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SCHOOL CHOICE REPORT - page 2
by Michael Hodges
a part of the Grandfather
Education Report series
Three (3) good articles:
Free at last: Black America Signs up for School Choice
POLICY REVIEW November · December 1996
By Nina Shohraii
A powerful grassroots movement is slowly gathering force that may transform the politics of American education. Its human face is not white but black; its resources few but its determination strong. And its goal is freedom. Although most black political leaders still actively oppose vouchers and charter schools, their constituents are growing increasingly angry at the public schools' disastrous record of teaching black children. As a result, black parents, pastors, local officials, and civil rights leaders are beginning to embrace school vouchers, charter schools, and other reforms that offer alternatives to dismal public schools.
These African Americans believe that academic achievement is the key to their economic independence. They want schools that involve them in their children's education while imposing high standards and strict discipline, and they reject the notion that poverty somehow renders parents less interested in their children's academic wellbeing. As their numbers swell, teachers unions will find it increasingly difficult to hold back reforms that offer black children a better chance.
This new movement is already spreading throughout the country. In Cleveland, African Americans like councilwoman Fannie Lewis, school principals Lydia Harris and Sister Hasina Renee, and schoolboard member Genevieve
Mitchell led the fight for a new state law that provides vouchers this fall for 2,000 lowincome children. I.ewis, Harris, Renee, and Mitchell vigorously supported Republican governor George Voinovich as he moved his voucher proposal through the state legislature. Lewis recruited 300 citizens in her neighborhood of Hough, the site of race riots in 1968, to travel to Columbus to lobby for the scholarship program. Last fall, when the governor's staff organized a press conference to announce the signing of the bill, jubilant black students and their parents packed the hallways and aisles.
In fact, support for vouchers in Cleveland was so strong that nearly 6,300 students, almost all of them black, applied for only 2,000 slots, which were filled by lottery. By midSeptember of this year, 1,410 of the students had enrolled in a religious school. Councilwoman Lewis, a mother and 46year Cleveland resident, attributes this flight to public schools' dismal educational record and indifference to parents. "The quality of public schools in Hough is poor," she says. "The roofs leak and the schools sometimes lack books, chairs, and other materials. Of the more than $7,000 spent on each child in the Cleveland public schools, only a fraction goes to classroom education."
They have a dream: Milwaukee children and parents rally for school choice while the Wisconsin Supreme Court hears a challenge to vouchers.
Thanks to vouchers, this fall Lewis was able to open her own community school, the HoughBrooks Academy for Higher Learning-a nonsectarian school run by a community board with a curriculum emphasizing the arts and cultural awareness. Lewis hopes this will "force school officials to pay more attention to parents' concerns and to provide safer and better schools."
In Milwaukee, as Dan McGroarty has shown in his new book, Break These Chains, blacks have been the principal supporters of two Wisconsin voucher programs. "The battle for Parental Choice," McGroarty writes, "began in the church basements and meeting halls of Milwaukee's Near North Side," a poor neighborhood where only 48 percent of adults hold jobs. "From the start, the Milwaukee proponents' language was appropriated from the civilrights movement. Their rhetoric was more redolent of Martin Luther King Jr. than the freemarket pronouncements favored by conservative voucher proponents."
The engineer of Milwaukee's first voucher plan, which was limited to nonsectarian schools, was Annette "folly" Williams, a black Democratic state representative from the Near North Side. Having fought the school system a dozen years earlier for busing her daughter to a bad public school, Williams was familiar with the Milwaukee education establishment's indifference to the needs of lowincome black families. "The system is the system. It doesn't care. It doesn't feel," Williams told McGroartv. "The way I saw it, it is preparing our children for slavery. Look at the situation: Drop out by 10th grade, get into the street life. When you should be walking across the stage getting a diploma, you're standing in front of judge wearing chains."
Committed to breaking up the system for the sake of the young black children in her community, Williams gradually mobilized her army of mothers and grandmothers, most of whom were on welfare, and all of whom were determined to "do right by their children." Aware of her army's powerful impact on lawmakers, she convinced the chairman of the state assembly's urbaneducation committee to hold a public hearing on her schoolchoice plan on the morning of February 23, 1990. The threehourlong hearing, which attracted 200 lowincome minority parents and children, prompted the committee to approve her proposal. Soon thereafter, it passed the assembly and the senate and was signed into law by Republican governor Tommy Thompson.
