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North Carolina Could Learn From Florida (Camille Rodgers)

My name is Camille Rodgers and I am the mother of seven children.  My oldest is in college.  I have been around and through the public school scene for a long time-some 16-plus years.  Until two years ago we lived in Florida where there was an array of school choice options for my children’s education.  I was so excited when my children were able to attend a private school through a corporate-sponsored scholarship program.  It was such a blessing! The education my children were receiving was far and away superior to anything my children had experienced in the public school realm.

My husband took a job offer in North Carolina and two years ago we moved here.  I began searching for the options available to North Carolinian school-aged children and was horrified at the absence of choices.  Not only are there no scholarship opportunities nor vouchers for poorly performing schools, but even the magnet and charter schools were few and far between.  We live in a rural area, and our only options are the public school or homeschooling.  That’s all I can find.  

I wrote the elected officials for my area and asked for their assistance.  They essentially told me I didn’t have any options, and they weren’t interested in making any available.  They told me they fully supported the public school system and would only be interested in promoting that agenda.  I guess the education unions have deep pockets around here.

I went to enroll my elementary-aged children into the public school system here.  I met with the principal and asked specific questions in regards to why the school’s math scores were going down and reading scores were remaining flat on the North Carolina School Report Card.  She acted floored and said she didn’t know

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School Choice and Adolescence in America (Michael Strong)

On May 11, 2006, the Stanford Center on Adolescence held a symposium titled “Positive Youth Development in our Time: The Age of Purpose.” The advertisement for the conference claimed, “The experience may change the way you think about young people and the role you can play in fostering youth purpose.”

William Damon, Director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, is one of the founders of the “positive youth development movement” (PYD). He described it as “a new approach with a more affirmative and welcoming vision of young people.” Based in part on resiliency studies that show that many children thrive in the face of adversity, it acknowledges that the characteristics associated with resiliency include “persistence, hardiness, achievement motivation, hopefulness, a sense of purpose, and more.” Damon goes on to say that

“Research in the PYD developmental tradition has taken seriously the role of moral and religious beliefs in shaping children’s identities and perspectives on the future, and research has demonstrated a strong relationship between religious faith and at-risk children staying out of trouble.”

So in May, 2006, we have an opportunity to learn a “new approach” that may “change the way we think about young people” based on findings that children thrive in the face of adversity when they learn “persistence, hardiness, achievement motivation, hopefulness, and a sense of purpose” based on “moral and religious beliefs.” Although Damon deserves kudos for recognizing the politically incorrect truth that “moral and religious beliefs” are relevant to adolescent well-being, most parents knew it fifty years ago.

In the 1955 Milton Friedman proposed educational vouchers that would allow children to attend private schools with public moneys. Friedman’s proposal was dismissed in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. By the 1980s Brookings Institution researchers John Chubb and Terry Moe were coming to the conclusion

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The Future of D.C. School Choice (Dan Lips)

More than 1,800 disadvantaged children in Washington, D.C., are now using federally funded tuition scholarships to attend private schools. But as the scholarship program’s congressional reauthorization approaches, whether these children will have that opportunity in the future is uncertain. 

In 2004, President Bush signed legislation to create the D.C. opportunity scholarship program, which offered tuition scholarships worth up to $7,500 for students from families with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line for a family of four. Students receiving scholarships can attend any of 66 participating private schools.  

Now in its third year, the program aids 1,800 students from families with an average income of $21,100, or 106 percent of the poverty line. These students’ families are some of the most disadvantaged in the community. 

The scholarships have proven popular among parents. According to the Washington Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit that administers the program, nearly 6,500 students have applied for scholarships over the past three years, or about three applicants for each scholarship slot. In all, about 11 percent of eligible low-income students have applied. 

So far, studies of the program’s results have been encouraging. A 2005 Georgetown University study found that many parents reported that their children “became more confident, performed better academically, and possessed increased enthusiasm after joining” the opportunity scholarship program.  

A 2006 Manhattan Institute report suggested that the program would promote racial integration, as participating students would likely use their scholarships to leave more segregated public schools to attend more integrated private schools.  

Next year, the most important evaluation of the program will be released. This study will determine whether the program is having an academic impact on participating children. To date, eight similar studies have evaluated similar programs across the country, comparing the test scores of students receiving vouchers to a control group of peers who remained in

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