Raising the Bar on the Forster-Mathews Bet

April 1, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Thus far I am aware of a tax-credit improvements in Alabama and Arizona, new special education scholarship programs in Arkansas and Mississippi, and many other measures pending in many other states. I think it is safe to say that Greg will once again defeat Jay Mathews in the over/under of 7 enactments.

WSJ choice

 

While we celebrate yet another Greg victory, it may be a good time to pose a different question for ourselves: how many states have enacted a choice program or a combination of choice programs sufficiently robust to see a growth in private education in the face of a strong charter school law? A Rand Corp study found private schools will lose one student for every three gained by charter schools in Michigan.  We would not expect to find an exact match for this nationwide, but charter schools do by definition draw upon the universe of would-be choosers: parents who are looking for alternatives outside of their zoned district school. It makes sense that they would have a larger impact on private education.

If we assume the Michigan finding to be roughly equivalent to a national average, then we can proceed to check the tape. First charter school enrollment by state:

Charters school enrollment

Next private choice program enrollment by state (from the Alliance for School Choice Yearbook):

Private choice students 1

 

And…

Private choice students 2

So how many states have one-third or more as many private choice students as charter school students? Indiana is matching private choice students with charter school students despite a strong charter law thus far, and so is the leader in the clubhouse. Florida barely met the 1 private choice for 3 charter school students standard between the combination of the corporate tax credit program and the McKay Scholarship program. Without new revenue sources however growth in the Florida tax credit will stall in the next few years even as statewide student growth continues. Moreover Florida charter schools have almost certainly drawn a relatively advantaged group of students from private schools (charter schools have universal eligibility). The private choice programs have been aiding only low-income and children with disabilities and providing significantly fewer resources than those students receive in public schools (smaller tax credit scholarships in the case of low-income children, no local top-up funds in the case of McKay students).

Florida lawmakers have been busy improving the ability for high quality charter operators to open new schools (as they should) but balked last year at providing new tax credit revenue sources. Absent some large policy changes Florida will soon slip below the 1 to 3 ratio.

Iowa met the standard because of a healthy and growing tax credit program and a weak charter school law (3 total schools), so give them an *. Wisconsin meets the bar with the combination of private choice programs and a charter school program that (last I heard) is still bottled up in Milwaukee, so kind of an * too.

The Illinois and PA programs would require some sort of estimate regarding the price elasticity of demand for private schooling, but I’ll just heroically guess that charter schools have the better end of the deal in those states. Arizona and Ohio have more than three charter students for every private choice student. Other states like California, Michigan, New York and Texas seem content to watch their charter school sector batter their private school sectors into gravel.

Bear in mind that this comparison would look even more lopsided if we counted dollars rather than students. For instance the average tax credit scholarship in Arizona runs around $2,000 while the average charter school receives around $7,000 per pupil. Very few of the private choice programs come near to matching the per pupil level of subsidy provided to charter, much less district schools. Emblematic of this failure was the choice of 12 Catholic schools in Washington D.C. to give up the ghost and convert to charter schools after a (poorly designed) voucher bill had passed.

The goal of the private choice movement should not be to preserve a preexisting stock of private schools per se, but rather to allow parental demand to drive the supply of school seats. Those District of Columbia Catholic schools did not convert to charters because the parents were clamoring for it, but rather because the Congress had offered almost twice as much money per pupil to do it. States like Texas invest hundreds of millions of dollars per year into a charter sector that draws disproportionately from private schools while providing parents who would prefer a private education for their child nothing but the prospect of struggling to pay their school taxes and private school costs simultaneously.

Seen in this context, many private choice victories seem worthy but incremental. Incremental change is the equilibrium point of American politics, but the choice movement needs more Indiana style successes. Once more unto the breach dear friends…


Florida Number One in Education Freedom, AZ #2, Indiana #3

February 25, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The John Locke Foundation has published a study called the First in Freedom Index that ranks states for freedom on various aspects- including fiscal freedom, education freedom, regulatory freedom, health care freedom and a weighted index of all of the above- overall freedom (fiscal freedom counts for 50% of the overall index). Here is the overall ranking:

Overall Freedom

And here is the education freedom map:

education freedom

Notice anything about the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ranked states on both maps?

