Yo Adrienne! Context is crucial on early NVESA applications

October 30, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Early applications for the Nevada ESA program show that a majority of applicants thus far come from well to do areas, and 21% of applicants thus far qualify for the higher amount for low-income families.

Maybe Howard Fuller was right? Nope- at least not yet. Let’s keep clear of the panic button.

The program does not commence until January, and so these applicants represent the earliest of early adopters. Efforts have commenced to raise awareness of the program in low-income areas, but such efforts take time. Nevada’s private school sector has a small footprint and it should not shock anyone that most private schools are located in relatively affluent areas- which will impact interest in the program.

It’s worth noting that many suburban Nevada schools have overcrowding issues, and spots opening in suburban districts create open-enrollment transfer opportunities for non-residents. Most important of all- NVESA is not a fire it and forget it program. We will need the efforts of both philanthropists and innovators in order to increase the supply of private school space in under-served areas. Sadly the two lawsuits attacking the program will likely slow this process to the detriment of low-income families. Moreover parents have the ability to pursue education outside of private schools under NVESA, but again, we should expect this to unfold incrementally over time.

NVESA is not a magic bullet, and it will not instantly transform education, dry every tear or solve every problem. This is a marathon, not a sprint.


With North Carolina expansions the book may be closed on 2015 private choice

September 23, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jason has a useful rundown on the private choice action in 2015 over at Cato after North Carolina added some style points to Greg’s latest easy triumph over Jay Mathews. Very, very, very good year. It is still time to raise the bar on the bet.

Coons and Sugarman called for ESAs-in 1978!!

September 9, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Okay so yes it took us 33 years to figure out how to create ESAs after someone first proposed them, and yes we had to stumble into it. Don’t blame me- I was battling my Luke Skywalker action figure against my Stretch Armstrong, and well, er, better late than never! Ron Matus with a great post on Berkeley law professors Jack Coons and Stephen Sugarman’s call for what we now call ESAs- in 1978. Here is a taste:

John E. “Jack” Coons and Stephen Sugarman didn’t use the term “education savings accounts” in their book, “Education by Choice.” But they described a sweeping plan for publicly funded scholarships in terms familiar to those keeping tabs on ESAs. They envisioned parents, including low-income parents, having the power to create “personally tailored education” for their children, using “divisible educational experiences.”

To us, a more attractive idea is matching up a child and a series of individual instructors who operate independently from one another. Studying reading in the morning at Ms. Kay’s house, spending two afternoons a week learning a foreign language in Mr. Buxbaum’s electronic laboratory, and going on nature walks and playing tennis the other afternoons under the direction of Mr. Phillips could be a rich package for a ten-year-old. Aside from the educational broker or clearing house which, for a small fee (payable out of the grant to the family), would link these teachers and children, Kay, Buxbaum, and Phillips need have no organizational ties with one another. Nor would all children studying with Kay need to spend time with Buxbaum and Phillips; instead some would do math with Mr. Feller or animal care with Mr. Vetter.

Coons and Sugarman were talking about education, not just schools, in a way that makes more sense every day. They wanted parents in the driver’s seat. They expected a less restricted market to spawn new models. In “Education by Choice,” they suggest “living-room schools,” “minischools” and “schools without buildings at all.” They describe “educational parks” where small providers could congregate and “have the advantage of some economies of scale without the disadvantages of organizational hierarchy.” They even float the idea of a “mobile school.” Their prescience is remarkable, given that these are among the models ESA supporters envision today.

Sounds very, very familiar eh?




Uber and Student Transport

August 27, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Oh yeah- it’s on. Btw transportation is an allowable expense under NVESA.

Heritage Foundation’s Burke recruits Arizona All-Stars to talk ESAs

August 11, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I finally got to watch this Uncle Milton birthday event at the Heritage Foundation on ESAs with Jason Bedrick, Jonathan Butcher and Tim Keller of Cato, Goldwater and IJ Arizona respectively.  Cactus patch represent! Spoiler alert but look for guest appearances by a famous spymaster and another by a very famous animated character.


Dr. Fuller on RedefinED

August 10, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Dr. Fuller talks to RedefinED’s Travis Pillow on their podcast to discuss means testing, Nevada, etc. Dr. Fuller makes a number of good points, starting with the fact that just as universal choice never made any secret of what they view of what constituted an ideal choice program, that universal opponents like Fuller made no secret of their position. Fair enough.

Dr. Fuller states on a couple of occasions in the podcast that once you reach a certain level of wealth that the state should not be giving any aid for you to go to private school. In my view it is context that leads me to disagree with what otherwise seems like a perfectly reasonable proposition. That context is as follows: the podcast notes that currently the wealthy often wall themselves off in a highly economically segregated public school system that works to their advantage. Every state constitution guarantees public education and its not going anywhere, nor do I suspect that the ability of the wealthy to create enclaves within that system will be going anywhere any time soon.

Add this in to the fact that the wealthy pay more taxes than anyone else, but (uniquely of any education option) find themselves excluded from many private choice programs and we look to have created a powerful incentive for the wealthy to actively oppose private choice.  Policymakers took the decision to make public schools universal long ago, and every other option- open enrollment, magnet schools, charter schools, dual enrollment, online learning has followed suit.  School district offer the wealthy billions- they might say the ability to use and shape the billions they put in. If private choice offers them nothing which side of our struggle will they will find more appealing?

Imagine a district school official telling a student “Sorry Johnny we would let you participate in our dual enrollment program, but your parents pay too many taxes so it disqualifies you.” How about “We regret to inform you Susanne that your parents income has been too high to allow you to attend the University of Arkansas-which is reserved for low and middle-income taxpayers.” How about “economic diversity will not be tolerated in charter schools. We have learned about your father’s high income and you are hereby expelled!”

It has been easy to overlook this issue thus far as private choice has  been very small.  Growth beyond boutique status however necessitates confronting this sort of issue squarely. I think we have our hands full fighting the union bosses, superintendents, etc. without going out of our way to make enemies out of high income people in a way no other education option would even seriously entertain.

Wisconsin lawmakers would not have launched the modern school choice movement without a left-right alliance that required means-testing. I’ve supported a number of means tested programs in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. I don’t believe however that means-testing represents either a feature of an ideal private choice program or an ideal strategy for the private choice moving forward.  I do however agree with Dr. Fuller that we ought to make very conscious efforts both in the crafting of private school choice laws and in their implementation to guarantee the participation of low-income children. In Nevada I believe you will see philanthropic effort focus on Vegas, not on Incline Village. This is as it should be.

We should be very serious about inclusiveness in my view, but the river needs to flow both ways.



They Gotta Stop Ringin that Bell- I can’t concentrate!

August 6, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Over at RedefinED your raw-egg drinking/side o’ beef pounding meatball discusses inclusive vs. exclusive school choice programs, means testing, Nevada ESAs, etc. Next up in their series- Ding! Ding!

The champ is stepping into the ring: Dr. Fuller steps into the RedefinED podcast booth. Yo Mick, have that wheel chair ready would ya?


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