Throughout the endeavor, only one local newspaper captured Williams's crusade in a concise and accurate way: Community Journal, whose editor, Mikel Holt, is yet another fan of school choice. As for Milwaukee's mainstream dailies, McGroarty notes, "they attacked Williams repeatedly. One went as far as portraying her in a cartoon as a stickup artist pointing a pistol at a publicschool teacher."
Having survived a grueling round of constitutional scrutiny, the program generated so much support that in September 1994, 750 mostly low income blacks rallied for its expansion. This time, a new generation of AfricanAmerican educators joined Williams in the battle. They included Zakiya Courtney, then principal of the Urban Day School and now the director of a grassroots group called Parents for School Choice; Brother Bob Smith, the principal of the outstanding innercity school Messmer High; and Howard Fuller, then superintendent of Milwaukee public schools. Last year, the school board and the teachers unions mailed 3,000 videotapes attacking Fuller's stance on choice, calling it an attempt to scale back or completely cut educational programs. The unions succeeded in establishing an antireform majority on the board of education, which prompted Fuller's resignation.
But according to a February 1995 report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, 95 percent of African Americans polled in Milwaukee support school choice, and 70 percent believe that students in private and religious schools get a better education than students in the Milwaukee public schools. Finally ceding to their constituents' demands, the Wisconsin legislature last year expanded the program to include religious schools, increased the number of vouchers from 1,500 to 15,000, and eliminated restrictions on the number of choice students in participating schools. In response, voucher opponents immediately and successfully sought an injunction from the courts and have, so far, blocked the plan's implementation.
The parents, however, are equally determined. In February 1996, for instance, Courtney filled nine buses with 500 mostly black parents and children to attend a rally at the capitol, in Madison. There they voiced their enthusiasm for the newly enacted plan, which was being challenged in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. After a tie vote, the court sent the case back to trial court, where Dane County Circuit Judge Paul Higginbotham refused to lift the injunction blocking religious schools' participation in the program. "The state cannot do indirectly what it can't do directly," he said.
Higginbotham did allow the state to issue up to 15,000 vouchers for private non-religious schools. But Courtney and Milwaukee's parents eagerly await the day the court will grant them complete authority over the upbringing of their children-including the freedom to send them to a religious school. Meanwhile, 4,500 low income Milwaukee students are going to religious schools this year with privately financed vouchers-thanks to the generosity of the Bradley Foundation and 1,040 private donors who gave more than $4 million to help the students hurt by Higginbotham's decision.
In Florida, T. Willard Fair, the president and chief executive officer of the liberal Urban League of Miami, and the Reverend R.B. Holmes, a black Baptist pastor from Tallahassee, are the principal supporters of a new charter school law enacted in April. The Florida plan allows any creative educator to open a school, free of the red tape that binds most public schools (such as teacher certification and stateimposed standards). Fair formed a partnership with Jeb Bush, the conservative Republican candidate for governor in 1994, to advance the legislation. Fair described public schools as "too regulated, entrenched in bureaucracy, with overcrowded classrooms, outofcontrol children, and teachers who are not held accountable due to too much union interference." And so he created Florida's first charter school, whose student body is almost entirely lowincome and AfricanAmerican.
Similarly, Holmes opened the C.K Steele-Leroy Collins charter middle school, with a student body that is 75 percent black. His school is modeled after a Christian academy he created five years ago, which he describes as a school that "all people, [whether] black, white, rich, or poor want to send their kids to." To Holmes, charter schools mean "freedom to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, respect, responsibility, and entrepreneurship all in one-without the bureaucratic strings attached." A 1995 survey by the Foundation for Florida's Future found that Florida's black citizens supported school choice and charter schools by 68 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
In California, voucher supporters include Anyam Palmer, the principal of the Afrocentric Marcus Garvey School in South Central Los Angeles, who views "the present school system [as] the vehicle that puts us on welfare, in prison, and leaves us illiterate.... School choice is the only way out of this vicious cycle." "Public education is not working for most minority citizens in the inner city," says Bishop George D. McKinney Jr. of San Diego, who has set up a school at St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ. Testifying for vouchers last year before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families, McKinney faulted public schools for "low expectations . . . of minority students" and "the systematic tracking of minority students toward nonacademic programs." A recent survey of South Central's residents by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture found that 77 percent of minorities supported vouchers.
