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Is Vincent Gray a liar, or just not paying attention?

popquizDC’s Mayor Vincent Gray and other school choice opponents took some time out yesterday, a day that saw a renewal of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program thanks to the CR budget compromise in the House and Senate, to decry what they see is that program’s theft of federal funds from the city’s public schools.

What?!

The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program provides supplemental funding for scholarships that are made available to the District’s poorest families, offering them a lifeline out of failing neighborhood schools.

And it doesn’t stop there.

The legislation (supplemental, remember, above and beyond typical funding for DCPS) provides $40 million EXTRA dollars a year to traditional DC public schools and charter schools.

So…

POP QUIZ

This means:

A) He is a liar

B) He has never taken the time read the legislation (then or now) and his staff is lying to him

C) The teachers union contributed handsomely to his campaign war chest

D) He will say anything to appease his supporters, even if it means robbing traditional public and charter schools of tens of millions of dollars, and thousands of kids of their educational future

(Answer: Thee of these answers are correct, but it is unclear as to which three.)

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Fast Tracking the Status Quo

clock(Originally posted to the National Journal‘s Education Experts blog.)

Perhaps it’s not so unusual that the same person who fought to get a waiver from NCLB’s tutoring requirement is the same person who is pushing a fast track for making the bill’s requirements more flexible. When some of Arne Duncan’s Chicago schools were failing kids, he asked then Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for a waiver from the requirement that students be permitted to leave and take their tutoring money elsewhere. Arne Duncan thought he could do tutoring better than the private sector, so he sought to deliver tutoring rather than send the money out of house. There’s no data on whether it worked, and some in Chicago say not much changed during that period of time following NCLB, other than a heightened awareness of the problem and a tenacity by Duncan to pursue some modest, external reforms (charters, some contracting). Once a school superintendent, always a school superintendent. And while Duncan is not the issue, his brand of reform puts Superintendents and school boards in the driver’s seat. Problem is, last time they drove that car, it kept getting banged up.

But it was NCLB’s teeth – the threat of loss of money or worse – that got people motivated. The hard, fast consequences of accountability, and the spotlight on data, however challenged by differing vantage points, prevented the country from hiding the shameful state of education in our schools, from the world or ourselves…

Read the entire post HERE.

(*Image courtesy of yellowcloud)

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A Rush to Judgement

judgeSenator Durbin used Wednesday’s hearing on Washington, DC public schools to broadcast what feels like a last ditch effort on his part to remove continuation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program from consideration, and frankly, making thinly veiled accusations of mismanagement and fraud when he himself admits to lacking all of the details speaks of desperation.

While there may be a legitimate question of the program’s transparency, if that truly is an obstacle to continuation, it is one that can easily be removed. What cannot be questioned is the fact that DC OSP families have seen the education and futures of their students dramatically changed for the better because of their participation.

Perhaps the most scrutinized and vetted federal education reform program in history, mountains of research and hours of testimony before Congress by experts, educators, parents and students should speak for itself, pointing to increased student achievement, safety and satisfaction.

This small $14 million program has proven itself to be effective on many levels, and yet billions upon billions are heaped into pork legislation, pet projects and favors without so much as a raised eyebrow? This year, public schools across the country have been the recipients of the largest influx of monies ever allotted to education. Rather than fighting what works, Senator Durbin and his teachers union supporters would better serve the kids he so strongly “defends” in his war on the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program by thoroughly following the $100 billion pledged to the country’s schools and ensuring that it not continue to fund failing and broken programs.

Save Opportunity

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If a tree falls in the forest…

treeThe IES impact evaluation of the 3rd year of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was quietly released today.

A Friday.

And Congress is on a two-week holiday.

Think it made a big splash?

Hiding in the bland research language are some nice findings:

  • Opportunity Scholars are outpacing their former public school classmates on reading tests by a gap of more than 3 months of learning time. While their math scores are not rising at a similar rate, they average the same or slightly better than their counterparts.
  • As in previous impact studies, families report that participating in the program has had a positive impact on their students, stressing safety as a primary area of satisfaction.

Bottom line (yet again): kids are learning, achieving, and thriving in safer school environments – all for a laughably smaller amount than it would cost to educate them in D.C.’s public school system.

The report will be required weekend reading for many and a more detailed analysis will come to light.

While it’s nice that Congress will have this data when re-authorization hearings convene, it would have been nicer if they had actually been around to receive the report.

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Opportunity Knocks

It looks like Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), a longtime proponent of D.C. voting rights, would like to hinge his support of District residents winning a voice in Congress on further renewal of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher system allowing more than 1,700 D.C. children to attend schools of their choosing after having been failed by those to which they are traditionally assigned.

Perhaps the Senator read this.

Or, he could have watched this:

(h/t to Flypaper)

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Welcome to Washington's Food Fight, Mr. Smith

foodfightJust as Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferson Smith did upon his cinematic arrival in Washington, this year’s Capitol newbies will encounter the three major political “food” groups – The Know-It Alls, The Pessimists and The Relativists.  If they are lucky, or smart, or just plain good, they may find themselves associating with a lesser known but more effective commodity – the more principled drivers of change, The Reformers.

Unlike the Reformers, the Know-It-Alls are the Washington establishment, which on the whole believe that everything being done now in the federal government is as it should be, is being done for a reason and must simply be sustained and grown – not changed one bit. It’s good, it’s comfortable and it all seems to work for them. Don’t worry about effectiveness or review. That’s for the pessimists.

The Pessimists don’t really believe things are working well, but they require hard, fast proof before they accept anything new.  They complain that things aren’t funded enough and that the government needs more regulation, not less (indeed, they are pessimists and believe the people cannot really govern themselves).  They believe that our rights have been taken away by various agencies and public bodies. The Pessimists cast a dark cloud over anything that may suggest more choice and freedom – particularly in education.  How can you trust them, afterall?

The Relativists are on everybody’s side.  There is no deal too compromising for them.  You have your opinion, I have mine. They are all equal. There’s really no right or wrong (except in the opposite political party).  If you really believe in a cause, the relativists are at the ready with their idea of reality – that you simply can’t win at all so don’t even try. Relativists tell reformers to

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Welcome to Washington, Mr. Smith

smith-taylorAt one point in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the legendary film by Frank Capra, the lead character (played by Jimmy Stewart) arrives as a new Senator from Illinois and finds himself sitting with his senior peer and the state’s political bosses. They tell him how Washington works, that for the good of his career he must get in line and feed the machine. His political mentor tries to soften the blow by saying,

“You’ve got to face facts, Jeff. I’ve served our state well, haven’t I? We have the lowest unemployment and the highest federal grants. But, well, I’ve had to compromise, had to play ball. You can’t count on people voting, half the time they don’t vote anyway. That’s how states and empires have been built since time began. Don’t you understand? Well, Jeff, you can take my word for it, that’s how things are … Now, when the (bill) comes up in the Senate tomorrow you stay away from it. Don’t say a word. Great powers are behind it, and they’ll destroy you before you can even get started.”

Translation: Vote like we tell you, not how you think you should.

This, not the famous filibuster scene, is actually my favorite. It’s not made-up Hollywood stuff. It really happens this way, amidst a long cast of characters that descend on the new Member of Congress. And every two years, when a new Congress is created from the hundreds of districts our leaders have sprinkled throughout the land to represent us, it’s our job to remind them why we sent them there.

(Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 – Welcome to Washington’s Food Fight, Mr. Smith)

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