Only 31 of 84 Archdiocese of New Orleans Schools Participate in Louisiana Voucher

January 28, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

In a positive article about the role of parental choice programs on Catholic schools nationally in the National Catholic Register comes a bit of confirmation on the recent Kisida, Wolf and Rhinesmith study:

Such increases in enrollment bring with them questions. First, not all Catholic schools — even those located in the same diocese — choose to participate. In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, only 31 of the 84 schools participate.

“There are a variety of reasons that schools don’t participate,” said Jan Lancaster, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools. “Many have their own financial aid and scholarship programs in place to accommodate families that cannot afford to pay tuition. Others have waiting lists and are at capacity.

“Some don’t want to participate because of the mandates that are imposed on participating schools from the Louisiana Department of Education.”

Among these demands, she said, are testing and audits.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vouchers-provide-much-needed-infusion-of-students-to-catholic-schools/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#ixzz3Q94WsHqa


Learning from our mistakes in expanding parental choice

January 21, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Kisida, Wolf and Rhinesmith survey of attitudes of private school leaders in Florida, Indiana and Louisiana released today by AEI has a ton of important information. I commend the authors for releasing it, as the data gathered reveals the cost of attempting to regulate private schools participating in private choice programs.

In particular, the evidence seems to point in the direction of requiring schools to give a test tied to the state curriculum, requiring a great deal of paperwork, and only making low-income students from the lowest performing school eligible represents creates a powerful incentive for schools not to participate. In other words, Louisiana should examine the results of this study carefully and make some significant adjustments if they would like more of the 70 percent of private schools that chose not to participate to make seats available. Let’s just go ahead and put it on the table that the 30 percent of participating schools likely have financially desperate organizations over-represented, and the 70% of non-participants probably have higher percentages of stable organizations and high quality seats.

One of the charts deals with schools already participating in the choice- notice the enthusiasm for increasing participation in reasonably regulated Florida as opposed to the disinterest in Louisiana. A net 55% of Florida participating schools plan to increase participation, against 8% in Louisiana.

 

FL IN La 1

 

Florida does make provision for standardized testing, but allows schools to choose their own test. Florida law has an ongoing third-party academic evaluation of the trends in scores for the program. Indiana also mandates state testing, but had effectively done so years before the creation of the choice program. Every state has varying levels of regulation and laws that apply to private schools irrespective of whether or not they have a choice program, meaning that the impact of a heavy-handed will vary from state to state based on this and other factors.

The authors also surveyed non-participating schools. Let’s look at the gory details from Florida and Louisiana. First Florida:

FL Private schools 1

Take a look at the fourth item down from the top. Ok- now Louisiana:

La private schools 1

 

So 23 percent of Florida non-participating schools said that concerns about independence, character and identify played a major role in their decision to keep out of the program, whereas 46% of Louisiana schools said it played a major role. Eleven percent of Florida schools said it played a minor role, whereas an additional 26% of Louisiana schools said the same. Overall 72% of Louisiana non-participants expressed concerns about their independence under the program.

Notice the first item as well- Florida private school leaders seem relatively confident that Florida lawmakers won’t go off the deep end in the future. Louisiana private school leaders seem to think that their lawmakers have already gone off the deep end. Most Florida private schools participate in the choice program, and seem anxious to provide more seats for low-income students. Many Louisiana private school leaders meanwhile have (understandably) adopted the stance of “thanks but no thanks.”

We create these programs in order to expand opportunities for students. Policymakers must carefully balance the public’s interest in academic transparency with the interest in private schools in maintaining their distinctive character and independence. Opinions of this subject are diverse, but far too many in my view have been consumed with a simplistic notion that giving the state’s (often subpar) test somehow equates with “accountability.” The word means being held responsible, but there is a whole bunch of state testing going on, but precious few being held responsible for much. Private schools already commonly use tests like the Stanford 10 and Iowa Test of Basic Skills and I’ve yet to see anyone make a convincing case that these tests won’t do just fine in providing transparency without saddling private schools with a state mandated curriculum.