Californians may not win the right to vouchers in the near future, but an innovative charter-school law, passed in 1992, offers blacks a close alternative. According to the Hudson Institute, the California plan gives "charter petitioners the right to seek significant autonomy from local board control [and provides] a blanket waiver from most state laws and regulations. Jonathan Williams, the black principal of the Accelerated School, in South Central Los Angeles, says that a charterschool system offers "more freedom, choice, and responsibility." Accelerated student body comprises 50 percent blacks and 50 percent Hispanics; a majority of students belong to low or lowmoderate income groups.
Williams believes charter schools are the solution to the educational crisis. "With charters you can keep the system public and free, while instilling stronger accountability," he contends.
"I feel like a professional instead of a wage earner." Williams's school sits in a gang-infested neighborhood. "It is not unusual for us to hear gun fights, and notice the residues of drug abuse around the school grounds," he says. But with a low studenttoteacher ratio, lots of parental involvement, and zero tolerance toward violence and drugs, Williams avoids the problems that incapacitate many public schools every year.
In Michigan, the TEACH Michigan Education Fund reports that black educators have launched one out of every three Michigan charter schools. According to Bryan Taylor, the fund's executive director, "5,000 applicants applied for 330 spots when the first charter school came to Detroit; AfricanAmerican educators led most of them." In Michigan, where charter schools are called "publicschool academies," the law allows any individual or group to develop a charter and to seek sponsorship from a variety of entities such as the board of a state public university. The program's key supporters include black leaders like the Reverend Ned Adams Jr., an official of the Council of Baptist Pastors, which assists member churches in Detroit interested in starting charter schools; and Larry Patrick, the former president of the Detroit Board of Education and an avid advocate "for parents having as many choices as possible for the education of their children."
Another black charterschool fan is Freya Rivers. The frustrated former Lansing public
school teacher now serves as district superintendent, fulltime languagearts teacher,
and part-time janitor and nurse. Her school, the Sanfoka Shule charter school in Lansing,
targets atrisk elementary school students. In an article for the Wall Street Journal earlier
this year, she wrote, "I have two students who were [in special education in
traditional Lansing public schools]. They couldn't even write their names or recognize any
words. . .
I use the same methods to teach them that I use with the other students. Now both of them are writing sentences." In fact, 85 percent of the first and secondgraders Sanfoka received from Lansing public schools were illiterate; now all are able to read.
In Texas, ardent AfricanAmerican voucher promoters include Democratic state representative Glenn Lewis, the former general counsel for the Tarrant County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and his liberal legislative colleague Ron Wilson. Fueled by support from a growing number of black churches, including the Reverend Raymond Bryant's Union Center African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Conroe, the leaders foresee a strong chance to enact school choice in their state next year. A 1995 Texas Poll showed black support for vouchers at 59 percent, and a growing number of church groups, ministers, and community groups also believe vouchers are the next step. Says Michael Williams, a black conservative and former assistant education secretary in the Bush administration, "The [AfricanAmerican] community looks to choice as the vehicle to reclaim control over the learning of the next generation of African American scholars and leaders." Allan Parker, the president of the Texas Justice Foundation, whose group has convened a citizens' task force to investigate why Texas minority students fare worse than whites on the state's achievement tests, works closely with these leaders in promoting school choice.
All of these lowincome parents and community leaders seek the same opportunities for their children that middle and upperincome black parents enjoy. "I don't think AfricanAmerican parents are any different than other parents," says Michigan's Larry Patrick. "All they want is quality education for their children. Wealthy parents, like the president, can make this choice; poor ones cannot.... Most AfricanAmerican leaders [seem to] practice choice in their own lives and support [it] on a personal level." Denis Doyle, a senior fellow with The Heritage Foundation, notes that black teachers are twice, likely as other black parents to send their children to a private school, and 30 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members with children send their children to private schools. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of blacks possess the means to exercise this option.
Perhaps this is why a poll by the leftleaning Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in April 1996 reveals that African Americans favor school choice more strongly than the general population. Support registers highest among women (51 percent), parents (61 per cells), and younger African Americans (64 percent among 18 to 25yearolds, 61 percent among 26 to 35yearolds). These numbers are particularly telling when you consider that only 18 percent of blacks support the devolving of power from the federal government to the state and local levels. Says Brian Jones, the president of the Center for New Black Leadership, they reflect "a stalwart trend towards reclaiming the power of parents."
