Every Syracuse public school student can afford college, thanks to a public-private collaboration called Say Yes Syracuse. Support services start in kindergarten. High school graduates get a full scholarship at state colleges and universities — and at many private colleges.
If 2011 was the year of school choice – including tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, charters and vouchers — 2012 was the year of school choice lawsuits, notes Education Next.
Many of the laws, including Indiana’s voucher program, Arizona’s savings accounts, and a new voucher program in Douglas County, Colorado, were challenged in court shortly after passage. These legal challenges stalled reform and kept the school choice movement fighting for a clear identity. Is school choice just for certain student groups, like low-income children, or can it actually change the public school system?
For some laws, such as Indiana’s, a legal challenge did not prevent thousands of students from participating in the program’s first year. In other cases, as with Colorado’s voucher initiative, courts shut down the program just as the school year began, leaving hundreds of students uncertain as to whether they could remain at their new schools.
“Legal challenges to school-choice programs have become as inevitable and painful as death and taxes,” says Clint Bolick, vice president for litigation at the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute.
Amazon will give warehouse workers up to $2,000 in annual scholarships to pursue associate degrees in high-wage, high-demand careers, such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies and nursing.
New Hampshire parents will get help paying for private school or homeschooling. The Legislature voted to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a new parental choice tax credit.
Businesses will receive an 85 percent tax credit for donations to scholarship organizations, which would distribute the scholarships for students to attend private or religious schools. The money could also be used to defray the cost of a home-school education.
The scholarships could only go to families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level – about $70,000 for a family of four.
The program would be limited to $4 million in scholarships in the first year, then $6 million the next year and $8 million the third year.
Race-based scholarships have created a dilemma for Greg at Rhymes With Right. Students are told that the Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members is offering a scholarship to all African American seniors who have a 3.0 average or above. He wonders:
As a teacher, is it ethical for me to provide a recommendation for scholarships that exclude students from consideration based upon race?
No school would promote a scholarship exclusively for white students, he writes. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to make it harder for students to pay for college by boycotting race-based scholarships.
In 1988, 59 fifth graders in a low-income Maryland school were promised a college education by two wealthy businessmen, recounts the Washington Post. The college “dreamers” were given transportation, tutors, field trips, camps and an advisor who followed them through school.
One would become a doctor. One would become a cellist. One would become a UPS driver. One would kill herself. One would kill his father. One would become a politician. One would become a cop. One would become a drug dealer.
Forty-nine graduated from high school or earned GEDs, surpassing the graduation rate in the area, and almost half enrolled in college. But only 11 “dreamers” earned bachelor’s degrees; three of those went on to earn advanced degrees. Another 12 students completed trade school.
Most of the successful “dreamers” were motivated students before the scholarships were offered. Others, growing up in violent, drug-ridden neighborhoods, followed their peers, not the dream of college.
Many of those who made it to college failed their classes and gave up. That’s typical of similar programs. Nationally, “dream” scholarships have increased high school graduation and college enrollment rates, but have not produced many college graduates, according to the “I Have a Dream” Foundation.
Success can’t be measured by a college diploma, concludes Tracy Proctor, who served as the counselor for the 59 students into adulthood. (When the drug dealer was ready to retire, Proctor got him into trade school.)
The doctor and the pharmacist are successes, for sure. But so are the UPS driver and the Prince George’s police officer. They may not have college degrees, Proctor says, but they have a sense of purpose and ambition.
Where did that drive come from? The series profiles Darone Robinson, the most surprising success story in Proctor’s eyes. Almost kicked out of high school for fighting, Robinson almost flunked out of college. But he couldn’t face telling his mother that he’d failed. So Robinson worked harder, raised his grades, earned an IT degree and now lives a middle-class life with his wife and children. Without Proctor’s help, he might not have made it through high school. Without the scholarship, he might not have started college. But what got him through was something that can’t be given.
Florida’s dual-enrollment students are double dipping, analysts complain. After earning a tuition-free associate degree in high school, students use state scholarships to fund three or four years at the University of Florida. Only six percent complete a bachelor’s degree in two years.
California has passed the “Half Dream Act,” which opens state-run private scholarships to undocumented students who’ve graduated from the state’s high schools. But, even if they earn a college degree, undocumented immigrants end up in the same jobs as their parents, concludes a University of Chicago survey. Without legal immigration status, they typically work in construction, restaurants, cleaning and child care.
Also on Community College Spotlight: Most community college students are women, but most athletes are male, reports the New York Times. A Florida college has achieved gender equity by spending to recruit female athletes directly from college and by limiting men’s sports.
By cutting off new students from aid, Congress has condemned Washington, D.C.’s school voucher program to a “slow death,” say leaders of D.C. Parents for School Choice. There was no Christmas miracle for the program, despite evidence that scholarship students do better in reading than similar students who lose the lottery.
Instapundit suggests that private donors step in to fund scholarships to enable low-income children to escape unsafe, chaotic, low-performing schools.
Update: Save DC Kids is trying to keep the scholarships alive with private funding.