West Overtakes East in Improbable 2015 Comeback

June 4, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

While East leads West 3 ESA programs to 2, West has pulled an improbable victory over East with much broader eligibility.

To wit:

The once lonely Arizona program has been joined by neighboring Nevada. The Arizona ESA makes around a quarter of Arizona public school students eligible to participate. The new kid on the Western bloc makes 100% of public school students eligible.

While East has three programs, wonderful programs I might add, all three focus exclusively on special needs students, and in two out of three cases not even all special needs students.

I’m calling it: West is your leader in the clubhouse.


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.

 

 


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…


Mississippi Legislature Passes Account Based Choice Program for Special Needs Students

March 26, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Mississippi Senate concurred with the House special needs ESA bill today, sending the measure to the Governor, who is a strong supporter. Mississippi thus becomes the nation’s third state with an account based parental choice program. Special congratulations to the bill sponsors and tireless supporters for a successful two-year struggle, the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, Empower Mississippi and especially the parents who fought so hard for this legislation. Awesome team effort that paid off in the end.

!!BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!

Also today a special needs voucher  bill passed the Arkansas house 90-0.


Peshek on ESA legislation around the nation

March 11, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

My colleague Adam Peshek has a post up about the progress of ESA legislation around the country, including the above map. I would like to again thank my friends in the Arizona school district industrial lobbying complex. Without their having made the grave mistake of filing suit against two tiny voucher programs for children with special needs and foster care students, we would not be having this conversation today!

Most of the bills are in fact conversation starters, but one of those (in Virginia) passed one house and failed on a tie vote in the other.

Which state will be the next to turn red on Adam’s map? As an old football coach once told me “it depends on who is the bestus and wants it the mostus.”

Stay tuned to this channel…

UPDATE : The Mississippi House passed a special needs pilot program today 65-51, now heads to the Senate to be reconciled. Oklahoma effort pushed to next year’s session.

UPDATE Part Deux: Rhode Island has an ESA effort underway.


Florida’s Katie Swingle testifies on ESA: “I want the rest of the country to watch this”

March 8, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

“Mrs. Swingle gave the close on the bill” indeed.


Mississippi Senate Passes ESA

February 11, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Congrats to Senator Nancy Collins on passing Senate Bill 2695.

 

 

 

 


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