The Federal Role in Education, Privatization, Indiana General Assembly, Walmart
Thirty-five percent of America’s school districts – especially high-poverty districts – use federal money to reduce class sizes. The Trump budget will result in larger class sizes in exactly the locations where smaller class sizes are needed the most.
Once again, it is America’s high poverty students who are shouldering the burden so the wealthy can have a lower tax obligation.
Why is this important? Class size reduction is not only extremely popular among parents and teachers – it is one of the very few reforms proven to work through rigorous evidence, and to provide especially large benefits for children from low-income families and students of color, who see twice the academic gains from small classes. Indeed, it is only one of a handful of educational policies that has been shown to significantly narrow the achievement gap between economic and racial groups.
Peter Greene asks some questions about the PISA test. Privatizers and “reformers” love to quote America’s “low scores” on the PISA and other international tests (see The Myth of America’s Failing Public Schools), but new information about the PISA indicates that analyses of the results might not be accurate. What then?
The Testocrats have been quietly assuming that taking a Big Standardized Test on a computer is exactly like taking it on paper. But what if that’s not true? What if taking a math test involves not only math skills, but test-taking skills. And what if computer test-taking skills are not the same set of skills as pencil-and-paper test-taking skills?
What if the Big Standardized Tests aren’t really measuring what they purport to measure at all, and the whole test-centered education model is built on a sham?
FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION
In education, just like other areas of our society, the federal government has an important role to play. In the current education atmosphere, the federal government needs to make sure that equitable funding exists for all schools.
The nation is slowly but surely moving back to segregated schools and as Earl Warren put it in 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” It’s the job of the federal government to make sure that states don’t revert to the illusion of “separate but equal.”
…it’s not the Department of Education that’s the problem. It’s what we’ve done to it.
The department has a vital and important role to play in making sure our system of public education serves everyone. Speaking in broad terms, the department should be dedicated to these three things: ensuring public schools are being properly funded, student and parent civil rights are not being violated and to be a repository for national data and research.
FEDERAL ROLE IN EDUCATION: VOUCHERS
It’s clear that Betsy DeVos is ignorant about public education. Like other Trump cabinet and administrative appointees, she has spent her life trying to do damage to the very aspect of society her department is charged with supporting. During her confirmation hearing she proved to America that she is woefully ignorant of how public schools work.
The last thing that America needs is for the nation’s schools to contribute to increased segregation by race, ethnic group, or economic status.
Halley Potter, a fellow at The Century Foundation who researches public policy to address educational inequality, examined DeVos’ comment during her Senate confirmation process that “empirical evidence finds school choice programs lead to more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.”
To the contrary, Potter found that “voucher programs on balance are more likely to increase school segregation than to decrease it or leave it at the status quo.” Potter considered not only racial diversity, but religious diversity as well: “(D)ata suggest that there is a strong risk that voucher programs will be used by white families to leave more diverse public schools for predominantly white private schools and by religious families to move to parochial private schools, increasing the separation of students by race/ethnicity and religious background.”
When the Indiana General Assembly, along with then-Governor Mitch Daniels, demanded a voucher program for Indiana’s private schools, the argument was that children who live in poverty should have the same access to “high-quality” schools as wealthier students. The error in that logic is clear. A “high-quality” school is defined by higher test scores and greater support from economically affluent communities. When you segregate students economically, you’ll see schools with lower test scores in economically depressed areas.
Over the last few years we’ve learned that voucher accepting private schools and privately run charter schools are not guaranteed to give children a better education. So the reason for providing tax money to private and privately run schools has changed. No longer are we diverting tax dollars away from public education in order to help poor children “escape” from so-called “failing” schools. Now it’s for “choice.” Every parent should have the right to choose the best school for their children. This is reasonable, but private choices shouldn’t be tax supported.
People don’t get subsidies from the government for other “choices.” We don’t get a voucher to move into any neighborhood we want to move to. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” a private country club over public parks. We don’t get a voucher to “choose” books at a book store instead of the public library. Like other public benefits, public schools are, and should be, the tax supported option. The cost of other options are the responsibility of the tax payer.
Instead of underfunding and closing public schools filled with struggling students, we should improve the quality of the school and its teachers. We need to invest in our public schools, and we need to invest more where more support is needed.
The Department of Education just released a new study of the Washington, D.C., school voucher program. And the findings confirm what we’ve known for years: The program doesn’t improve students’ academic achievement. In fact, it has resulted in statistically significant negative impacts on student test scores.
The study found that students using a D.C. voucher performed 7.3 percentage points worse in math than their peers. The program especially hurts students in elementary schools, which comprise 68 percent of the voucher students in the study and are the largest demographic in the program. These students performed worse in math and reading: 14.7 percentage points lower in math and 9.3 percentage points lower in reading.
This conclusion isn’t a surprise considering similar results were reached in recent studies of voucher programs across the country. The studies have found negative impacts on student achievement for voucher students in Ohio, Louisiana and Indiana.
Are non-profit charter schools a better use of tax dollars? Not necessarily.
The management company does not manage the governing board; rather, it handles certain aspects of the operations of the school under a contract with the governing board.
The Miami Herald’s examination of South Florida’s charter school industry found several instances of for-profit management companies controlling charter schools’ day-to-day operations.
The Herald found examples of charter schools relinquishing total control of their staff and finances to for-profit management companies. In Miami-Dade County, the Life Skills Center paid 97 percent of its income to cover fees incurred by a management company.
INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
What did the Indiana General Assembly give us this year?
- Large budget increases for charters and vouchers, not so much for public schools
- No voter input for state education policy making
- Continued emphasis on expensive and wasteful testing policies
- Another voucher expansion, this time it’s attached to a minimal pre-K increase
- Lower professional requirements needed to teach in charter schools
This is a state that (still) really hates its public schools.
A session of the Indiana General Assembly is kind of like a tornado. When it’s over, you crawl out of your shelter, look around and assess the damage.
Lawmakers finished their business and left the Statehouse on Saturday morning. Here’s a quick look at some of the wreckage they left on the education front.
Students who receive tuition vouchers to attend private religious schools will get nearly 10 percent of the K-12 education funding increase that Indiana lawmakers included in the 2017-19 state budget.
That’s an outsized share given that voucher students make up only about 3.5 percent of the students who receive funding from the state.
I’m tired of subsidizing Walmart employees so the Waltons can retain their position as America’s richest family. With a family net worth of $130 billion, they can afford to pay their employees a decent wage so the public doesn’t have to fork over $6.2 billion in welfare…
In essence, when a Walmart employee must rely on food stamps or other safety-net benefits, taxpayers are paying a portion of that employee’s wages.
Walmart (including its Sam’s Club operation) is currently the largest private employer in the country–and one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. Walmart employees receive an estimated $6.2 billion dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies each year. Money not paid out in salary goes directly to the shareholders’ bottom line.
Not only is this greedy and despicable, it is bad business. For one thing, as awareness of this subsidy grows, the numbers of people shopping at Walmart declines. But there are other costs incurred.