With respect to charter schools, the Hudson Institute's Educational Excellence Network recently reported similar positive conclusions. The report finds a high level of satisfaction with charter schools among most students, and cites the schools' clear academic expectations, safety, individualized instruction, committed teachers and familial atmosphere. Hudson found that 63 percent of the students attending charter schools nationwide belong to a racial minority- including 19 percent who are AfricanAmerican-and that 55 percent are poor.
What drives African Americans toward choice and charter schools? Standards, discipline, and parental involvement are the three core reasons.
Joyce Watkins, a resident of Chicago's West Side and a mother of seven, wants higher academic standards and eagerly hopes her city will adopt some form of school choice soon. "Where I'm from," she says, "public education offers leftovers. It means getting lost in the cracks." What frustrates Watkins the most is publicschool teachers' lack of interest in her children's academic, achievement. "They come home without any homework sometimes," she laments. "The quality of education is really low.... I often wonder if teachers and school counselors even know my children's names, since they are too busy disciplining unruly students." Watkins would prefer sending her children to Providence St. Mel, a Catholic school in her neighborhood, even though she belongs to a different Christian denomination. "If they gave us more choices, more kids would go to school, stay in school, and graduate to college.... You would also see the crime rate go down because the kids would be in class, not on the streets.... That's where the opportunity lies."
Gloria Grayson, a mother in Milwaukee whose two daughters now attend a private school, abhors the absence of strict disciplinary guidelines in public schools. "They were not learning. Classes were large and pupiltoteacher ratios were high," she says. "The children were afraid and could not concentrate because they had to deal with their undisciplined peers rather than listen and learn in class. Teachers were not able or did not try to maintain adequate control over their classes. As a result, classes progressed slowly. Teachers and administrators had nothing but excuses for the poor education my children were receiving. The . . . schools are filled with drugs and violence. They graduate drug dealers. At best, children leave those schools not with a diploma, but with battle scars."
Grayson and Watkins join other parents and educators in blaming the education system's lack of interest in their concerns. After all, as Cleveland councilwoman Fannie Lewis notes, "parents have little influence over education policy. The school board often will go into executive session to shut out community attendance at its meetings." Texas legislator Glenn Lewis, whose constituents show their anger by picketing outside schoolboard meetings, concurs. He considers choice a means to provide parents with more leverage over the school boards and "an opportunity to improve public schools . . . because so long as they are guaranteed our parents' dollars, they have no incentives to listen." According to a poll by the Center for Education Reform, 61 percent of blacks say "the quality of their public school could be improved a great deal," compared with 44 percent of the general population.
To find those key ingredients of a good education, black parents often gravitate towards religious education. As Fannie Lewis observes, "in most instances [the parents'] decisions have nothing to do with religion. They want their children in a safe environment with strong disciplinary standards where they can get a good education." Sectarian schools constitute 85 percent of all private schools; of that share, more than half are Catholic. Others include religious schools run by Baptists, Lutherans, SeventhDay Adventists, and Muslims. These schools, especially in urban areas, enroll growing numbers of ethnic minority students, according to the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). NCEA also reports that in the last 20 years, the minority percentages have more than doubled in all Catholic schools, from 10.8 percent in 197071 to 23.5 percent in 199293.
Bob Smith, the veteran superintendent of Milwaukee's Messmer High School, a Catholic school, attests to these facts. "Catholic schools have been known for highquality education since the black migration from the South. For many years, next to public schools, they were the only safe haven for blacks in the segregation era." He proudly cites the St. Benedict the Moor School, known today as the Urban Day School, as an example. The black allmale boarding school boasts a number of highprofile alumni, including Dizzy Gillespie, the jazz musician; Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago; and Redd Foxx, the comedian and television star. Catholic schools are popular with parents, Smith says, because they are "safe havens against drugs, violence, and uncaring teachers."
A forthcoming study in the Journal of Labor Economics supports the believers in religious schooling by revealing that those most likely to benefit from a Catholic school education are minorities, many of whom are not Catholic, who attend bigcity schools. The paper's author, University of Chicago economist Derek Neal, observes that "in the urban minority sample, Catholic schooling dramatically increases the probability of high school graduation . . . [and increases] college graduation rates." According to Neal, that translates into future wage gains. Among the study's sample of urban blacks and Hispanics, the probability of graduating from high school rises from 62 percent to at least 88 percent when the public school students are placed in a Catholic secondary school. "For urban whites," he continues, "the effects are . . . always smaller in magnitude. In fact, [their] estimated wage gain from Catholic schooling is not statistically different." Neal concludes that "urban minority students benefit most from access to Catholic schools because their local public school alternatives are poor."
