, not parents, can best make decisions about the lives and futures of America’s children. It’s about pushing back when the then-head of Louisiana’s largest teachers’ union said low-income parents had “no clue” how to choose the right school for their children. And it’s even about standing up to the Attorney General of the United States, when the Department of Justice asked a court to block Louisiana’s school scholarship program on civil rights grounds — even though 90 percent of the program’s participants come from racial minority groups.
I don’t like people who talk conservative but govern liberal. I want to see the achievements.
For here in Louisiana, we’ve put those principles to practice. Since we removed the cap on charters in 2009, we’ve authorized almost 200 charter schools throughout the state — that’s 70,000 kids who now have a choice about where they go to school. This last year, our Recovery School District became the nation’s first school district with 100 percent charter school enrollment. And the results are dramatic: The graduation rate in New Orleans has increased from 54.4 percent before Hurricane Katrina in 2004 to 72.8 percent; the percentage of New Orleans students scoring basic and above has increased from 35 percent to 63 percent; and the percentage of failing schools in New Orleans has dropped from 67 percent in 2005 to 17 percent.
We expanded our school choice scholarship program, which was initially confined to New Orleans, statewide. Parental satisfaction with the statewide scholarship program stands at a whopping 91.9 percent. We went even further though and created a dollar for dollar rebate for donations used to fund nonpublic school scholarships low-income students through our “school tuition organizations.” Between 2008 and 2013, the percentage of students in the scholarship program who are proficient in third grade English language arts has grown by 20 percentage points and in math by 28 percentage points. Again and again, we’ve proven that giving more choice to parents is not only vital, but it gets results.
We also expanded access to online and dual enrollment courses for students across the state. This year, we’ve had over 19,000 students take advantage of our Course Choice program enrolling in advanced placement courses and career and technical courses that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
He’s in my top 2 for the 2016 presidential race, along with Scott Walker.
I’d like to see school choice enacted at the federal level, and fortunately, Utah Senator Mike Lee has the same idea.
I recently introduced in the Senate a bill that would empower the people most acutely committed to the quality of our education system: America’s moms and dads. My colleague on the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., has introduced a companion bill in the House.
By giving parents more power to invest in their child’s education and to choose what school best meets their needs, the Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Act takes an important step toward restoring accountability to our public education system—something that has been missing for far too long.
Under our current system—which has remained essentially unchanged since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act—most parents are powerless to influence the quality of their child’s education.
What occurs in public school classrooms around the country—what teachers teach and how they teach it—is the result of a long, convoluted, bureaucratic chain of command that zigzags its way from Washington to local school districts, but never includes parents.
First, Congress passes legislation authorizing federal bureaucrats to establish rules, regulations, and standards with which states must comply in order to receive federal education funds.
Next, state officials refine—or in some cases distort—these Washington directives, writing narrower rules for their school districts, which then establish the specific policies for individual schools.
At no point in this decision-making process are parents consulted.
Instead, they are left with a “take it or leave it” choice: either accept the education offered at the local public school—no matter how bad it may be—or buy a better alternative, by moving closer to a better school or paying private school tuition.
For America’s most affluent families, this is no big deal—they can afford private schools and so have the power to choose the school that is best for their children. For everyone else, it precludes parents from making choices about their children’s education.
So our bill would expand school choice to all parents, regardless of socio-economic status or zip code, by allowing federal “Title I” K-12 support funds to follow low-income students to any public or private school of their choice.
It would also remove the contribution limits on Coverdell education savings accounts and allow “529” account funds to cover K-12 education expenses.
Our bill would give working parents more opportunities to invest in a variety of learning services and products outside the classroom, such as tutoring, online courses and textbooks.
The problem facing our public school system today is not about a lack of money—we have nearly tripled our investments in elementary and secondary students since 1970. The problem is dysfunctional government policy—however well intentioned—and a lack of accountability.
And that’s exactly what we should expect when Washington bureaucrats have more control than parents over a child’s education. We have a moral and economic obligation to flip this equation and put parents back in the driver’s seat.
For when we tolerate a system in which the quality of a child’s education depends on her parents’ zip code, we fail to live up to the ideals at the heart of American exceptionalism.
And when millions of children learn from a young age not to dream big, but to surrender to the hopelessness of low expectations, we will live in a society where upward mobility is no longer rule but the exception.
We can and we must do better.
If a school is failing – and they often are, especially in poorer areas – then shouldn’t parents have the ability to send their kids to a better school? When I want to buy something online, I know I can always do better by comparing prices and reviews. Competition between suppliers drives prices down, and raises quality up. The customer is king in the free market. It can work in education, too.