Just as a quick thought experiment, suppose every state in the union ditched their state test (some of which are decent and some of which may as well be He-Man and the Masters of the Universe coloring books) and replaced it with one of the national norm tests. How would “accountability” be diminished? If you have a coherent answer please leave it in the comments. If you have an undying irrational attachment to the eternal beauty and truth of state tests uber alles, don’t bother unless you can explain why.

I know a few of the decision makers in Louisiana, and can attest that the road to this hell was paved with good intentions. No one woke up in the morning, stretched and yawned, and said “I want to create a choice program for disadvantaged kids that 70% of the private schools in the state won’t touch with a ten-foot pole.” That is not at all what happened, but the end result has been the same.

You live and learn- it is time to learn.

 


Ed Reformers are Not a Smarter Version of the Government

January 21, 2015

Ed reformers all agree that the current system of public education is horribly broken.  But many are pursuing reforms that are likely to re-create the same dysfunctional system they oppose.

When they observe a problem their inclination is to fix it by prohibiting or regulating it.  If parents might pick bad schools in a choice system, the solution is to  impose regulations that prevent schools from being bad and prohibit those that are nevertheless bad from participating.  The regulations impose paperwork burdens on schools.  And so that officials can judge school quality, some reformers favor requiring participating private schools to take the state test based on the state curriculum.

If regulating schools to success were the solution, our public school system would be wonderful.  They have no shortage of regulations and prohibitions, all designed by well-meaning people to make those schools perform well.  So, why do some reformers believe it will turn out differently with heavily regulated choice systems?  Well, because they’ll be in charge and they are smarter.  They’ll design the regulations more appropriately.  They’ll implement them more judiciously.  They’ll only impose the regulations we really need.

A new study by my colleagues Brian Kisida, Pat Wolf, and Evan Rhinesmith gives some indication of how things go wrong when you impose a heavy, public-school-like regulatory burden on private choice programs.  In Louisiana, which provides exceptionally low funding for choice students, imposes a heavy regulatory burden, and requires students to take the state test based on the state curriculum, only a third of the state’s private schools are willing to participate in the choice program.  In Florida’s more lightly regulated program that requires schools to administer a standardized test of their choice, around 60% of the private schools are willing to participate.

Kisida, Wolf, and Rhinesmith surveyed the private schools and found that the heavy regulatory burden and state testing requirements were major factors in deterring schools from participating.  And in Louisiana few private schools expressed an interest in expanding the number of students they are willing to take, while in Florida the majority are looking to add students.

If you offer schools a heavy regulatory burden, little money, and the requirement to administer a test based on a curriculum they do not normally teach, you drive two-thirds of them away.  And it isn’t a randomly selected one-third that is willing to put up with this bad deal.  They are more likely to be the worst schools that are most financially desperate for students and revenue.  The better schools are attracting privately paying students, so why should they take publicly funded students for less money and with more hassle?  Louisiana’s regulations were intended to prevent bad schools from participating in the choice program, but they are having the opposite effect.

With a higher private school participation rate, Florida is attracting better private schools and getting better results.  Quality research shows that the Florida’s tax credit supported choice program is improving achievement for the students who participate as well as improving the performance of traditional public schools with whom they compete.

If we impose public-system-like regulations on choice programs we will end up with choice programs that look a lot like the public system, including their dysfunction.  As Orwell warned us, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

 

 

 


Choice for Foster Kids

January 13, 2015

2013-10-Circle-of-Choice

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The new issue of OCPA’s Perspective carries my article on school choice for the 12,000 foster children in Oklahoma. The state is now adopting massive fixes to address its broken, abusive foster care system:

If Oklahoma is going to adopt sweeping reforms to serve these children better, it shouldn’t just think about homes. It should think about schools. Having failed to care for these 12,000 children when they needed it most, Oklahoma owes them something.

