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Jeanne Allen Condemns DOJ Action Against Louisiana Vouchers

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CER Statement
Washington, DC
August 25, 2013

Jeanne Allen, founder and president, The Center for Education Reform, today issued the following statement condemning the U.S. Department of Justice for its unprecedented Saturday motion seeking to prevent Louisiana from offering school vouchers to children in certain areas of the Bayou State, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year:

“The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder chose to file this motion on a day of festivities commemorating the March on Washington can only demonstrate one of two things. It either shows that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of vouchers in creating education opportunities for children, or that he has a corrosive cynicism about the power of educational choice to improve educational performance and to meet parent demands for better outcomes.

Perhaps Mr. Holder will explain his actions in coming days, but for me one thing is clear: education is the civil rights issue of our day and equality should guide the manner in which we educate children, not their zip code. School choice programs ignore the artificial boundaries set by politicians and work for the good of all children. The resulting school options have been embraced by parents, not just because they work, but because they are the right thing to do.”

Others who have condemned DOJ’s unprecedented action:

Louisiana Federation for Children:
http://louisiana4children.org/news-releases/obama-admin-files-suit-to-stop-louisiana-children-from-having-access-to-high-quality-educational-options

Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana:
http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=4208

DC Vouchers: Success on All Fronts

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The numbers are in from the 2012-13 school year, and parents with students in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program are overwhelmingly satisfied with schools their children attend, as well as their children’s academic progress.

It’s not hard to see why parents are happy, with 97% of DC OSP students graduating from high school and 91% enrolling at a 2-or-4 year college.

Please see here for the complete Parental Satisfaction & Program Summary for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program 2012-2013.

For more information on school choice, check out Facts on School Choice and the Parent Power Index.

School Choice Indiana to hold voucher info meeting at library

by Amanda Browning
Greensburg Daily News
June 17, 2013

School Choice Indiana will hold an informational meeting for Decatur County parents interested in learning more about the tuition voucher program.

Supporters of the voucher program argue that all schools are not created equal. Whether it be due to the class quality, funding, or some other reason, every school is not the perfect fit for every child, they argue. Private schools are usually smaller institutions that can offer more individual attention to each child, compared to larger public schools that must accommodate many more students. According to the Center for Education Reform, the average tuition for a private elementary school is $6,733 and private secondary school tuition averages $10,549 per year. For many families in Decatur County, that tuition would be so expensive as to prevent low income families from sending children there and perhaps denying children the level of education and attention they require.

One Hoosier organization seeks to change that by informing parents of the educational options available. School Choice Indiana is a non-partisan, statewide non-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding quality education options for Hoosier families. They have several programs Indiana families can use to send their child to a school that best meets the child’s individual educational needs.

The voucher program information meeting will be held at the Greensburg Public Library in the conference room on June 18. The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Local parents that are interested in exploring the available educational options for their children may want to attend. The state’s school voucher program, tax credit scholarships, tax deductions and other forms of school choice will be discussed during the meeting.

For the 2012-2013 school year, more than 9,000 students participated in the program statewide, allowing those children to experience an educational environment that is best suited

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What makes a person who benefitted from choice repel it?

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“Do you have a card?”

She had a huge smile, coming up to me right after I spoke to the NC House Education Committee —the largest, it would seem, in the free world with 53 members (!)– about the need for opportunity scholarships to provide poor children access to quality schools.

“Um, I’ll get you one,” I answered. Then I noticed her sticker on her lapel, which was a circle, with the word vouchers in the middle, and a SLASH through the word.

“Why do you want my card, you clearly don’t agree with me,” I responded.

The inquirer responded – “I just want to know who is paying you; where you get your money.”

Wow. So belief is all about who pays you? I was stunned.

Her name was Elizabeth Haddix, and it turns out Elizabeth works for the UNC School of Law Office of Civil Rights.

During the whole hearing, this man stood behind her, near the door, and cued her with motions and non-verbal hand signals as people were talking. (See minute 44:16 in the video of the hearing below.) He actually looked like the union boss in “Won’t Back Down.” But upon further research, it turns out, he’s the manager of said Office of Civil Rights, and, it would seem, her coach.

It was a quick hearing, and only an hour was allocated for pro- and con-, and the basic introdution of the bill by members, but clearly Elizabeth waited with anticipation to deliver a zinger of remarks… which never came because they had to stop the hearing due to time. Thankfully, the voucher hearing

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Passions High Around School Voucher Bill

by Mark Binker
WRAL
May 21, 2013

In a packed room, the House Education Committee heard Tuesday from supporters and opponents of a plan to give taxpayer-funded scholarships for low income students that attend private schools.

The crowd precluded any committee debate or a vote on the bill, as legislators used the limited time to hear from the public – those in favor and against the Opportunity Scholarship Act

The committee did roll out a new version of the bill and an accompanying summary that explains the bill.

“The bill before you, in reality, will not help the students it is intended to help,” Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told the committee. She focused her comments on the fact that private schools do not have to report student test results and performance in the same way public schools do.

“If a grading scale of A-through-F is good for public schools, then it should be good for private schools,” she said. How else, she asked, would parents know if the private school they are choosing actually offers a better education than their current public school.

Proponents of the bill said that voucher programs in other states have helped improve student test scores.

“I’m struck by the amount of opposition to something some people have never seen working in progress,” said Jeanne Allen is the Founder and President of The Center for Education Reform.

The committee is expected to debate and vote on the bill next week.

TX Senate Committee Approves Tax Credits

“Senate panel OKs measure to fund tuition at religious and private schools”
by Will Weissert, Associated Press
Star-Telegram
April 11, 2013

A state Senate committee on Thursday approved a high-profile school voucher plan, sending it to the full chamber for what could be a fierce floor fight.

