School Choice Myths in Perspective

April 28, 2015


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Check out the trippy cover on this month’s OCPA Perspective – and, if you have any extra time when you’re done admiring it, spare a minute to read the cover story, too:

For thirteen years, I’ve been a researcher in the school choice movement, and from day one the most important part of the job has been mythbusting. Ask any other researcher in this field and he’ll say the same. There’s no other issue in American politics where one side has built its case so thoroughly upon untrue factual statements. It seems like no media story on this topic can get by without repeating these myths as facts. It never stops.

Here are a few of the more important myths, drawn from recent debates in Oklahoma…

It’s a shame we still have to spend so much time mythbusting:

There’s so much we still don’t know about education. I’d love it if we researchers could focus our energy on uncovering the facts we don’t yet have. What factors are most important in a high quality teacher? To what extent does a school’s institutional culture make a difference? What policy and social conditions are needed to support more robust creation of new schools? Why do we see some evidence that there may be a tradeoff between good academic outcomes and good moral character outcomes, when we would expect the two to be aligned?

What we still don’t know about education is a big deal. But our bigger problem is what we think we know that isn’t so.

Now I have a Machine Gun Ho Ho Ho

April 27, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Must read article in the Financial Times The US Shale Revolution (how it changed the world and why nothing will ever be the same again). The Saudi attempt to wring excess supply from the market is not working in America, in large part because it simply has provided a powerful incentive for efficiency.

Oil producers praying for relief from low prices might take heart from the lost jobs and idled rigs in the US. But the American strengths that made the boom — entrepreneurial culture, depth of knowledge in oil and gas, innovation and supportive capital markets — are now being deployed to keep it alive. Recent history suggests it would be rash to bet against them.

“Look how far we’ve come since 2006,” says Russell Rankin of Statoil. “It’s incredible. So for us to think that we’re through with the technology . . . to say that that’s over is kind of idiotic . . . We’ll always come up with a solution.”

Thus far the U.S. rig count is down but production continues to climb as good ole fashioned American ingenuity extracts more oil from fewer drilling sites.  American drillers have been reportedly putting in new supply but not tapping it yet, waiting for a rebound in prices. Oh and then there is this little problem for OPEC:

Florida ESA expansion receives unanimous House support

April 26, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A bill to expand Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts eligibility to children with muscular dystrophy and a wider array of the autism spectrum, and to include 3 and 4-year-old children otherwise eligible for special education services passed the Florida House of Representatives without a dissenting vote last week. The bill’s Senate companion also passed without dissent, and a large increase in the appropriation for the program is in the works, although just how large remains to be agreed upon. That increased funding will be needed given that parents have already begun 10,000 applications for next year, which outnumbers current participants by more than 5 to 1.

So far ESA programs have doubled from 2 to 4, with Mississippi and Tennessee joining the family, and we are waiting on word from Montana. The lawmakers in the states with the pre-existing programs have expanded eligibility in both. Bills in a number of other states remain in play. Delightfully, our experiment in ordered K-12 liberty continues to gain momentum.

Let’s see what happens next.



ASU and EdX take a Step in the Way of the Future

April 23, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I may have been a bit more skeptical about ASU’s “New American University” rhetoric than the average bear back during the Goldwater days. I tried to resist poking fun at various foibles. Once. It didn’t suit me. Now however I am going to turn over a new leaf and give them props for doing something interesting. From the New York Times:

Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest universities, is joining with edX, a nonprofit online venture founded by M.I.T. and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year that will be available worldwide with no admissions process and full university credit.

In the new Global Freshman Academy, each credit will cost $200, but students will not have to pay until they pass the courses, which will be offered on the edX platform as MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses.

“Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home,” said Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX. “If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit.”

Man it is going to kill me to admit this but:

1921 application form for the knuckle-dragging racists who helped bring you Blaine Amendments

April 22, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

HT: Slate

Gosh if the ends didn’t justify the means, K-12 reactionaries of today might feel uncomfortable making use of discriminatory state constitutional provisions drafted by overtly racist and intolerant groups during a shameful wave of half-witted xenophobia.

Tennessee lawmakers pass special needs ESA, East now leads West 3-2.

April 22, 2015

ESA maps

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Despite striking first in passing an account based choice program in Arizona and being joined by legislators in Montana, the East took the lead over the West 3 programs to 2 today as Tennessee lawmakers passed an new special needs ESA. Assuming an expected signature in Tennessee, East will lead West either 3-1 or 3-2 depending upon the decision of the Montana governor. Arizona was seen arguing bitterly with the referee that expanding the same program several times should count, but to no avail. Disgruntled West partisans have pinned their hopes for a 4th quarter comeback on Nevada and Missouri.

Congratulations to Tennessee’s sponsors and legislators and especially to the Beacon Center and a great collaborative effort of state based and national allies. This BOOOOOOOOOOOM is for you!

Who’s brave enough to guess the next state to pass an ESA measure?

Also I’ve lost count on the annual Greg vs. Mathews slaughter-fest on private choice enactments, but two enactments from AZ, one from Nevada thus far, one from Mississippi, one from Arkansas and now one from Tennessee. What am I forgetting? If that is all of them Greg is sitting pretty at six.

PBS News Hour on Ohio 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee

April 22, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Balanced piece on Ohio’s reading policies. Interesting that opponents make complaints about retention happening at all and then about the bar being set too low. The firm but incremental approach advocated by Senator Lehner demonstrates both wisdom and resolve in my view.


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