Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why Stop a Good Thing?

Though Eric mentioned it below, I thought it expedient to post the entire Wall Street Journal op-ed, here. Please give it a quick read; it provides a clear example of how political ideology can, at times, interfere with progressive and effective policies.

"Washington, D.C.'s school voucher program for low-income kids isn't dead yet. But the Obama Administration seems awfully eager to expedite its demise.

About 1,700 kids currently receive $7,500 vouchers to attend private schools under the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and 99% of them are black or Hispanic. The program is a huge hit with parents -- there are four applicants for every available scholarship -- and the latest Department of Education evaluation showed significant academic gains.

Nevertheless, Congress voted in March to phase out the program after the 2009-10 school year unless it is reauthorized by Congress and the D.C. City Council. The Senate is scheduled to hold hearings on the program this month, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised proponents floor time to make their case. So why is Education Secretary Arne Duncan proceeding as if the program's demise is a fait accompli?

Mr. Duncan is not only preventing new scholarships from being awarded but also rescinding scholarship offers that were made to children admitted for next year. In effect, he wants to end a successful program before Congress has an opportunity to consider reauthorizing it. This is not what you'd expect from an education reformer, and several Democrats in Congress have written him to protest.

We know that Barack and Michelle Obama have opted out of public schools in D.C. -- as they also did in Chicago -- and chosen a private school for their own girls. So have 44% of Senators and 36% of Representatives, according to a new Heritage Foundation report. Less well known is that Mr. Duncan has exercised another, far more common kind of school choice for his family.

Science magazine recently asked Mr. Duncan where his daughter attends school and "how important was the school district in your decision about where to live?" He responded: "She goes to Arlington [Virginia] public schools. That was why we chose where we live, it was the determining factor . . . I didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education." It certainly is easier to champion public schools when you have your pick of the better ones (like the Duncans) or the means to send your children to a private school (like the Obamas).

The Education Department released its annual evaluation of the D.C. program last month -- tellingly, without a press release or media briefing -- and it showed that voucher recipients are reading nearly a half-grade ahead of their peers who didn't receive a scholarship. These academic benefits are compounding over time. The study revealed that the program's earliest participants are 19 months ahead of public school peers in reading after three years. Nationwide, black 12th graders as a group score lower on reading tests than white 8th graders. The D.C. voucher program is closing this achievement gap.

See if you can follow this political syllogism. President Obama and his Education Secretary have repeatedly promised to support "what works," regardless of ideology. The teachers unions adamantly oppose school vouchers, whether or not they work. Ergo, Messrs. Obama and Duncan decide to end a D.C. school voucher program that works and force poor kids back into schools where Messrs. Obama and Duncan would never send their own children. What a disgrace."

Fears Versus Facts About School Choice

As the debate on whether or not to continue the School Choice program in Washington D.C. continues, new information about the positive benefits of choice continue to emerge from across the country.

A new study by Dr. John Garen explains myths and data about School Choice, and explores the potential benefits the options would bring to the state. He points out that:
  • Spending increased 30 percent between the 1989-1990 and 1995-1996 school years, the highest increase in the nation, student to teacher ratios fell by 4.5 percent, and teacher payrolls rose by 3.86 percent
  • Despite the spending increase and increased teacher pay, the test scores of students did not increase and in certain areas actually got worse
  • Kentucky student test scores below average, according to the 2007 NAEP report
Increased spending does not mean improved results, which is why parents deserve the right to explore school options in their area to make the best decisions for their children. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan understood the importance of education, as he responded it was important factor for his daughter when choosing the district he would live in a recent Wall Street Journal:
"She goes to Arlington [Virginia] public schools. That was why we chose where we live, it was the determining factor . . . I didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Members of 111th Congress Practice Private School Choice

As legislatures across the country discuss School Choice, the Heritage Foundation decided to find out if the Members of Congress exercise their right to choose private education either for themselves, or for their children. In their survey, a few of their interesting findings included:

  • 44% of Senators and 36% of Representatives have at one time sent their children to a public school
  • 20% of the Members themselves had been to a private school
  • 11% of Americans currently attend private school

This shows that the current Members of Congress both attended as well as send their children to private schools at a higher rate than the rest of the American public. Perhaps its time to give everyone that same opportunity.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flunked Movie Screening

We have a problem.

Results of national and international tests show that our students are falling further and further behind. The average American student is no longer able to compete with foreign students, and in many cases, they're failing to meet even basic academic standards. Success rates are plummeting, and remediation and dropout rates are skyrocketing. Students entering the current American education system are in for a grim ride.

On March 1, School Choice Illinois is providing the only Illinois screening of the film Flunked, which is narrated by actor Joe Mantegna. The film explores the "story of failure" and provides "a formula for hope."

Following the film, School Choice Illinois will moderate an education panel discussion with some of the state's leading education thinkers.