The state wouldn’t have to create a new program:

Oklahoma already has two school choice programs: a special needs voucher modeled on McKay, and a tax-credit scholarship program serving low-income students. Either or both of these programs could accommodate foster children with a slight modification – just write a line into the law saying foster children are eligible regardless of disability status or family income.

Other states have already adopted this practice. Foster children are automatically eligible for two school choice programs in Arizona. “Lexie’s Law,” which is Arizona’s answer to McKay, includes foster children alongside special education students. So does Arizona’s innovative new education savings account law, which gives parents control of their children’s education funding to direct to a school of their choice. Meanwhile, in Florida, foster children of any income level are eligible for the state’s tax-credit scholarship program for low-income students.

And since choice saves money, it wouldn’t cost a dime – an important consideration given that Oklahoma is on the hook for $150 million to clean up its foster care mess.

Of course, only universal choice will get us where we need to go. But it’s not a perfect world, and few people know that better than foster kids in Oklahoma. One line in a new law could give 12,000 kids access to choice on better terms than the ones that prevail in some other programs already.


Fix Schools by Not Fixing Them

December 19, 2014

resized_can-we-fix-it

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA’s Perspective just went online with my article on how to fix schools by not fixing them:

Wanting something too much can prevent you from getting it. In school, we all knew at least one unpopular kid whose desperate, overbearing desire to have friends and be liked was the main reason nobody wanted to be around that person. Sit down with a loved one and say, “now let’s have a really good talk,” and silence will result. The hypochondriac protects himself from germs so well that his immune system is weakened from disuse, and he gets sick…

It’s an insidious trap. The dysfunctions of the system are so bad, we tell ourselves, that we can only fight them if we give money and power to those who will promote the reforms. Once these people have money and power, they set about consolidating their position, working not to improve education but to reinforce their access to money and power. And because they have been anointed as the people whose job is to “fix the public schools,” they tell themselves – sincerely – that they’re building up their own money and power for the sake of improving education. It’s for the children.

I argue that the reason school choice has the best track record of improving public schools is that “improving public schools” is not its formal purpose:

School choice improves public schools precisely because it does not make an idol out of “fixing the public schools.” In fact, it fixes public schools precisely because it establishes that the educational needs of children are more important than the institutional needs of public schools. Instead of taking children for granted as a captive audience, schools must educate children or lose them.


Forster-Mathews over/under challenge- place your 2015 bets now

November 6, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Election coverage inevitably drifts to beltway drama, but I’m at more than a bit of a loss to understand why. It’s kind of like the nation’s bizarre fascination with 32 football teams running the same offense and defense when a far more interesting and gloriously chaotic brand of football rumbles along in the colleges. My memory gets fuzzy trying to remember the last positive and interesting thing to happen in DC. The action in America is out in the states.

Longtime Jayblog readers will doubtlessly recall the world-famous bet between our own Greg and WaPo columnist Jay Mathews regarding whether parental choice programs were just too politically difficult. They eventually decided to put the over/under for new school choice programs or expansions in 2011 at 7, with the loser picking up dinner.

I can’t remember whether the total got to 21 that year or not. If not, it was close. The school choice movement easily cleared the bar again in 2012. Then in 2013, it was time for a three-peat!  Finally in 2014, the pace slowed a bit nationally in an election year and the Forster-Mathews bar proved too high.

And now?

Only time will ultimately tell, but the elections of 2014 must look pretty bleak if you are burdened in life with reactionary K-12 preferences. Scott Walker for instance not only just won his third statewide election in four years, he’s talking about expanding school vouchers into new districts and providing choice to children with disabilities. Arizona Governor-elect Doug Ducey stated in his victory speech “Schools and choices open to some parents should be open to all parents.”

Out in Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott defeated Republican, Independent Democrat Charlie Crist in an epic battle. It did not escape the notice of some that the tight margin could have been swayed by the parents of the parents of the near 100,000 children participating in Florida’s private choice programs this year.

