2017 in review

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So…let’s start with the good news: despite dire predictions of apocalypse, human civilization is still alive and kicking. No global trade wars broke out, the economy shows signs of life. If you google around a bit you can learn things like that the Trump administration is running at about half of the pace for deportations from the Obama administration peak.

That’s all I have to say about that. Ok I take it back-you should also read this. Keep your fingers crossed.

The early days of 2017 looked like the year might be a complete K-12 dumpster fire as (too) much of ed reform world went into a Patty Hearst level of Stockholm Syndrome. The response to the K-12 version of the polarization trap went in the direction of “Gaghghghghgh!!!! The sky is falling!!!!! Quick make something up about Detroit charter schools!”

It should be obvious now that this was overwrought. As it happens 2017 goes into the books as a mixed year on the choice front, contra the fears of DeVosaphobes. Advances in Illinois, North Carolina and Wisconsin were offset by a setback in Nevada and a cliffhanger in Arizona. The initial drama surrounding the prospect for federal legislation eventually simmered towards an incremental approach sans apocalypse. Kentucky passed a charter school law, but not one likely to produce many charter schools. There are people getting excited for and against the 529 provision, but color me mostly meh. Other provisions of the tax bill may wind up being more significant.

There was a lot of discussion of ESSA plans. I’m not sure why. Perhaps 2018 will see more of the ESSA cottage industry think through the implications of NGO school rating systems. What’s that? Okay I’ll mark my calendar for 2084. Later?!? Fine. Meanwhile approximately 3,650,000 additional Baby Boomers reached the age of 65 in 2017. No one on either side of the aisle in DC seemed to notice. Arguments over inaugural crowd sizes and Russian conspiracy theories took precedence. Excuse me 2018? I’ll have another 3.65m please! Oh and send the check over to the kiddie table.

Perhaps the most encouraging news I heard this year came from the Modern States Project. MSP developed MOOCs and free online textbooks designed to allow students to pass AP/CLEP courses for only the cost of the exam (~$85.) This looks like a straightforward solution to the credit problem, at least in lower level courses and inches the ball closer to free.

The 2017 NAEP will be released in a few months. Election years don’t usually serve as the setting for broad K-12 reforms, but my money is on Greg beating Mathews yet again.

Let’s see what happens next.






8 Responses to 2017 in review

  1. George Mitchell says:

    It’s a sad day when what happened in Wisconsin can be in the same sentence with “advances.” Scott Walker blew off choice supporters who brought him a constructive agenda in late 2016. His administration gave false signals of encouragement and then proposed nothing.

    • MatthewLadner says:

      Yes but some pretty good stuff passed anyway did it not?

      • George Mitchell says:

        Not to my knowledge. Supposed allies in the Senate blocked a plan to raise income limits statewide to Milwaukee levels. Walker admin had signaled it did not approve. So a meager increase as OK’d. Walker’s specific pledges in 2010 and 2012 to address huge gap in $ funding between choice and public schools have long been abandoned. Walker instead advanced a “historic” $600m increase in K-12 funding. Total betrayal.

      • George Mitchell says:

        A housekeeping bill that cleaned up some administrative stuff was passed. There has been some success on that front in the last two sessions. That’s what now passes as good news in a state where Scott Walker and the GOP have been in control for 8 years. WI doesn’t even enter the conversation anymore as being a national leader. Yet as researchers at Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and elsewhere have documented, choice and charter students do as well (and often better) on state exams and have higher graduation and college attendance rates.

    • MatthewLadner says:

      The JS write up confirms the incremental nature of what happened in 2017: https://amp.jsonline.com/amp/647900001

      I’m pleased with the development of a special needs program in WI, all the more so given the disengenuous effort by choice opponents on the sped front. Overall though this is getting a runner on base rather than crushing the ball.

      • George Mitchell says:

        Per School Choice Wisconsin, here’s the progress in WI since 2010:

        1. Where there was one program (Milwaukee) there now are four (Milwaukee, Racine, statewide, and special needs).

        2. Student participation has grown from 21,000 to 36,500.

        3. Eligibility is limited to families at 300% of federal poverty level in Milwaukee and Racine and 225% of FPL statewide (No income limit for special needs program.)

        4. No enrollment caps in Milwaukee or Racine. Elsewhere the statewide program is limited to 2% of eligible students, a % that grows by 1 percentile point per year until the cap is lifted in mid-2020s.

        Much additional information is at the SCW website.

      • George Mitchell says:

        I have now learned more about fundamental changes the new Wisconsin state budget that strengthen the state’s nascent special needs voucher. They constitute real progress. Principal credit goes to State Senator Leah Vukmir and below-the-radar work by School Choice Wisconsin.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Also a setback in Colorado.

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