I managed to find some of the transcript here on Newsbusters.
Let Tim Scott explain it:
THOMAS ROBERTS: This is Thomas Roberts by the way. You said you are concerned about kids that growing up in the wrong zip code and — like yourself that had a tough start on the way out. But if we look at agencies that are following some of your voting records, they have concern. And the NAACP has given you an “F” on their annual scorecard. They also say that you voted against the ACA. You voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. You oppose the Congressional Black Caucus’ budget. Delayed funding on a settlement between the U.S. and black farmers who say they were prejudiced against because of their race. So how do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower-income families and kids?
TIM SCOTT: Let’s just ask ourselves if we look back over history when the congress was controlled by the Democrats for 40 consecutive years. If we look at the result of that control, what has happened in black America? We saw greater poverty. If we take statistics from the 1970s to the 21st-century, what we see very clearly is that poverty’s gone from 11% to 15%. These are classic examples of the policies of the left have not worked. I will tell you, that if I have an “F” on the NAACP scorecard, it’s because I believe progress has to be made and the government is not the answer for progress. I was a kid growing up in poverty. I had a mentor who was a Chick-fil-A operator named John Moniz who taught me that the brilliance of the American economy happens through business ownership and entrepreneurial spirit. So whether you own the business or not, success is possible if you, a: have a good education, b: have a strong work ethic. For the average person who can work. These two key components come together and form a foundation. That is the way that you eradicate poverty. All the social programs that we’ve had. We have the largest government we’ve ever had in the history of the country. We have more nonprofit organizations working on the same issue. And yet we have higher percentage of people living in poverty. The key it seems like is individual freedom and economic opportunity, fusing those together in an agenda that focuses on education seems to leave forward.
See, here’s the deal. If Republicans want to get serious about winning the votes of poor people and minorities, they don’t have to pass policies that discriminate against the wealthy or against whites. They just have to pass good policies. It shouldn’t matter what color anybody’s skin is. School choice is a police that disproportionately benefits the poor and minorities, but it doesn’t discriminate. You just hand money to the parents whose children are stuck in an underperforming public school, and then the parents decide where to send their child. This is better than forcing parents to have to send their kids to a failing public school. It is not right for a child to be handed a garbage education just because lazy unionized Democrats don’t want to face competition from private schools. Kids come first!
Let’s learn about school choice from the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
The Heritage Foundation:
This is how you build Republican voters and do the right thing at the same time. Republicans like to help the poor. But we also like to screw the public sector unions. Private unions are fine – public sector unions are poisonous. We have to destroy them and save the children, at the same time. Everybody wins! Well, except the Democrats.
Do people who talk about race the most actually favor policies to help minorities? Thomas Sowell writes about it in Investors Business Daily.
If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left’s avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now — and the place would be New York City, where far left Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched an attack on charter schools, cutting their funding, among other things.
These schools have given thousands of low-income minority children their only shot at a decent education, which often means their only shot at a decent life. Last year 82% of the students at a charter school called Success Academy passed citywide mathematics exams, compared to 30% of the students in the city as a whole.
Why would anybody who has any concern at all about minority young people — or even common decency — want to destroy what progress has already been made?
One big reason, of course, is the teachers’ union, one of de Blasio’s biggest supporters.
But it may be more than that. For many of the true believers on the left, their ideology overrides any concern about the actual fate of flesh-and-blood human beings.
Something similar happened on the West Coast last year. The American Indian Model Schools in Oakland have been ranked among the top schools in the nation, based on their students’ test scores.
This is, again, a special achievement for minority students who need all the help they can get.
But, last spring, the California State Board of Education announced plans to shut this school down!
Why? The excuse given was that there had been suspicious financial dealings by the former — repeat, former — head of the institution. If this was the real reason, then all they had to do was indict the former head and let a court decide if he was guilty or innocent.
There was no reason to make anyone else suffer, much less the students. But the education establishment’s decision was to refuse to let the school open last fall. Fortunately a court stopped this hasty shutdown.
These are not just isolated local incidents. The Obama administration has cut spending for charter schools in the District of Columbia and its Justice Department has intervened to try to stop the state of Louisiana from expanding its charter schools.
Why such hostility to schools that have succeeded in educating minority students, where so many others have failed?
Some of the opposition to charter schools has been sheer crass politics. The teachers’ unions see charter schools as a threat to their members’ jobs, and politicians respond to the money and the votes that teachers’ unions can provide.
