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!

 


“Pawns” can become Queens if not carelessly sacrificed

August 4, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Florida Education Association has filed suit in an effort to kill SB 850, that included the creation of the Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts, Florida’s new ESA program. The Goldwater Institute has intervened in the case on behalf of a group of parents enrolled in the new program. During the press conference, a radio reporter asked the parents the following question:

Rick Flagg: This is one for the parents in general, whoever wants to (take it). Your bill was going to pass, regardless. And then the Legislature stuck the corporate voucher provision on there, making this lawsuit inevitable. I’d like to know how you feel about the Legislature doing that to you, and in effect using your kids as pawns in the voucher fight. That’s not for you …

PLSA parent Ashli McCall: I don’t mind being exploited in this manner because I believe in it.

Rick Flagg: Does everyone pretty much agree with that? (Heads nod.) And you’re okay now with them using your kids as the face for this lawsuit? You’re okay with being used as pawns again?

Clint Bolick: I object obviously to the characterization.

Rick Flagg: How would you describe it then?

Clint Bolick: I would describe it as a program that was made part of an omnibus education reform bill. And these parents, are they in jeopardy of losing those opportunities? No question about it. How is that being made a pawn?

How indeed?

I have never met Mr. Flagg, but I assume that he’s a swell guy who loves his momma, waives the flag on the 4th of July and cheers for his favorite sports teams. Flagg may simply have his cynicism cannon pointed in the wrong direction.  Perhaps if he knew more about the travails of students with special needs and their parents, he wouldn’t second guess the decision of parents to participate in the program or to defend it in court. If Mr. Flagg had walked in the shoes of parents facing these challenges, it would not seem implausible to him that they might want to participate in a program that provides the opportunity for a truly individualized education plan for their child. It has been, after all, the unfulfilled promise of special education law from the outset.

The following is my distillation of the history of the travails of special education parents and students, as related by a joint project of the Progressive Policy Institute and the Thomas B.. Fordham Foundation. If you want to double-check me read it for yourself here. My summary is as follows:

Back in the early 1970s, a reported 1,000,000 special needs children were denied access to public schools.  As in, sorry, we don’t take your kind around here denied access to public schools. The federal government took action to put an end to this discrimination. While the legislation that evolved into today’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act stands as a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, it did not fulfill the promise of an “individual education plan” for every child with a disability.  The federal government had promised to pick up 40% of the costs for special education services, but never entirely followed through. Educators complain endlessly about paperwork requirements and bureaucratic procedures. The PPI/FF tome describes the process in-school process for identifying and developing an education plan “an invitation for conflict” between schools and parents. Parents have a right to sue when districts fail to provide an appropriate education (2% of special needs children nationwide attend private schools at public expense either directly or indirectly as a result of this provision) but this is an option far more available to wealthy families due to the cost of specialized services.  What started as a system for granting access and providing individual education plans devolved into a system of CYA whereby districts wished to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit and far too many parents were left deeply disaffected. Process became the focus, not outcomes.

Despite the fact that only a tiny minority of special education students have debilitating disabilities precluding academic progress, an attitude of warehousing is not far from the surface among too many people. For instance, a school district official made the following statement to the Arizona Republic in 2011 regarding the state’s grading system and the emphasis on the gains of low-performing students:

“Our concern is that many of those in the lowest 25 percent are special-education students and . . . will probably always have a hard time.”

This prophecy is not only disgusting but falls straight into the self-fulfilling category: kids will automatically face a hard time if the adults in charge of their education don’t believe they can make academic progress. Mind you that like all other public schools, Arizona districts receive additional funds for special needs students, but bristle at the thought of being held to account for the learning progress of those students. One can only draw the inference that they see their role as warehousing special needs children, not educating them. The soft bigotry of low-expectations lives and breathes.

The PLSA parents are not pawns- they are doing what the parents of special needs children have been forced to do for decades: fighting for their children. If the FEA suit prevails, they lose the ability to take control of the education of their child. They have a direct interest in the outcome, and decided not to be a passive “collateral casualty” of the teacher’s union. The less the special education system operates as a “take it or leave it” system for those who cannot afford expensive attorneys the more children we will see reach their potential. Mr. Flagg lives in a state that has made remarkable progress for special needs children in public school while not coincidentally making them all eligible to attend a public or private school of their choice, so let’s avoid any pretense that this is going to hurt the public school system.

So my question for Mr. Flagg is as follows: if you were forced to repeat life as a special needs child, would you want your parents to have an opt-out for you if they found you in a school run by people checking off boxes on a form, unconcerned with your progress, and displaying the attitude expressed above? If not, why would you make yourself a willing pawn-a mere funding unit- of a public school ignoring your needs?  Even pawns have the potential to become a queen if not carelessly sacrificed.

If so, welcome to the parental choice movement. All is forgiven.

 

 

 

 

 


17,000 march in support of Charter Schools in NYC

October 10, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Looks like a big battle looming in Gotham.  I predict DeBlasio’s notion of charging rent to certain types of public schools (charters) but not to others (districts) will end in tears one way or another if he is foolish enough to pursue it. Equal protection under the law anyone?

NYC charter supporters should be calling Clint Bolick about now.


Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick on Immigration in the WSJ

January 25, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick are teaming up for a book on immigration that will come out in March, and previewed their thinking today in the Wall Street Journal. Read the article here. Basic thesis:

In some conservative circles, the word “comprehensive” in the context of immigration reform is an epithet—a code word for amnesty. People who oppose such reform declare that securing the United States border must come before moving toward broader reform.

