Posts Tagged ‘vouchers’

NH Budget Has Everything… Except Money for Public Schools

May 30, 2021 Comments off

Conservatives generally tend to favor limited government oversight of local issues, limited spending by the government to achieve social goals, and fiscal prudence. Those conservative principles have long been associated with the GOP. But NH’s GOP legislature has re-defined the meaning of “conservative” and public education will suffer the consequences of this redefinition the most. And now public schools find themselves hoping against hope that GOP Governor Sununu, a “classic conservative”, will reject the budget as written and send it back for revisions. 

The budget adopted by the NH House and Senate and now awaiting the Governor’s signature includes a provision that allow New Hampshire parents to use public funds for private school tuition, a de facto voucher program with the glossy label of “Education Freedom Accounts”. It also has a a measure to ban abortions in the state after a fetus reaches 24 weeks, and last, but not least, language from New Hampshire’s “divisive concepts” legislation that would prohibit schools and public entities from teaching that one race or gender is superior to another, and would ban the teaching that a person is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” None of these are “budget” issues in the traditional sense. They are all hot-button legislative issues bundled into a bill that funds the day-to-day operation of the State in conformance with laws that are on the books. There is no law that allows education funds to be spent for religious schools and there ARE laws that restrict such spending. There is no law on the books to ban abortions in the state after a fetus reaches 24 weeks nor is there any plausible link between such a law and the State’s spending plan. There is no State law that forbids schools from discussing “divisive concepts” nor is there any plausible link between such a law and the State’s spending plan. 

At the same time as the State AG is suing to allow the money for American Rescue Act to allow those funds to underwrite a tax cut instead of going to help those who lost wages during the pandemic and need support in the coming months to transition back, GOP lawmakers voted to reduce New Hampshire’s business taxes, its meals and rooms tax, and to gradually eliminate entirely its interest and dividends tax. Basically, the fiscal conservatives are buying into the failed “trickle down” theory of government espoused by GOP since the Reagan era and compounding the problem by cutting revenue sources that are already limited in NH. There is one obvious problem with embracing this theory: unlike the federal government who racked up deficits in the years after GOP-led legislatures at the federal level adopted “trickle down” thinking, STATE legislatures cannot operate at a deficit. If the forecasted business expansion doesn’t materialize as expected, look for deep cuts in the future because as long as the GOP is in charge of the State budget tax increases will be off the table. 

In a commentary piece that appeared in The New Hampshire Bulletin ACLU-NH advocate Jeanne Hruska outlined the horrific elements of the budget headed for the Governor’s desk and tried to divine the reason for the shift in their thinking about the role of government and came to this conclusion: 

The toxicity of Washington has finally reached Concord, and it’s not a good look, New Hampshire. This obsession with culture wars, on censoring speech, and targeting civil rights, it’s ugly. It makes our state look abysmal.

And the failure to adequately fund public schools, to adopt short-sighted tax policy that diminishes revenues in the long run, and the seeming willingness to walk away from federal funds in the name of even deeper tax cuts is worse that “ugly”… it’s irresponsible. At this juncture only Chris Sununu can stop this train wreck of a budget from becoming law. He reportedly likes the idea of implementing the arguably extra-legal school vouchers, opposes the abortion restrictions, and believes the “controversial issues” rider to the budget is an over-reach. Being a true blue GOP conservative, he finds tax cuts appealing no matter how many times “trickle down” economics has failed. Will he stop the train wreck or yield to the know-nothing element of his party? Stay tuned….