Perhaps this explains why New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani recently urged educators to use the city's Catholic schools as a "guide" to reforms. He noted in a Wall Street Journal article in 1995 that the city's Catholic and public schools enroll about the same proportion of students with multiple risk factors, but that Catholic schools have a dropout rate of 0.1 percent, compared with 18 percent in the public schools. Giuliani also observed that, despite popular belief, Catholic schools have expulsion rates of only 2 percent. The mayor has recently proposed a measure allowing students performing in the bottom 5 percent to attend religious schools.
Furthermore, a recent report by day Greene of the University of Houston and Paul Peterson of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government fortifies the supporters of choice. This study demonstrates, for the first time, that students participating in the Milwaukee choice experiment, 70 percent of whom are African American, made major academic improvements compared with a control group in public schools. In fact, after three years, the gap between the test scores of whites and minorities narrowed by 33 to 50 percent.
Despite the growing black support for vouchers, the civil rights establishment and most black leaders in Congress and state legislatures remain steadfastly opposed. Their explanations range from fears of losing their best students to private schools (socalled creaming) and segregation to concerns that private schools will soak up public funds. Jessica Butler, a spokesperson for the Greater Harrisburg branch of the NAACP, exclaims "tuition vouchers are just the latest scheme for abandoning our public schools." Michael Myers, the president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, says, "School choice is a gimmick. There is no such thing as school choice for children who don't have a choice," since private schools get to select the types of students they like.
Militant opposition to choice may also stem from the influence of large, monied teachers unions, which see any choice outside the public schools as a threat to their monopoly. Teachers unions adamantly opposed a small schoolchoice plan tagged to Congress's District of Columbia appropriations bill last fall. After it passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, the plan died in the Senate, despite the support of local leaders like Franklin Smith, the city's schools superintendent, and Mayor Marion Barry. Throughout the proceedings, District of Columbia delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and the Congressional Black Caucus sided with the unions and refused to endorse school choice for the city's neediest children. Explaining her reasons for opposing the modest school choice proposal, Norton told the Washington Post on November 3, 1995, "It's not about money, it's about the strong feeling in the District that District schools are where most of the children are going to be, so we need to spend money fixing up our schools."
"School choice creams the public schools of their best students, and robs them of their much needed funds for educating the needy kids left behind," explains Daniel E. Katz, legal counsel for the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "Choice also raises the specter of segregation." But as Cleveland's Lydia Harris, principal of one of the nation's best private schools, can attest, this description is inaccurate. In a recent article in World magazine, she writes, "There's no cream on my crop until we put it there. It's a myth that we take discipline problems and throw them out of school. It's the other way around. I get the kids the public schools can't handle." And she does all this at a perpupil cost oneseventh that of Cleveland public schools.
"Choice is just a subterfuge for segregation, like it was in the South," says Felmers Chaney, the head of the Milwaukee NAACP, which joined the lawsuit against the initial Milwaukee school choice plan as lead plaintiff. "Taken as a whole, expanded [school choice] will deny African Americans equal educational opportunity," asserted Chaney in a recent brief against the expanded Milwaukee schoolchoice plan. To many of its black critics, the NAACP seems more concerned with integration than with quality education for black children. Even so, opponents of vouchers need only examine the work of the late James Coleman, of the University of Chicago, which shows not only that poor black youngsters fare better in religious schools than in public schools, but also that a child is more likely to attend school with a child of another race in the private sector than in the public sector. As for the Milwaukee plan, the NAACP ought to take a look at the high level of integration in Milwaukee private schools in comparison to its public schools.
Some critics argue that the education establishment opposes school choice for a very basic reason: selfpreservation. "Perhaps one of the strongest reasons why the civil rights establishment opposes choice is economic," says Brian Jones. "They strongly feel that competition and privatization will leave them out in the cold." Public schools employ a large portion of the AfricanAmerican professional community; some of them may view school choice and charter schools as programs designed to rob them of tenured jobs. To convince publicschool employees that market forces will provide jobs for the best teachers and administrators from these public schools is next to impossible. Of course, as Milwaukee's Zakiya Courtney points, the number of kids in the school system won't shrink. "This won't impact the teachers," she says. "It will only affect the pencil pushers."
