Cost Comparisons

I’ve been checking tuition at the kind of private schools Betsy DeVos and others in the Trump cartel choose for their kids. I’ve also been checking per-pupil state expenditures for public schools in the same states. News flash: vouchers based on per-pupil state aid won’t be enough for lower-income parents to send their kids to the rich folks’ private schools of choice. But the vouchers will reduce the tuition bill for the rich kids’ parents. So what happens to the lower-income kids? They continue going to the increasingly cash-strapped public schools. Or they go to one of the for-profit charters that are springing up … many of which are owned by (and paying dividends to) the very same rich folks who are sending their kids to the expensive private schools, which will continue to be free of those pesky poor kids.

So the vouchers wind up effectively being another tax cut for the rich. And another mechanism to keep the downtrodden down.

The Jeb Bush Legacy

Florida gets it wrong again. In their rush to last-minute passage of the state budget, legislators have approved HB7069, which adds a mere $24 per pupil for public schools (an increase of about half a percent), but $140 million for new charter schools. Also included is a requirement for 20 minutes of daily “free-play recess” in public elementary schools, which isn’t a bad idea; but charter elementary schools are specifically–and bizarrely–exempted from this mandate.

Contrary to the Pro-Privatization Folks …

Yesterday (April 27), the DOE’s Institute of Education Sciences released their first-year evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which does not support the professed benefits of voucher programs. (The results might have been more encouraging–at least for the investors–if the IES had evaluated the schools’ profitability instead of their educational effectiveness.) Here’s the IES summation of their findings–

“The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), established in 2004, is the only federally-funded private school voucher program for low-income parents in the United States. This report examines impacts on achievement and other outcomes one year after eligible children were selected or not selected to receive scholarships using a lottery process in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The study found negative impacts on student achievement but positive impacts on parent perceptions of school safety, for those participating in the program. There were no statistically significant effects on parents’ or students’ general satisfaction with their schools or parent involvement in education.”

DeVos in Ohio

Last week, at the suggestion of AFT President Randi Weingarten, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited public-school classrooms in Van Wert, Ohio, a rural community where half the district’s 2,000 students come from low-income families yet 96% graduate from high school—on time. With top-line results like that, you’d expect the Van Wert district would be getting top grades in Ohio’s standardized school assessment system, but you’d be only half-right: A’s for graduation rate and progress in math and reading, but F’s for achievement gaps and K-3 literacy.

So where did Betsy DeVos focus her post-visit remarks? On school choice, of course. Faced with the dearth of charter schools and private schools and vouchers in rural Ohio, she seized on the fact that the parents of nearly 20% of the students in Van Wert city schools choose to send their children to public schools in other districts.

She also promised to lift the burden of government-mandated paperwork that takes time away from teaching. When asked for examples, however, she couldn’t cite any. She must be taking alternative-fact lessons in Washington.

First blog post

This website seems to be pretty much up and running now. I’ll be posting occasional commentary on future developments—positive and negative—in public education. Given the early positions and directives of the current Secretary of Education, it seems likely there will be plenty that are worthy of comment.