Not only will you have the opportunity to view an explorative and insightful film, but you will also have the opportunity to support a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the options Illinois parents have when it comes to educating their children.

Tickets are limited, so the sooner you act the better.

Here are the details:
Sunday, March 1st, Sunday, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Gene Siskel Film Center
Light refreshments will be served.

For more details or to register, you can contact us at
312-268-6880 or through our website at

We hope to see you there!

Phylicia Lyons
Founder, President and CEO

School Choice Illinois
1030 W. Chicago Ave, Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60642
312-268-6880 phone
312-268-6864 fax

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Studies cast doubt on CPS strategy

"Students at two elementary campuses in the controversial Chicago Public Schools turnaround program aren’t performing appreciably better than kids in nearby neighborhood schools.
That’s a key finding in one of two new reports released yesterday by the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago..."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Will More Money Fix Our Schools?

CER Newswire Vol. 11, No. 7 February 17, 2009: POLITICS
Published by The Center for Education Reform (CER) Making Schools Work Better for All Children

"JOBS vs EDUCATION. The economic stimulus has sparked serious discussion in newsrooms and at policy think tanks everywhere about whether the new federal spending bill is likely to have any impact on making schools work. Nicholas Kristof's weekend New York Times article praises the spending, but reminds us that "The implication is that throwing money at a broken system won't fix it, but that resources are necessary as part of a package that involves scrapping certification, measuring better through testing which teachers are effective, and then paying them significantly more - with special bonuses to those who teach in 'bad' schools."

Others remind us of the bureaucratic paths that all money takes before actually (ever?) having an impact. Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli call attention to this, saying "Especially challenging will be your innovation fund. Details are sketchy.... Doing this quickly - and without the appearance of cronyism - will be a whopping challenge. The rest of the education stimulus package will be tricky, too. If the short-run economic goal is to save 600,000 teacher jobs, as you have stated, then districts need to be able to use this flood of federal funds to 'supplant' state and local dollars that are otherwise on the chopping block. At minimum, that's going to take much written guidance to the field, for it overturns decades of ESEA practice. It might take new regulations, too. And how can you make sure that, in the rush to get money to communities to save jobs, some of that money doesn't get skimmed off or used inappropriately? (Someone will inevitably try to use the funds to buy football uniforms; what are you going to do about it? If you don't do anything, what will the GAO and Inspector General say later?)"

But what is the point unless the money stimulates reform at the same time it stimulates jobs? After all, even Arne Duncan admits that bad schools make him sick:

"Without getting into too many details, I am extraordinarily concerned about the poor quality of education, quite frankly, the children of Detroit are receiving. I lose sleep over that one. And I think the dropout rate there is devastating."

ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTIONS. Though private school students will continue to be eligible for non-secular, publicly supported programs for disadvantaged students, they lose out on any school facilities funds. Likewise, charter schools - though much anticipating precious "innovation" funds from the new Secretary's new $5 billion play fund - do not quality for any construction funds. If jobs and education are the point of the stimulus, why distinguish by school type? If the federal government can make an unprecedented expansion in federal support for schools, where is the rationale behind limiting it to just traditional district-based education?

ANSWERS. The answers to how best to spend funds are apparent. Award-winning veteran journalist Jay Mathews offers 7 cheap-as-free suggestions on how best to improve the nation's schools. Number 2? Unleash charter schools. Jay argues that "...they often attract creative principals and teachers who do more with less. School finance experts don't all agree, but I am convinced that charters are a bargain. So let's have more." Great minds think alike. Check out Mandate for Change for more along these lines. "

To see the rest of CER's Newswire, please click on link above.

"For Education Chief, Stimulus Means Power, Money and Risk"

Published: February 16, 2009: The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — The $100 billion in emergency aid for public schools and colleges in the economic stimulus bill could transform Arne Duncan into an exceptional figure in the history of federal education policy: a secretary of education loaded with money and the power to spend large chunks of it as he sees fit.

But the money also poses challenges and risks for Mr. Duncan, the 44-year-old former Chicago schools chief who now heads the Department of Education.

Mr. Duncan must develop procedures on the fly for disbursing a budget that has, overnight, more than doubled, and communicate the rules quickly to all 50 states and the nation’s 14,000 school districts. And he faces thousands of tricky decisions about how much money to give to whom and for what....."

To read the rest of the article, please click on the link above.

Monday, February 9, 2009

School Choice Illinois Presents:

Please join School Choice Illinois for the only screening of the documentary flunked in Illinois!

Held at the famous Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago, the screening will be followed by an enlightened education discussion from a distinguished group of panelists. Light refreshments will be served.

Date: March 1, 2009
Time: 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Location: Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60601

Flunked highlights the common threads of successful education: strong leadership, high standards, excellent teachers, and solid curricula. By focusing on schools that are successfully applying these principles, Flunked sends a message loud and clear: Parents, students, principals, and teachers do not have to settle for mediocrity in their own schools.

