The Mythbusting Never Ends

January 12, 2017


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA’s Perspective carries my latest under the somewhat discouraging title “Ed Choice Mythbusting Never Ends.” At least I’ll never be out of a job:

The funniest thing in the article is where McCloud mocks the emergence of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and then complains about precisely the problem ESAs solve. After making fun of the choice movement for switching from vouchers to ESAs—because apparently it’s a bad sign if you’re willing to move from a good idea to a better one—McCloud asserts that “vouchers would inflate the cost of private education.”

Indeed, vouchers do inadvertently raise private school tuition. That is one reason the movement is switching from vouchers to ESAs, which allow parents to buy education services without creating an artificial tuition floor for schools. It’s also true that even ESAs raise economic demand for education services in general—but that’s just another way of saying they empower parents to pay for those services!

McCloud’s article provides a public service in one respect: It collects almost all the school choice myths in one place. Maybe I don’t mind so much if the defenders of the status quo make my job easy after all.

As always, your thoughts are appreciated!

The Florida Legislature Renames Florida ESA for Senator Gardiner over his humble objection

October 20, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

In this time of cynical politics it is refreshing to see something as fantastic as this floor debate in the Florida Senate.  Earlier this year the sponsor of a bill to expand Florida’s ESA program for special needs children offers an amendment on the floor to rename the program after Senate President Gardiner, a special needs father and advocate and the original sponsor of the legislation. Gardiner objected and appealed to the Senator to drop his amendment, noting that he had promised to send the bill over to the Florida House without amendment.  Not to be thwarted, the Senators secure a release from this promise from the Speaker of the Florida House, and then the Senate co-sponsors the amendment 39-0.

There is still some good in this world Mr. Frodo- and it is worth fighting for.

UPDATE: I am told that after all of this Senator Gardiner still refused to allow the program to be named after him, so the legislature named it after his family instead.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Nevada ESA Ruling

September 30, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I’ve read a few school choice related Supreme Court decisions over the years, but I’ve never seen anything quite like the ruling that the Nevada Supreme Court made yesterday. To this untrained reader, it appears to be a determined exercise in cutting the baby.

The decision reads very cleanly until the matter of standing arises. Standing involves being able to demonstrate some personal harm, and the Court implicitly acknowledges a lack of harm on the part of the plaintiffs by creating an exception to standing out of whole clothe in the ruling:


So…..I am inferring from this that under the standing requirements that existed for every previous case in the history of the state of Nevada, that the Nevada Supreme Court would have felt compelled to acknowledge the obvious truth that the plaintiffs had claimed harm when in fact none actually existed. I’m no lawyer, and I don’t play one on television, but I’m also astonished that the Court felt free to willy-nilly change standing requirements unilaterally and in the late stages of an important case.  If you can explain to me how this makes the least bit of sense, and it not entirely arbitrary and capricious, please feel free to educate me in the comments.

Having performed this incredibly one sided act of mental gymnastics, the court moves on to consideration of constitutional issues. First up, our old friend the “uniformity clause.” Quite rightly, the Court squashes this bug of a claim under their boot:


Jolly good, moving on to sectarian purpose Blaine claim. This is where the Court makes a potentially very far-reaching conclusion:


Note that this was an argument that Nick Dranias and I made in our paper for the Goldwater Institute that made the case for the Arizona ESA as a replacement for the voucher program for children with disabilities: that once a set of mutual benefits between a parent and the state had been realized that funds deposited into an account were private rather than public funds. Jason does a great job of expounding on this point in his Cato post on the decision and how this precedent is followed in other policy areas. No one can claim that a state worker cannot use their salary to pay for Catholic school tuition for instance- as the check from the state is exchanged for the labor of the worker and thus becomes private funds. Likewise in an ESA, the state realizes the benefit of paying for a traditional education for the child, and the parent realizes the benefit of flexibility under the rules of the account.

The Arizona ESA decision implicitly recognized this argument, but the Nevada decision explicitly embraces it.

After that we get back into agony, with the court sifting through a complex mess of requirements and dates of bills passing. Basically in the end the court emphatically holds that ESAs are constitutional, but finds that the way the legislature funded the ESA program was itself not constitutional. Basically the program exists but currently has no funding.

So where does this leave things?  It leaves the 7,000+ students who applied for NVESA out in the cold. As the Wall Street Journal noted today, a looming special session on building a football stadium for an out of state billionaire also represents an opportunity to fund the educations of thousands of Nevada children.

Let’s see what happens next.




September 20, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Texas Business Leadership Council and Excel in Ed teamed up to publish a new white paper by yours truly called The Yellow Rose The Achilles Heel of Texas: Improving College Eligibility Rates through K-12 Savings AccountsBottom line: only a minority of Texas public school students get prepared for even a moderately selective college or university, and the percentage moves to catastrophically low levels when looking at the ethnic minority student groups which now constitute a large majority of Texas students. Meanwhile an annual 90k+ of new students per year has been driving resources out of the classroom and into debt, with no end in sight and an aging population that will slow revenue growth and create new costly problems in health care and pensions.

Judging from the number of applications received in the first year of NVESA, enrollment growth in Texas could be substantially slowed by a universal ESA program, which would give the public system a chance to focus resources away from the debt spiral of constantly building new facilities and then surrounding them with portable buildings. We could expect such a system to have the well-established positive effects for both participating and non-participating students, but also represents an opportunity for low-income students especially to save and build assets for future higher education expenses.