"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The False Choice

Today marks the end of National School Choice week and, after more than 16,000 events nationwide, school choice advocates (aka privatizers) have reason to celebrate. More and more states are jumping on the "choice" bandwagon which means more and more of our public tax dollars are being spent on private and privately owned schools. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that "school choice" is anything more than a way for those private and privately owned schools to choose their students and gain profit. Steven Singer in his latest blog entry titled, Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice, wrote
In reality, it’s just a scam to make private schools cheaper for rich people, further erode the public school system and allow for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help children succeed.
Here are a baker's dozen articles about the false choice of school choice. They cover everything from the lack of public oversight of public funds, to the fact that private doesn't mean better (the articles are listed at the end).

CHOOSING STUDENTS

Public schools have to accept every student that walks in the door.
  • Privately run schools (voucher and charter) don't have to accept all students. They are free to exclude students at the outset, and they often "counsel out" hard-to-teach or expensive-to-teach students 1, 3, 12, 13


LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Churchill said, "...it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time..." Having a democratically elected school board doesn't guarantee that schools will be run well, but at least voters have the ballot box to remedy things if there are problems. Corporate board rooms have no such safeguard.
  • There is a lack of accountability with privately run schools. They have no public school board and instead use privately run board corporate board. If you don't like what they are doing to your child you have no legal options. 1, 13

NO IMPROVED ACHIEVEMENT

Vouchers and charter schools are touted because they supposedly increase student achievement. We've yet to see that happen.
  • Charters and voucher schools do not do a better job of teaching children than do traditional public schools. Research finds that public schools outperform private schools when you adjust for the fact that public schools serve students from different demographic groups than private schools. 1, 6, 7, 12

SEGREGATION

America's schools are now more segregated than they have been since the 1960s.
  • Privatization increases segregation. In fact,  "school choice" originated as a way to avoid integrating schools when Jim Crow was abolished. 1, 9

DAMAGE TO PUBLIC EDUCATION

Instead of giving public tax money away to private corporations and religious institutions which don't do any better at educating children, we should fully fund the public schools which educate the vast majority of children. We're one of only 3 advanced nations in the world who spend more money on wealthy students than we do on poor students. That needs to change.
  • Providing tax money to charter schools and through vouchers reduces the funding for public schools. The state, in effect, funds a second (and third) competing school systems which wastes taxpayer money. The money diverted to charters and vouchers is not invested in public schools which serve most students. Poverty and funding equity are ignored leading to cuts in programming. Currently $1.5 billion of public money is diverted to private schools annually. 1, 2, 8, 10, 12


THE RICH AND POWERFUL

Why are the politically or economically powerful allowed to make educational decisions for the rest of us? Neither Bill Gates nor Eli Broad has any educational training. Allowing them, and others like them, to influence the direction of America's public schools is shortsighted.
  • Privatization is supported by the politically powerful and by billionaires. Many times out-of-state money is used to gain legislative support for privatization. Most americans don't want public money going to private and religious schools. 1, 2, 5, 9, 12

ANTI–UNION
  • Privatization is supported as a way to destroy public sector unions or the public sector in general. 4, 5

LIMITATIONS
  • Only a limited number of students can go to vouchers and charter schools. 2

CHURCH–STATE ENTWINED

Most voucher accepting private schools in Indiana are religious...Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. The Indiana Supreme Court found the practice legal despite the state (and federal) constitution's provision against the public funding of religious institutions. The money, according to the court, belongs to the parents thereby freeing the state of any entanglement with religion. It is, however, just a convenient excuse to provide public funding for religious organizations.
  • Privatization through vouchers threatens church-state separation by funding religious schools 3, 12


LACK OF ACCOMMODATIONS
  • Not all voucher schools meet federal civil rights requirements, such as those in Title VI, Title IX, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Charter schools and voucher accepting private schools often have subpar accommodations for students with disabilities. 4

WE ALL PAY TAXES

Individuals don't receive tax money designated for any other public service. Everyone pays for libraries, municipal bus services, roads, water systems, and public parks – even those who don't use them. The same should be true of public schools.
  • Public Education is a public good. Education is not funded just by parents. We all pay taxes to educate all children because we have decided it's a benefit to society. Parents do not have the right to carve out some of our tax money to pay tuition for their child to attend a private school. This is defunding a public trust. 5, 11

PUBLIC FUNDS REQUIRE PUBLIC OVERSIGHT
  • When they accept public money privately run schools should be required to follow all public rules. Private schools which accept vouchers, and charter schools use a variety of methods to avoid following rules which public schools are required to follow. 5

MISUSE OF TESTING

Public schools are not "failures." "Low performing" schools cannot be blamed completely on teachers, parents, and students. Reducing support to schools because their students score poorly on standardized tests is blaming the victim. Politicians and policy makers need to accept their share of the responsibility for high levels of poverty – the major cause of low test scores.
  • Privatization misuses standardized tests. Privatization needs to blame public schools and public school teachers for "failure," standardized tests are used to rank teachers and schools, a purpose for which they were not designed. 8


REFERENCES
  1. Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice
  2. What Could Be Wrong With School Choice?
  3. 'School Choice Week' - A Dose Of Facts To Counter Voucher Propaganda
  4. What ‘School Choice’ Advocates Won’t Tell You: Voucher Programs Lack Civil Rights Safeguards
  5. Frank Cagle: Lawmakers should kill school vouchers
  6. Do vouchers work? Real data needed, not spin
  7. Survey is ammunition, not illumination
  8. A primer on the damaging movement to privatize public schools (also HERE)
  9. 2015 Medley #30 – Vouchers
  10. ALEC Admits School Vouchers Are for Kids in Suburbia
  11. Vouchers - The Defunding of a Public Trust
  12. 10 Reasons Why Private School Vouchers Should Be Rejected
  13. Why Don’t We Have Real Data on Charter Schools?

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