The net result is that public schools are often run as if their main function is to provide jobs to teachers. Whether the children get a decent education is secondary, at best.
In various parts of the country, educators who have succeeded in raising the educational level of minority children to the national average — or above — have faced hostility, harassment or have even been driven out of their schools.
Not all charter schools are successful, of course, but the ones that are completely undermine the excuses for failure in the public school system as a whole. That is why teachers’ unions hate them, as a threat not only to their members’ jobs but a threat to the whole range of frauds and fetishes in the educational system.
The autonomy of charter schools is also a threat to the powers that be, who want to impose their own vision on the schools, regardless of what the parents want.
This story reminds me of another story of people on the left blocking poor minority children from better schools, in order to protect the jobs of underperforming unionized teachers.
The Heritage Foundation explains how the Department of Justice, in a Democrat administration, hurts the poorest minority students.
On August 22, 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a motion in federal court to stop Louisiana from issuing school vouchers to low-income children in numerous school districts. DOJ is basing the suit on decades-old desegregation orders that treat Louisiana as if it were the same state it was nearly 40 years ago—something that the United States Supreme Court recently rejected in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. Ironically, DOJ’s action will prevent low-income and minority students from accessing the successful Louisiana school choice program, which empowers children, underserved in their assigned public schools, to attend schools of choice that match their learning needs. Vague, open-ended, and stale court orders should not be used to prevent educational innovation and opportunity.
Vouchers are a way of helping poor, minority students to get a quality education by letting them choose to attend better schools – any school the parents choose. But school choice is a thorn in the side of the public school unions who support the political left, because it allows poor, minority child to escape underperforming schools. Poor, minority students don’t help Democrats to get elected, but public school teachers do. And that’s why the administration sides with them against the children. On the other side of the aisle, it’s the conservatives who push for more school choice, and better education for poor and minority students.
But education policy is only one area where minorities are harmed by leftist policies. Minimum wage is another obvious choice.
Let’s take a look at the data and see how minorities are affected by leftist policies.
Battles are brewing in New York, California, Minnesota and the nation’s capital over hiking minimum wages, with Democrats having the votes to ram through hikes in all four cases.
These politicians are claiming the moral high ground, saying it will help the poorest in our communities. Don’t be fooled.
Hiking the minimum wage hurts — not helps — the lowest-paid workers, especially young black men. A 10% hike in the minimum wage causes a 2.5% drop in employment among young white men without a high school diploma and a staggering 6.5% drop among young black men without that degree.
Young black males get clobbered three times as hard because they tend to work in the fast-food and restaurant industries, where any increase in labor costs produces layoffs.
[…]Only 5% of American workers earn the federal minimum, according to the latest government data, compared with 13% in 1979. Minimum wage workers are largely first-time workers. They are learning what all of us learn on our first job: to be prompt, dress appropriately, do what the boss asks and be reliable.
First-time workers face the biggest risk of being priced out of the job market by a minimum wage hike. They aren’t worth much to an employer when they start working. They don’t have the skills.
When the government increases the minimum wage, it’s more expensive to hire first-timers. According to David Neumark and J.M. Salas, University of California economists, and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Board, “minimum wages tend to reduce employment among teenagers.”
[…]All teens are harmed, but black male teenagers are hit hardest by minimum wage hikes, according to a 2011 study by labor economists David Macpherson and William Evans. Unemployment among young black males is currently 29%, double the rate for young white males.
Macpherson and Evans found the reason is that one out of three young black men without a high school diploma works in the restaurant/fast-food industry, where profit margins are thin. Any labor-cost hikes compel these businesses to cut their workforce.
The truth of the matter is that the real minimum wage is zero. In order to help minority young people find jobs, we should strengthen the institution of marriage, encourage people to get married and stay married, lower taxes on businesses, lower regulations on businesses, and so on. But strangely, the people who talk the most about helping the poor and poor minorities in particular are all opposed to that. The Democrats won’t even build the Keystone XL pipeline or expedite other energy development initiatives to create good paying jobs. So don’t believe that people who talk the most about poverty actually have the right answers about how to solve it. After all, the Obama administration talked a lot about health care, but clearly the people who lost their doctors, lost their health care, or are paying more for less health care, do not now believe that Obamacare was the answer to the health care problem.
If you’re looking for a good recent study on the minimum wage and minority youth, take a look at this study from the Employment Policies Institute. More studies here in a previous post on this blog.