This Just In: Efficient No Excuses Charters Stifle Teacher, Student Creativity… Increase Student Stress… Eliminate Joy of Learning

May 13, 2021 Comments off

Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism blog doesn’t publish nearly as many articles on the failure of charter schools as I’d like to see, especially given their anti-neoliberal slant, but this one by Joanne W. Golann, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, Vanderbilt University, is a matter-of-fact scathing review of what happens in a no-excuses charter school. In summarizing her 18 months observing practices in this school, Ms. Golann offers ten observations, presented objectively and non-judgmentally. But in the end, here are some conclusions she draws that are crushing for these schools:

  • Their teachers are demoralized because they are expected to be robotic managers
  • Efficiency is prized over interpersonal connections which leads to joylessness for all in the classroom
  • Orderliness is valued over creativity
  • Silence is valued over conversation
  • Despite the efforts to control the behavior of students and teachers, SOME found a way to bend the rules so that humanity could shine through

The most scathing part of the post was Yves’ Smith introduction, which emphasized that there is no evidence that charter schools have made a dent in improving student performance. She writes:

…even with trying to dump kids at the bottom end of the achievement/behavior curve, charter schools do not outperform public schools. From Public School Review:

In evaluating some of the statistical studies that seek to compare the performance of charter and public schools, recent investigations conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University reveal that students’ test scores may prove that public schools are now outperforming charter schools. The Stanford analysts compared reading and math state-based standardized test scores between charter school and public school students in 15 states, as well as scores in the District of Columbia. Experts found that 37 percent of charter schools posted improvements in math scores; however, these improvement rates were significantly below the improvement rates of students in public school classrooms. Furthermore, 46 percent of charter schools experienced math improvements that were “statistically indistinguishable” from the average improvement rates shown by public school students.

Another study reported by the New York Daily News found that public schools and charter schools in New York City showed equally “dismal” performance on state assessments aligned to more rigorous standards. Just 25 percent of charter school students achieved proficiency in English, one percent less than public school students. In math, 35 percent of students at charter schools were proficient, as compared to 30 percent of public school students. These most recent scores represent a continuous five-year drop in math and English scores for all schools in New York City.

The conventional wisdom is that “government schools” are the problem… but maybe poverty is the problem… poverty, and the racism that makes it even tougher for schools to get the funding and support they need.

Categories: Essays Tags: ,

Public Funds Pay for Religious Schools That Teach Bogus Science, History, Theology… and “White Centric” Ideology

May 6, 2021 1 comment

Derrick Black and Rebecca Holcombe wrote an op ed for USA Today describing how public funds are now being used to “educate” children in religious schools who teach bogus science, history, and theology. How so? Several states have created systems whereby parents are given de facto vouchers to enroll their children in whatever schools they choose— including religiously affiliated schools who offer instruction that is anti-science and, in some cases, racist. Here’s a paragraph from their essay that offers some specific examples: 

Far too many of these schools also use textbooks that routinely espouse anti-science and white-centric ideology. For instance, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, some Florida voucher schools teach students that dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America, that slaves who knew Jesus Christ were better off than free men who did not, and that most Black and white Southerners lived in harmony until power-hungry agitators stirred up conflict. 

While the GOP rails against the 1619 curriculum that interprets historic facts differently, they advocate for school choice that would use public funds to promote the teaching of history that is untethered from facts and, as the example above indicates, racist. Worse, once public funds are dedicated to the tuition for these children, Mr. Brown and Ms. Holcombe foresee the day when these funds would be used to upgrade the facilities. But they also note that the direction charter advocates are headed is not a direction the public supports: 

This choice movement may wrap itself in the rhetoric of meeting individual students’ needs and giving them the same opportunities as wealthy students, but unregulated vouchers and public religious charter schools would subvert the overall public will to the whims of an ideological minority.

The saving grace is that an overwhelming majority of families and taxpayers have no interest in this bizarre education world. And if courts and advocates push them there, only one rational choice remains: End charter schools and publicly financed private school tuition altogether.

I find it hard to believe that the Catholic church hierarchy would argue on behalf of funding schools who teach that “God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America” and cannot believe the leadership of any mainline denomination would advocate funding schools that promote the idea that slavery was ever acceptable and dinosaurs and humans lived together in the world. Maybe the day will come when religious leaders will speak out on behalf of science, mainstream theology, and democracy. If they do so, maybe the whims of the ideological minority that now controls “school choice” will no longer be honored. 


Categories: Essays Tags: , ,