Will saving jobs justify depriving innocent children of a quality education? To answer this question, these leaders ought to talk to students and their parents, visit the neighborhood private schools these children could go to, and perform a costbenefit analysis of the savings associated with sending children to these schools. "Once you do this, you can't help but become a believer in school choice," says Messmer's Smith.
School choice is the civilrights movement of the 1990s. Says Milwaukee's Polly Williams, "I am one of those people who is supposed to be very stupid because I am black, I live in the inner city, I am poor, and I raised my children in a single parent home. Well, those are lies. The only thing different about us is that we have been deprived of resources and access. When you empower parents like me, there is a major difference. We become responsible for our own lives.... We want to be empowered, and that is what the choice program has done."
Nina Shohraii, director of outreach programs at the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, nonpartisan publicinterest law firm in Washington, D. C.
The real impact of Milwaukee's vouchers
By: Cosmo Wenman - Trends
SINCE I 99O, A limited SCHOOL choice program has allowed about 1,300 lowincome students to attend a number of secular private schools in the Milwaukee area. As many as 15,000 may be allowed to participate in the coming year, and religious schools may become eligible to join the program.
Critics, however, have charged that vouchers don't improve education. Drawing on annual evaluations by University of Wisconsin researchers, the American Federation of Teachers' Albert Shanker has claimed that "private schools are not outperforming public schools." The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has announced that "Milwaukee's plan has failed to demonstrate that vouchers...can spark school improvement."
This summer, however, the data and techniques used in the program evaluations became available for the first time to outside scholars-yielding quite different results. In "The Effectiveness of School Choice in Milwaukee: A Secondary Analysis of Data from the Program's Evaluation," researchers from the University of Houston and Harvard University conclude that the Wisconsin evaluations fail a number of standard statistical and procedural measures, ignore a variety of pertinent data sets, and fail to categorize students by such meaningful categories as grade, year of application, and school.
Rather than lumping all students together, the new study compares students who enrolled in the school choice program with a control group of students who wanted to participate but could not, because of limited space.
The cumulative effect of several years of enrollment in choice schools is nothing short of impressive, according to study authors Jay P. Greene, Paul E. Peterson, Jiangtao Du, Leesa Boeger, and Chris L. Frazier. If the randomly selected students remained in the choice experiment for three years, their average reading and math scores were, respectively, 3 and 5 percentile points higher than those in the control group. If they stayed for four years, their reading and math scores were, on average, 5 and 12 percentile points higher. Over 80 percent of the students were either Latino or African American.
Putting the results of Milwaukee's voucher program in perspective, the authors note, "If
similar success could be achieved for all minority students nationwide, it could close the
gap separating white and minority test scores by somewhere between onethird and more
ATTEMPTS TO SANDBAG THE MILWAUKEE PROJECT
The reason it is so difficult to accomplish improvement and reform of the education system is the active resistance to change on the part of the teacher unions and the entire education bureaucracy. In addition to actively obfuscating the poor quality of the system they create other road blocks to reform. Following is an example these of some approaches to creating obstacles to reform - - an exchange of newsgroup postings between a teacher union person (putting down the Milwaukee Project, a portion) and a respondent who shows various obstacles placed in the path of progress:
To Michael Hodges, From Eric Fowler,13 December 1996, responding to Hodges message of 'shock' at Eric's posting which was originally in response to a posting by a union official, and repeating his posting >>Gee, thanks. Reference is "Public Education:An Autopsy", Myron Lieberman. <<
From: Michael Hodges[SMTP:email@example.com] Sent: Thursday, December 12, 1996 10:14 PM, To: Bill Mechlenburg; sockeye Subject: Re: Vouchers as solution to education problems: Research
Dear Eric, I was shocked by the content of your posting of the methods that you said were used by the union and others concerning attempts to 'sandbag' theMilwaukee project. Why was I shocked? I guess just naive, never wanting to believe any organization(s) would attempt such at the expense of children and their future. Thanks for the posting. Reality check? Michael Hodges , firstname.lastname@example.org
sockeye <email@example.com> wrote in article <32AF5C48.62FB@rmii.com>
Michael Ames Connor wrote:> > > Vouchers appears to me to be a faith-based program: no one can point to data showing current programs work <<<...snipped.