Let me just throw down the gauntlet now. While yes, we may have our share of eccentrics here in Arizona, and maybe some other state’s fair share too, we will not stand for losing freedom rankings to anyone! Not to you Florida, and don’t think we don’t see you trying to sneak up on us both Hoosiers! It is ON!


Destruction of Public Education or Pressure Release Valve? You Make the Call…

February 16, 2015

AZ enrollment trends

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

This is what the “destruction of public education” looks like in extremist, wild west Arizona…oh….wait…what? The increase in district enrollment is greater than the growth in charter school students since the creation of the law charter law in 1994 and 2012-176,989 to 128,427?

Yeah, but…

What is that you say? Even if you combine all of Arizona’s private choice students with all the charter school students, the increase in district enrollment still outstrips the increase in choice enrollment 176,989 to 159,014?

Ok but if those choice programs didn’t exist, the number of students and the amount of money going to districts would be higher than it is now. So…

High demand schools surrounded by portable buildings? C’mon that would never happen! Already common in Texas? Arizona has been broke since 2007, unable to afford much new district building space eh? Well we could just raise taxes…what? Arizonans raise millions of private dollars to finance charter and private school spaces? Census Bureau projects hundreds of thousands more students over the next 15 years? Already high elderly population set to vastly expand too?

Ok, sign me up.

 


Arizona Governor Doug Ducey calls for expansive parental choice in inaugural address

January 5, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

“It will be a first principle of my agenda that schools and choices available to affluent parents must be open to all parents, whatever their means, wherever they live, period.”


Cuomo to UFT: Come thou no more for ransom, you will have none I swear but these my joints

December 19, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Andrew Cuomo prepares to go to war with NY edu-reactionaries.  Governor Cuomo is not taking this course because he has been tricked into it by right winger or corporate interests (they Governor banned fracking earlier this week) but rather because his own sense of justice demands it.


Why is the man with the goatee smiling?

October 16, 2014

It might have something to do with this new report from MDRC showing a 9.4% increase in graduation rates in NYC in the “small high-schools” initiative. Students attending small high schools attended college at an 8.4% higher rate as well.

So just to review, Gates FF had a winning strategy on their hands- it had a plausible theory but not much empirical support. Sadly they dropped this strategy before waiting for empirical evaluations, which continue to pile up and have strongly positive results. The siren call of central planning lured them into an endless quagmire that also lacks empirical support (see Hanushek and Loveless) and also lacks a plausible theory of change. Small schools now lacks neither of these things.

There’s one obvious solution to all of this- he’s tan, rested and ready and he’s bringing back socks and sandals! Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he is bringing in socks and sandals for the first time. Regardless- bring back Tom Vander Ark!

 

 


Long Term Trends in the Fight for Choice

September 22, 2014

Disco Stu trends

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Funny Matt should choose this morning to post thoughts about the future of charters and private school choice. My article on long-term trends in the fight for private school choice was just published by OCPA’s Perspectives. [Update: Oops, link added.]

The most important omen for the long term, though, is the war of ideas and moral legitimacy. Nobody takes the school unions and other guardians of the status quo seriously any more. The mask is off; everyone knows they’re all about the gravy train. Moreover, in milder forms like charter schools, the principle of choice has been almost universally accepted on both sides of the political aisle. How long can people go on supporting charters but opposing private choices, especially as it becomes clear charter schools don’t have enough freedom to reinvent education?

As Matt Ladner likes to say, these days the “cool kids” in education are the entrepreneurs who invent radically new kinds of schools. A few years ago, everyone was atwitter about the revolutionary potential of these “greenfield” experiments. Recently, though, the bloom is off the rose. People are beginning to realize that the world of tomorrow isn’t going to be so easy to build. Where will they turn for the tools they need to truly reinvent education? Universal choice is looking better and better.

Pop culture aficionados are invited to submit their judgment on the quality of my references to Doctor Who.

A shorter version of the article was published as an op-ed in the Edmond Sun.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,827 other followers