Senate Bill 23 by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would offer tax credits to businesses that provide scholarship funding for low-income students who want to transfer from low-performing public schools to private or religious schools.

The bill would allow businesses to write off 100 percent of their state business margins taxes, but it caps the total value of all donations at $100 million.

Patrick, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, says the plan could help as many as 10,000 students transfer.

His committee referred the bill to the Senate, but not before an important modification was approved: To qualify for scholarships, children have to be at risk of dropping out of school and come from low-income families. The measure originally allowed at-risk or low-income students to seek scholarships.

The amendment changing or to and was made by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville.

“I understand the author’s intent with this bill,” Lucio said. “This could give those students who most need educational choice a voucher.”

Patrick accepted the change, saying his intent was “to help students who are poor and in failing schools.”

Lucio responded, “I am for helping poor kids, including keeping them in our public schools.”

To get scholarships, students must come from households with incomes less than 200 percent of that needed to qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has guidelines for who qualifies based on family size.

A family of three can qualify to get reduced-price or free lunches at school if their yearly income doesn’t exceed $36,000. Patrick’s proposal would allow families to seek

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Voucher Victory in Indiana

“Indiana Supreme Court upholds school vouchers”
by Scott Elliott and Tim Evans
Indianapolis Star
March 26, 2013

Public tax dollars may be used to fund private school tuition under Indiana’s voucher program, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled today.

“We hold that the Indiana school voucher program, the choice scholarship program, is within the legislature’s power under Article 8, Section 1, and that the enacted program does not violate either Section 4 or Section 6 of Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution,” the justices wrote in the 5-0 decision.

The ruling, on a teachers union-supported lawsuit from 2011, ends the legal challenge to the program at the state level. The case could be made again in federal court. But in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar program in Ohio, making any further appeal a long shot.

The Indiana case began shortly after the program was created in 2011 when a group of teachers, school officials and parents who oppose vouchers sued the state, arguing the program was unconstitutional.

Vouchers allow low income families to redirect tax dollars from their local public school district to pay tuition when their children transfer to private schools.

In its second year, the program is the fastest-growing in history, jumping to 9,324 students receiving vouchers this school year from 3,919 last year. The program is redirecting more than $38 million in state aid from public schools to private schools, although officials say a provision that guarantees at least 10 percent of a school district’s per pupil amount be returned to the state resulted in a savings of $4.2 million that was redistributed among all public schools last year.

Opponents have argued that vouchers unfairly take away funds that public schools need to benefit primarily religious institutions, especially Catholic and Christian schools. The vast majority of schools accepting vouchers are religiously-affiliated. The

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Newswire: March 19, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 11

THE MAINE EVENT. Earlier this year, Governor Paul LePage expressed his outrage that Maine’s “school systems are failing.” And when the newly-created Charter School Commission rejected four out of five charter applications he called on “…those people, if they’re afraid to do the job, if they can’t put students first, then they ought to resign.” Vowing to go back to square one on reform efforts, the Governor jumping back in the ring to convene a conference this Friday, March 22. The conference will feature sessions on best practices from across the country like Florida’s school performance grading system, school choice, and stretching education dollars. CER President Jeanne Allen, will lead a panel discussion on “Multiple Pathways to Success.”

BATTLE IN THE BAYOU. Today, parents, students, educators and reformers rallied before the Louisiana Supreme Court to defend the Louisiana Scholarship Program. Over 4,500 students across the state benefit from the program which provides scholarships to qualifying students enrolled in underperforming and failing schools, to attend schools of their choice. Former DC Councilman, attorney, advocate, and CER board member Kevin P. Chavous addressed the masses today and said, “I know justice, and it is absolutely criminal to snatch away opportunity from children.” The debate is heating up and attorneys brought their arguments for a showdown today with oral ammunition before the state’s Supreme Court. A ruling on the appeal is not expected for several weeks.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY. As Newswire reported last week, a charter school proposal must still be negotiated in joint House-Senate conference committees. As it stands now, “Mississippi has yet to open the book on what charter schools can really do for the whole of education across the state. Not only is this not significant in any

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TN Governor Touts Vouchers

“Gov. Haslam touts limited school vouchers”
by Andy Sher
Chattanooga Times Free Press
January 29, 2013

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam used his annual State of the State address Monday night to defend his plan to implement a limited school voucher program next fall that would allow impoverished children in 83 low-performing public schools to use tax dollars to attend private institutions.

“Some have said that this administration and General Assembly aren’t committed to public education, but that could not be further from the truth,” Haslam told members of the Republican-run House and Senate meeting in a joint convention.

Noting his administration has been “literally putting our money where our mouth is, even when other states haven’t done so through tough budget times,” Haslam added the state’s education funding formula has been fully funded in his three budgets.

Noting various initiatives his administration has implemented including expansions of publicly funded but privately operated charter schools, Haslam said, “This year we’re proposing to offer another option for school choice” through vouchers. “If we can help our lowest-income students in our lowest-performing schools, why wouldn’t we?

“I’ve heard the argument that this kind of program will drain resources in the schools that need them the most, but we’re focusing on those schools,” said Haslam, who pointed out the state is providing $38 million to the 83 worst-performing schools over a three-year period.

The bill, called the “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act,” is sponsored by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who carry the governor’s package of bills.

Enrollment would be limited in its first year to 5,000 students whose family income makes them eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs. That would grow to 20,000 by the 2016-17 school year.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, charged the administration is “putting forward a radical,

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Improving American Education With School Choice

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