Such an approach is shortsighted and self-defeating. Border security is inextricably intertwined with other aspects of immigration policy. The best way to prevent illegal immigration is to make sure that we have a fair and workable system of legal immigration. The current immigration system is neither.

The immigration system is like a jigsaw puzzle. If one or more pieces are out of whack, the puzzle makes no sense. To fix the system, Congress must make sure all of the pieces fit together, logically and snugly.

NYT on Clint Bolick

December 26, 2011

 (Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The New York Times has a very nice feature on Clint and the GI litigation team.  That scorpion may have to hunt and peck to type, but the sting packs a wallop!


States to Protect Health Care Freedom?

November 19, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

George Will wrote a column today about an effort to protect Arizonans from being forced to buy health insurance or to ban the right to privately purchase medical care by Obamacare.

If Obamacare passes, the people of Arizona may give it the proverbial single finger salute. Other states may as well.

The proposed initiative reads:

No law shall be passed that restricts a person’s freedom of choice of private health care systems or private plans of any type. No law shall interfere with a person’s or entity’s right to pay directly for lawful medical services, nor shall any law impose a penalty or fine, of any type, for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participation in any particular health care system or plan.

Clint Bolick notes that the federal protection of individual rights have always served as a floor, not a ceiling. If both Obamacare and this language passed, an interesting legal battle would ensue. Money quote from the column:

The court says the constitutional privacy right protects personal “autonomy” regarding “the most intimate and personal choices.” The right was enunciated largely at the behest of liberals eager to establish abortion rights. Liberals may think, but the court has never held, that the privacy right protects only doctor-patient transactions pertaining to abortion. David Rivkin and Lee Casey, Justice Department officials under the Reagan and first Bush administrations, ask: If government cannot proscribe or even “unduly burden” — the court’s formulation — access to abortion, how can government limit other important medical choices?

How indeed? This would all be much better if judges simply rediscovered an ability to read the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, but if you can’t “unduly burden” abortion how are you supposed to “unduly burden” an individual’s right to pay a heart surgeon or have an appendix removed?

Hopefully the Senate will kill Obamacare, but if not, the fight can be carried on by other means. If some states passed such amendments and other did not, get ready for the second great doctor migration. I had a Canadian doctor growing up in southeast Texas in the 1970s. Any guesses why?


Bolick on School Choice and the Election

July 17, 2008

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Clint Bolick, recovering from an accident in Wyoming, nevertheless managed to hit the Wall Street Journal this week on education and the Presidential election:

Education is slipping in priority among many voters but not among Hispanics, many of whom see school choice as a deciding factor in whom to vote for this fall. This has implications for the presidential election.

A new poll shows that 82% of Hispanics consider education as one of three most important issues facing this country. The survey also shows that, even while Hispanics trust Democrats over Republicans on education by more than a two-to-one margin, that ratio could change if Republicans heavily promote school choice while Democrats oppose it.

The poll was conducted last year among more than 800 registered Hispanic voters for the Alliance for School Choice and the Hispanic Coalition for Reform and Educational Options, but never publicly released. It was conducted by two polling firms, The Polling Company (which works primarily for Republicans) and the Ampersand Agency, (which polls mostly for Democrats).

This survey found that although Hispanic voters generally consider public schools to be effective, they also favor, by a wide margin, school choice (defined as allowing parents a choice in whether to spend their children’s education dollars in public or private schools).

Fifty-two percent of Hispanic voters have a favorable view of school choice, according to the poll, while only 7% had an unfavorable view. When asked about vouchers specifically, 32% expressed a favorable opinion compared to 13% unfavorable.

But where the poll really gets interesting is on school choice as an electoral issue: 65% of those surveyed reported that they would be more likely to support a candidate for office who supports school choice, including 35% who said they would be “much more likely.” Only 19% said they would be less likely to vote for a pro-school choice candidate.

These numbers were high regardless of whether the person was of Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban descent. They also transcended party affiliation: 67% of Republicans, 70% of independents and 63% of Democrats preferring pro-school choice candidates. And 70% of those who prefer pro-school choice candidates — including 66% of Democrats — said they would cross party lines to vote for a candidate who supports school choice over one who opposes it.

Barack Obama has hinted at being open to serious education reform. Before the Wisconsin primary in February, he praised Milwaukee’s highly successful school-voucher program. But, facing furious criticism from the establishment, which is disproportionately influential in Democratic politics, he backtracked.

John McCain has been a consistent supporter of school choice and passionately endorsed it during one of the Republican debates, although the issue is far from a mainstay of his campaign. His appointment of pro-school choice former Arizona Superintendent Lisa Graham Keegan as his campaign’s top education adviser may signal a new emphasis.

Sen. Obama will count heavily on teachers’ unions for support. The unions, though, have nowhere else to go. Hispanics do. If Mr. Obama opposes school choice, he will cede to his opponent a huge opportunity to make inroads among Hispanic voters — if Sen. McCain seizes it.

Hispanic votes will be crucial in key battleground states, including Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. George W. Bush won 40% of Hispanic votes in 2004, but support slipped to 30% for GOP congressional candidates in 2006. Mr. Obama fared poorly among Hispanics in the presidential primaries, while Mr. McCain carried 74% of Hispanic votes when he won re-election to the Senate in 2004. All that adds up to this: Hispanics voting on school choice could tip the balance of the election.

Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly young and have exhibited a propensity toward political independence — and no issue is more tangible for them than educational opportunity. If Hispanics align their voting with the educational interests of their children, it could alter the electoral landscape — not merely for this election, but permanently.


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