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Parental school choice spurs surprising reactions from advocates of the poor

by John Kirtley
August 26, 2013

As a white person from Iowa, I am always hesitant to write about the racial aspects of ed reform and parental school choice. I feel it is always better to have others with more credibility speak of it. But this weekend I saw two things that compelled me to write.

On Saturday, I read that the U.S. Justice Department is suing the state of Louisiana to block vouchers for students in public school districts that are under old federal desegregation orders. The statewide voucher program, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, lets low-income students in public schools graded C, D or F attend private schools at taxpayer expense. This year, 22 of the 34 school systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.

The Justice Department’s primary argument is that letting students leave for private schools can disrupt the racial balance in public school systems that desegregation orders are meant to protect. Sounds like a good idea, right?

But here’s the thing: according to the Louisiana Department of Education, 86 percent of the children on the program are black. Only 9 percent are white.

If roughly 90 percent of the kids on the program are black, I don’t really understand how them moving to private schools that would better serve them would worsen segregation in the public schools. Are they leaving schools that are mostly white? If so, should they be forced to stay there even though they aren’t being well served? How would you explain that to their parents?

On the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s great speech, a black attorney general working for a black president filed a lawsuit to halt a program that is helping low-income black families in Louisiana choose a better school for their

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Intriguing At Best, Rarely Accurate – Annual PDK Poll

The PDK annual poll on “The Public’s Attitudes Towards the Public Schools” is always intriguing but rarely an accurate assessment of what people think. Since I founded the Center for Education Reform, the poll has consistently defied commonly accepted polling practices that expect questions to be defined before they are asked. Thus year after year, while parents are clamoring for options and new innovations, and are frustrated with the status quo, the PDK-Gallup Poll reports support for convention and opposition to Parent Power. This is the first in many years the media has covered it!


Union Challenges Louisiana Reforms In Court

“Louisiana education lawsuit: Teachers association expects protracted legal battle”
by Lauren McGaughy
Times Picayune
November 28, 2012

Louisiana’s recent education overhaul will be tested Wednesday in court as multiple teachers associations and school boards challenge the constitutionality of changes made this year to the state’s voucher program and teacher hiring rules. Ahead of Wednesday’s court case, Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) President Steve Monaghan told NOLA.com he expects a protracted legal battle with the Jindal administration.

“Pragmatically, one has to understand that the legal process doesn’t go like a blitzkrieg. It is a lengthy process that can take months and sometimes years,” Monaghan said Tuesday.

He added, “we are fully aware that the administration is very, very likely to appeal and to appeal to the Supreme Court.”

State Superintendent of Education John White came out against the lawsuit in June, issuing a statement that said, “The LFT is preventing parents from doing what they think is best for their children. It’s time to return our focus to teaching and classrooms, but the LFT keeps dragging us back to politics and courtrooms.”

The Washington, DC-based Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, have also come out against the suit. They issued a statement this month condemning the suit.

“It is imperative that school choice flourish in Louisiana or else another generation of Louisiana schoolchildren will be condemned to educational purgatory,” the Nov. 20 statement read.

“Faced with an exodus of children from underperforming and failing public schools, teachers’ unions and school boards have sued to stop parents from making that choice,” it added.

Institute of Justice members, along with Ken Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and others will protest the suit tomorrow morning outside the court house in Baton Rouge.

The suit was brought by the LFT, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana School Boards Association

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Growing Voucher Program Under Attack

“Indiana school voucher program taking off; lawsuit over popular program will be heard Wednesday”
by Scott Elliott
Indianapolis Star
November 20, 2012

Indiana’s private school voucher program grew at an unprecedented rate this fall, more than doubling the number of students in its second year.

If the state’s program continues to grow at that pace, Indiana could challenge Ohio and Wisconsin as the nation’s biggest program as soon as next year.

However, today the Indiana Supreme Court is to hear arguments challenging the program’s constitutionality.

The Indiana Department of Education announced Thursday that 9,324 students are now signed up for state-funded vouchers to attend private schools statewide, surging from 3,919 students in the first year and making the program the fastest growing in history.

The number of schools participating jumped to 289 from 241. The program is now redirecting more than $38 million in state aid from public schools to private schools, although state officials say it saved $4.2 million that was redistributed among all public schools.

The controversial program is also still under attack.

The Indiana State Teachers Association, the biggest statewide teacher’s union, is aiming to shut it down. The ISTA-supported lawsuit before the state Supreme Court today charges the program is an unconstitutional mingling of state money and religious institutions. The vast majority of schools accepting vouchers are religiously affiliated.
“When you look at the dollars coming into program, those are coming right off the top of money going to our public schools,” said Teresa Meredith, ISTA vice president and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I see that as a real concern.”

Indiana’s big voucher numbers are due in large part to the design of the program, which is less limited than those in other states.

Ohio has a statewide program, but it restricts vouchers to communities with failing schools. Wisconsin limits the program to one city

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Save the Status Quo, March Against Freedom

By now, you’ve likely heard that the anti-reform establishment will be marching the streets of D.C. this weekend in an effort to “Save Our Schools.” The participating groups want to restore parent and student influence in education.

There’s only one problem with that – they don’t.

The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – two unions that have done everything in their power from distorting the truth and lying to intimidation and lawsuits to stop any reform that takes their control and gives it to parents – are driving this rally.

These groups fight charter school openings across the country. For example they are currently stumping against a Mandarin immersion charter in Milburn, New Jersey.

They’ve sued multiple times to stop or delay school choice bills from taking effect. The teachers association now has a lawsuit in Indiana to stop low-income students in failing schools from using a voucher to attend a different school of their parent’s choice.

They are even fighting the “Parent Trigger” law that was passed in California and allows parents to initiate changes to a school, like converting it to a charter, if a majority of parents agree and sign a petition.

It’s the same coalition of the past 35 years that just wants the status quo. Reform to them is about money, control and no high-stakes tests or accountability.

In each case above, and the dozens of ones not mentioned, these groups are eliminating the influence parents and students have, not moving it forward.


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