Friedman: Competition drives innovation

Competition from charter and private schools is the key to transforming education, concludes Pursuing Innovation, a new report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

District school students make achievement gains when their schools are competing with charters or private schools that accept school vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, according to 30 of 42 studies analyzed.
MPCPMPSACTMost educational choice programs result in “modest improvements” at district schools, the report found.

However, in Florida (tax-credit scholarships) and Milwaukee (vouchers), “significant increases in publicly funded educational options resulted in bigger increases in public school students’ achievement.”

Despite significant improvement in Milwaukee’s district schools, the city’s choice students outperform Milwaukee Public Schools students in math and, especially, in English Language Arts. On Wisconsin’s statewide “Badger” tests, choice students did better than similar students in district schools.

“Empowering parents with the ability to choose a school that best suits the child’s needs is working in Wisconsin and resulting in students performing better academically,’ said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children.

Nevada OKs vouchers for all

Starting next school year, Nevada parents will be able to use public funds to pay for private or parochial school, an online learning program or the costs of homeschooling, reports the Washington Post. Low-income families or students with disabilities can receive $5,700 per year, what the state spends per student. More affluent families will receive about $5,100 a year.

Including local and federal funding, Nevada public schools received an average of $8,339 per student in 2013, well below the national average of $10,700.

Parents, teachers and students wore yellow scarves to rally for school choice in Carson City, Nevada.

Parents, teachers and students wore yellow scarves to rally for school choice proposals in Carson City, Nevada.

Under the new law, children must be enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days before they can use the money, which will be held in an Education Savings Account.

Choice advocates are pushing the idea in Georgia, Iowa and Rhode Island.

Since 2006, 27 states have opted for vouchers, tax credits for donations to scholarship funds or education savings accounts, notes the Post. Most programs are limited to low-income or disabled students.

Earlier this year, the Nevada legislature approved tax credits to businesses that donate money to a scholarship fund to help low-income students attend private schools.

The Friedman Foundation, which backs the Nevada plan, identified a Las Vegas parent who hopes to use the new vouchers.

Aurora Espinoza, a single mother who works as a solar-panel sales representative, said her children’s current public schools — which are among the nation’s fastest-growing — are so crowded that it’s hard for them to learn.

She hopes to enroll her daughters in a private school next year.


Choice rules: Red tape or red herring?

redtapecover (1)

Most private schools will participate in choice programs, even if they’re held accountable for students’ achievement, concludes a new Fordham study, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring? Only 25 percent of schools listed state testing requirements as very or extremely important to their decision about whether to participate, but more than half worry about preserving their admissions criteria and religious practices. Fifty-eight percent of non-participating schools cited paperwork burdens and mandatory open-enrollment policies as important factors.

Fordham looked at 13 different school choice models and found very different regulatory burdens. Arizona’s “individual” tax credit scholarship is the least burdened by regulation, while Milwaukee’s long-running voucher program “has accumulated more rules as it has grown older and larger.”

Tax-credit programs will maximize participation by private schools, but “lose a measure of accountability,” researchers conclude.

A record 255,000 children are using vouchers and tax-credit scholarships to attend private school, according to The ABCs of School Choice by the Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice. “The ABCs” describes the 39 private school choice programs in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

Florida vouchers draw lowest achievers

Voucher schools don’t “cherry pick” the best students, writes Jon East on redefinED.  Students who use the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship are among the lowest performers at the low-performing public schools they leave behind, according to a new study (pdf) by Cassandra Hart, a UC-Davis education professor.

Compared to other low-income students at their public schools, voucher students are poorer and earn lower test scores. They’re more likely to be black. They’ve left schools with low scores and high rates of violence. In addition, voucher-using students tend to have few public school choices nearby, but a variety of accessible private schools.

Parents have to go to effort and some expense to qualify for a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, so these are the children of committed parents. However, that commitment hasn’t translated into academic success, Hart finds.