For more information call (312) 268-6880 or email us at contactus@SchoolChoiceIllinois.org

Tickets are limited. Student discounts are available.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Our Future, Bleak or Optimistic?

Acquiring education is necessary for any society to move forward, especially K-12 education. A society is at its basic level a combination of people with different skill sets coming together and contributing to its wealth. From this it would follow that every child should be educated. But, one question remains, a fundamental one, does every child deserve a good education? If we answered yes, then we agree that education is important and vital to the success of our nation. So changes need to be made to our current education system, especially those schools that are failing or need to be improved.

Many people across party lines, race, religions, etc. feel this way; so what are we waiting for? Should we wait as long as needed for everyone to reach the same conclusion(s), even at the cost of giving our current students sub-par education in the meantime? How do we expect our future to be better than our past and present if we continue to do nothing about the status quo? Will we be able to enjoy the fruits of a strong economy in the future? What are your thoughts??

To find research on this, you may start by looking at Education Next: A Journal of Opinion and Research (Hoover Institution) and read the article "RESEARCH: Education and Economic Growth".
Spring 2008(vol. 8, no. 2) Table of Contents
Eric Hanushek, Dean T. Jamison, Eliot A. Jamison and Ludger Woessmann
"It's not just going to school but learning that matters"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Center for Education Reform Newswire

CER Newswire Special CHANGE Edition Vol. 11, No. 4 January 27, 2009

Newswire - January 27, 2009
"Special Change Edition: Juan Williams on Federal Accountability ... John Engler on Transparency ... Kevin Chavous on Charter Schools ... Jeanne Allen on School Choice ... Richard Whitmire on Teacher Quality"

The Center for Education Reform
"The Center for Education Reform / edreform.com" button links to http://www.edreform.com/, your interactive source of data, analysis and resources on education reforms that create better educational opportunities for all children. The Center for Education Reform website helps turn parents into activists, policymakers into advocates, and educators into reform leaders."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Would you like some education with that Latte?

This just in: The Chicago Public Schools wasted money. What? My tax dollars?? This can't be! Surely, then, it must be for a good cause like the professional development of teachers, additional enrichment courses, or new high-end computers??? An article from the Chicago Sun-Times this month details the startling (but not surprising) news: CPS spent $67,000 on Cappuccino machines. Yeah, coffee. Our money went to machines that turn little beans into a drink (granted a delightful, frothy, invigorating drink!)

The best, however, was still to come. When asked about the purchase, Inspector General James Sullivan was quoted as saying: "'We also look at it as a waste of money because the schools didn't even know they were getting the equipment, schools didn't know how to use the machines and weren't prepared to implement them into the curriculum.'" WAIT. Hang on one second. Is he saying that if the schools (twenty-one of them) were informed of the machines that it would be okay? Is he saying that if the schools knew how to use the machines, everything would be alright? Is he suggesting that if CPS could find a way to implement cappuccinos into the curriculum that somehow the purchases would be forgivable or vindicated?

Well, let's give it a try. How does this course sound: "Cappuccino 101: How to drink a cappuccino, appear scholarly, and gain nothing out of your education."

No, Mr. Sullivan, these purchases are not forgivable. Period. The correct line would have been: "These purchases are a waste"; the fact that he "also" viewed them that way implies that the real shame was the schools' inability to figure out the instructions and enjoy a nice cup of European joe.

Oye. If this continues, we'll be able to add point number 16 to the "Top 15 Effects That Coffee Has on Your Health"--it could literary throw a wrench in your child's education. Anybody feeling stressed?

Monday, January 26, 2009

The "Obama Effect" in test-taking??

It is a preliminary study, but an interesting one at that. The idea that confidence, social anxiety and quite simply- hope, can influence competency.

I saw it in the faces of every kid I passed in Grant Park the day Obama got elected. The cynicism seemed to be lifted out of the air. The idea that their voices mattered and that they might have a say in their own futures was prevalent and something I will never forget.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Schools Expo

Learn about Chicago's new public schools at:

The 2nd Annual New Schools EXPO:

Presented by: Parents for School Choice & the Chicago Public Schools

For more details, please go to the website for Parents for School Choice by clicking on "New Schools Expo".

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Parents Want More Choices in Education

And it seems choice can now save $$$.

Article written by Eric Johnson, posted on Sunday, January 18, 2009 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"... it’s time to start thinking about parents such as Skollar and stop offering a one-size-fits-all education model to Georgia students. It’s time to offer a school voucher program for parents who want it for their children who need it."

"The economic recession and the state’s $2.3 billion budget shortfall will be tossed around as an excuse not to help children. But vouchers actually save money for taxpayers and help local educators."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama on Education

To view President Obama's vision on education, please click on the title "President Obama on Education".