In Indiana, Republicans added to their already large legislative majorities and the same thing basically happened in Ohio. A few years ago, an observer of Nevada politics told me that the map of Nevada House were drawn such that a Democratic majority would live at least as long as the current map. Well lo and behold, Gov. Sandoval gets reelected with 70% of the vote and the Republicans capture both chambers.

The WaPo produced this handy map:

This same article notes that Republicans hold unified control over both chambers and the chief executive in 24 states compared to 6 for the Democrats.

Don’t ignore Blue states however. Out in New York, easily reelected Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed public support for tuition tax credits. From the linked story:

Mr. Cuomo echoed the assemblyman’s call for the passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit, which would help parents pay for religious schools–which the governor compared to his expansion of the state’s Tuition Assistance Program to cover yeshivas and his public funding of busing for students of Orthodox Jewish schools. Mr. Cuomo claimed such funding is simply equitable and right.

“It’s not charity, it’s not a favor. It’s justice. TAP. Public transportation and the school buses, that was justice. Education tax credit–this is a matter of justice,” he said as the crowd broke into applause. “I want you to understand that’s the way I see it. On a personal level, this is a very important relationship that I honor. And as governor, I have sworn to do justice. And there have been a number of great injustices that your community has endured for a long, long time. And it is my profound wish that we should work together and we should resolve them and bring justice to the community that we deserve.”

This is welcome news, as the private choice movement has made very limited progress overall in the mega-states of California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois aka where a whole bunch of the kids are located. Charter schools however are rolling along in all of those states, and they seem poised to crush private schools at a much higher rate than low-performing district schools. Even Florida’s nearing 100,000 private choice children in private choice programs seems small when viewed in this fashion. The Illinois $500 personal use tax credit comes across as a bit of a cruel joke when put into this context: the state will lavish many thousands of (increasingly hard to come by) dollars on you if you choose to attend a district or charter school, but will give you a $500 tax break if you choose to bear the financial burden of sending your child to a private school if you have a sufficient tax liability.

The Illinois credit may only be a small step in reducing double payment penalty, but it is more than California, New York or Texas has done to date while charters continue to surge. In the end, private schools ought not to be preserved by nostalgic state lawmakers, but rather (if it is going to happen) by the free choice of parents operating on something approaching a level financial playing field. We need both broader and better designed account-based programs.

Finally choice proponents need to be aware that even seemingly shiny legislative majorities spring on you like a bear trap if you mistake them for an actual consensus. Proponents must never forget the need to persuade a broader universe of opinion leaders and the public regarding the justice of their cause.

Okay so with all that said, I will take the over in 2015. What about you?

UPDATE:

The Friedman Foundation has a handy-dandy guide to the governors and how they stand on parental choice.

UPDATE PART DEUX:

WaPo on the teacher unions spending $60m on races and mostly getting crushed. Money quotes:

“We knew this was going to be an uphill battle,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest labor union. “But I don’t think anybody on our side, and we’ve got some very savvy people, anticipated going over the falls like this. Tectonic plates have shifted. And we’re going to have to come back with a new way of organizing for these kinds of races.”

and…

“The surprising thing is you now have Democrats who are willing to buck the union,” said Howard Wolfson, an adviser to former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), who contributed to Democratic and Republican candidates around the country who want to introduce more choice and competition in public education, and greater accountability for teachers. “You can take reform positions and be successful not only in general elections, but in primaries. It’s a major sea change in the Democratic party that you can now oppose the union and be successful.”

 

 


Jim Blew to take Students First helm

October 8, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Congratulations to choice movement veteran Jim Blew for taking on the leadership of Students First.

Jim is both brilliant and delightfully direct in his delivery. My favorite Jim story came from shortly after he left the Alliance for School Choice. Our state team was meeting and we were discussing some situation. There was something that needed saying hanging in the air, so I simply blurted it out. Clint Bolick, Zack Dawes and Scott Jensen all looked a bit surprised, so I explained:

Hey, look, Jim’s not here anymore. Someone has to take up the slack!

Great hire for SF and good luck Jim!

 


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