Home > Uncategorized > I Feared the “New” Think Tank at Georgetown Might Lack Independence… But After Reading Their Report on IN Vouchers It May Be My Fear Was Unjustified

I Feared the “New” Think Tank at Georgetown Might Lack Independence… But After Reading Their Report on IN Vouchers It May Be My Fear Was Unjustified

Thursday’s Politico education news feed featured this report on a spiffy new think tank:

EXCLUSIVE: NEW EDUCATION THINK TANK DEBUTS IN D.C.: There’s a new education policy think tank in town that says it will offer research on what’s best for students, rather than pursue “ideological agendas or adult self-interests.” The independent think tank, known as FutureEd, will be housed at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. It launches today with K-12 analysis on Indiana’s school voucher program and how it could look as a national model, Education Secretary DeVos’ education and political ties, and an argument for holding schools accountable using chronic absenteeism. Several higher education projects are also in the works. Check out the website.

– FutureEd founder and director Thomas Toch, an education policy expert at Georgetown who helped launch the news site Education Week, said the think tank “wants to be public-facing and provide a platform for some of the best thinkers and writers working in the field today.” The FutureEd team is small, but will be working with a wide network of fellows and research advisory board members as contributors. Eight foundations are supporting its launch, including the Bezos Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and others. 

– Toch told Morning Education that FutureEd plans to be neutral when it comes to DeVos and the Trump administration. “We’re going to help people understand exactly what she’s trying to accomplish and then bring to bear the best wisdom that we can,” he said. “We’re not friends or foe, but we’re going to call ’em as we see ’em.”

With funding from the Bezos Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Walton Foundation, and Senior Fellows that include a former research head from the Gates Foundation and a representative of Relay Graduate School of Education I was cynical about what kind of “independent research” this group might do…. but the report on Indiana’s voucher program completed by Phyllis Jordan made me think I was wrong. Titled “Vouchers IN Indiana – What the Trump Administration Could Learn from One State’s Experience”, the FutureEd report pulls no punches. Ms. Jordna’s findings, which will undoubtedly be questioned by the GOP leadership, are not good news for voucher advocates like the President and Vice President, who was Governor when the Indiana program was launched:

Sensing an opportunity, Congressional Republicans and state lawmakers have in recent weeks submitted a flurry of voucher bills. Budget planners are considering a federal tax credit for private school tuition.

But a FutureEd analysis of the Indiana voucher program suggests that few of the program’s hoped-for benefits have yet materialized. Many former public school students have seen their test scores drop, not improve, after transferring to private schools with Indiana’s tuition assistance.

Instead of increasing private school options, a substantial number of voucher schools are simply filling existing seats with students subsidized by the state. Fewer than one percent of voucher students now come from failing public schools, and more than half never attended public school at all. And the state says it is running a $53 million deficit as it pays private schools, most of them with religious a iliation, to educate students.

And here’s the kicker: it MAY be that this payment of government funds to parents of children who never attended public schools at all is not a bug: it’s a feature. If this information IS used by the Trump administration and the GOP to help determine the future of vouchers, they should not receive any additional support. And if FutureEd can continue to issue this kind of report in the future, they may well live up to their billing as a rule independent Think Tank. Who knows, they might even be able to convince States that accountability based on test scores proves only one thing: the districts with the most money and the most affluent parents outperform the districts with the least money and parents who lack a solid education.

 

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