Eric replied: >>The Milwaukee program was deliberately crippled by the FOE (Forces Of Evil [tm], tongue in cheek), namely, the state board of education, the larger state government, the local boards of education, and the teachers unions, of which Mr. Connor is a representative. Many restrictions were placed on persons wishing to participate, and upon schools who wish to receive vouchers. I will name a few, and point out how they impact the data Mr. Connor presents.
1 Students must be from lower income schools. If your family income is over 175% of poverty line, you are out.
2) The number of vouchers is restricted to about 1,000, which is around 1% of the kids in Milwaukee Public Schools(MPS). There is a large waiting list, reduced by the perceived futility of the effort and other restrictions on enrollment.
3) Students may not move between voucher schools in the school year, or move from MPS to a voucher school during the year. If you are in MPS and move [your household], you are transferred to another MPS school. If you are in the voucher program and move, or are dissatisfied, you must return to an MPS school. You may not switch to another voucher school. Your voucher is 'dead' until next year - no other child can take the unused portion and move from a waiting list to a private school. This inflates the attrition rate.
4) The vouchers are for 53% of the cost of educating one public school child ($2500).
5) Parents are not permitted to supplement vouchers out-of-pocket.
6) No school may take more than 49% of its students from the voucher program.
7) Thanks to a lawsuit filed by Mr. Connor's employer, many of the regulations that are crippling the public schools are now being applied to voucher schools, even if they only have a handful of voucher students. Thus, any school participating must submit to regulation, but cannot take more than a fraction of it's income from the program.
8) Participating schools must be vetted by the FOE. Any school with any religious affiliation whatever is barred from receiving vouchers, which eliminates most private schools. Note that (2), (4), (5), and (6) make the formation of new schools relying on voucher money uneconomical.
Thus the pool of schools the voucher-receiving parents can choose from is kept small.
9) Participating schools may not bar students. Thus, an academically competitive private school must make an exception for a voucher student who is a turkey, and if they wish to expel him, they must justify themselves to the FOE. Moreover, under rule (3), an expelled student is counted as 'attrition'. If they get a special ed or learning-disabled or physically handicapped kid they have to deal with him/her for the same rate as they would for a healthy child. to protect their hides, the kids in the voucher program are doing as well as the kids in MPS. That is, even the AFT must admit that the voucher kids have not suffered by moving out of MPS. Their assertion (and it is false) is that the kids have not improved, which is something else again. <<
>>=Eric & Helena Fowler firstname.lastname@example.org Reference is "Public Education:An Autopsy", Myron Lieberman<<
Public schools no place for teachers' kids
- September 2004 (http://www.washtimes.com/national/20040922-122847-5968r.htm)
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
More than 25 percent of public school teachers in Washington and Baltimore send their
children to private schools, a new study reports.
Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools.
In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools.
In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, 41 percent; Chicago, 39 percent; Rochester, N.Y., 38 percent. The same trends showed up in the San Francisco-Oakland area, where 34 percent of public school teachers chose private schools for their children; 33 percent in New York City and New Jersey suburbs; and 29 percent in Milwaukee and New Orleans.
Michael Pons, spokesman for the National Education Association, the 2.7-million-member public school union, declined a request for comment on the study's findings. The American Federation of Teachers also declined to comment.
Public school teachers told the Fordham Institute's surveyors that private and religious schools impose greater discipline, achieve higher academic achievement and offer overall a better atmosphere.
"Across the states, 12.2 percent of all families urban, rural and suburban send their children to private schools," says the report, based on 2000 census data.
"Public education in many of our large cities is broken," the surveyors conclude. "The fix? Choice, in part, to be sure."
Public school teachers in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Rochester, N.Y., and Baltimore registered the most dissatisfaction with the schools in which they teach.
"These results do not surprise most practicing teachers to whom we speak," say report authors Denis P. Doyle, founder of a school improvement company, SchoolNet Inc.; Brian Diepold, an economics graduate student at American University; and David A. DeSchryver, editor of the Doyle Report, an online education policy and technology journal.
"Teachers, it is reasonable to assume, care about education, are reasonably expert about it and possess quite a lot of information about the schools in which they teach. We can assume that no one knows the condition and quality of public schools better than teachers who work in them every day."
"They know from personal experience that many of their colleagues make such a choice [for private vs. public schools], and do so for good and sufficient reasons."
The report says the school choice movement has begun competitively forcing public school improvement, particularly in cities like Milwaukee, called "a hotbed of school reform," where 29.4 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools, the study finds.
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