Articles in the Privatization category

Facts on vouchers to counter National School Choice Week

As the National School Choice Week begins, the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends several resources to counter arguments for vouchers and the privatization of K-12 education.

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE), recently wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post outlining many of the problems with vouchers and other forms of choice that do not hold private and parochial schools accountable for their students’ learning. In  “School Choice Does Not Mean All Choices are Equal,” Barth  discusses recent research that shows many school options have not lived up to their promises, and instead merely drain resources and funds from each community’s public schools.

Barth also wrote a blog for CPE’s EDifier this week discussing recent allegations that a cybercharter school in Pennsylvania inflated enrollment numbers to gain taxpayer funds.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is promoting a Twitter hashtag, #Vouchersfail, to share stories where school vouchers have proven problematic.

The AU has also set up a website,, with research debunking propaganda being put forth by voucher proponents.

“No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of ‘School Choice Week’ would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs,” the website states.

The Voucher Strategy Center also has resources and articles on the evolving field of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Online learning, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

School choice doesn’t lead to equal choices, CPE director writes for Huffington Post

Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, writes about the perils of the school choice movement in a new blog for the Huffington Post. Barth, a leading researcher, takes on claims that more choices lead to a better education for children.

She writes: “Unfortunately, the opportunities choice advocates propose do not bring a guarantee that the choice will be a good one for kids, and it can even be worse. School districts have been experimenting with choices for over 20 years, first in the form of charter schools and vouchers that individuals can take to private schools, and more recently, virtual schools. Clearly, some myth-busting schools of choice have demonstrated that low-income children can absolutely achieve to the highest levels — just as some noteworthy traditional public schools have. But research to date has not produced any evidence that ‘choice and competition’ in itself produces consistently better results.”

With the exception of schools such as KIPP Academies and the Harlem Children’s Zone, many alternative schools have not produced better academic results than the students’ previous schools, Barth notes.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post.


Joetta Sack-Min|January 9th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Privatization, Religion, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

NSBA President writes about Louisiana voucher ruling

C. Ed Massey, president of the National School Boards Association, has written “Lessons Gleaned from the Louisiana School Voucher Ruling” for the Transforming Learning blog. The blog is a project of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 16 national level education organizations, and hosted by Education Week.

Massey wrote, “While this particular battle is far from over — Gov. Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White have vowed to appeal — this decision is a major victory for all school boards and public education advocates across the United States. (NSBA) supported our state affiliate, the Louisiana School Boards Association, because we saw the case as a direct threat to public education. The pro-school choice advocates were flooded with outside money and have put forth a sophisticated public relations operation.”

Massey is also a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Schools Board of Education. Read more at Transforming Learning.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 11th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Governance, Policy Formation, Privatization, Religion, School Law, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA supports Louisiana school boards in voucher case

A lawsuit filed by school boards will determine the fate of Louisiana’s school voucher plan, which may already be jeopardized after a federal court ruling this week.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is supporting a lawsuit filed in state court by the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), the state’s main teachers’ organizations, and 43 school districts that challenges the constitutionality of a plan to provide vouchers to Louisiana students in low-performing schools. The first hearing on this lawsuit is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, La. LSBA’s Legal Counsel Robert Hammonds will be arguing the case on behalf of LSBA’s members.

The law allows students to attend any private or parochial school that is approved by the Louisiana Department of Education, and many of these teach specific and in some cases extremist religious philosophies. Further, the program does little to hold these schools accountable for student learning or financial management of taxpayer funds—for instance, schools that accept less than 40 students with vouchers are not subject to rigorous accountability requirements for student achievement. State legislators and educators have questioned the state’s process to choose the private and parochial schools that are eligible for public funds, while state officials have launched an advertising campaign to promote the plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In a separate but related court ruling on Monday, a federal judge halted the voucher program in Tangipahoa Parish schools, saying that portions of Jindal’s education plan conflicts with a desegregation agreement because the school choice provisions would lead to more segregation in schools. That ruling in New Orleans-based U.S. District court could affect other school districts that are under desegregation orders. State superintendent John White has said the administration will appeal that ruling. It was unclear what the ruling would mean for the students who are already attending schools with vouchers this year.

In a letter to the editor of the The Advocate in Baton Rouge, LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard notes that the voucher program will siphon resources away from public schools with little or no accountability to local school district governance.

The program “is diminishing public school systems’ ability to provide necessary services for all students by diverting public funds to private and parochial entities under the guise of ‘choice,’” he wrote. “What’s wrong with giving parents a choice of where their children go to school under the current voucher program? The private or parochial schools that accept vouchers will not be held to high standards for students’ learning nor the taxpayer dollars they spend — if at all.”

Public schools—governed by local school boards—are best equipped to meet the needs of all students, Richard continued. But those schools need a resources to implement programs that will improve student achievement, including early education, strong interventions for students who are falling behind, and highly qualified teachers and staff.

“LSBA is not defending the status quo in our public schools,” Richard wrote. “We need our elected officials to commit to ensuring that Louisiana has the best public school system available to all of its families and the infrastructure to support it — for the sake of our children and our state.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey will attend the state trial and bring a letter of support from NSBA to Baton Rouge at the start of the trial on Wednesday.

“It is clear this law was not created with the best interest of all children in mind; instead it promotes a narrow political agenda and will harm community public schools that serve the best interest of all children,” Massey said. “It also deprives the public schools of valuable resources that are necessary to carry out the mandate to provide a free and appropriate public education.”



Joetta Sack-Min|November 27th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Diversity, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Board News, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.


Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: High school reports spark more discussion

Two reports on high school rigor, which came out within hours of each other last week, have sparked an online discussion about the need to make secondary school more relevant for all students. 

“Are Disparities Creating an Educational Caste System?” the provocative title of Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted reports on the status of high school from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and NSBA’s Center for Public Education. Among the more striking statistics from the government report — 3,000 high schools serving almost 500,000 students don’t offer algebra II – a gateway course to college and career success.

“Without algebra II, you probably don’t go to college,” Center director Patte Barth told Downey and other reporters. “If you go, you are probably going to end up in remediation. Without it, you don’t become an auto mechanic. You don’t get into one of the growing service jobs in growing fields like communications.”

The Center’s report notes that a rigorous math curricula, Advanced Placement courses, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all enhance the curricula of American high schools.

Moving on, we turn to a blog we missed last week but is too important to let slide: Diane Ravitch, who recently addressed the Louisiana School Boards Association, speaking on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s truly draconian plan to privatize education.

And lastly, concerning the latest skirmishes in the parenting wars, we’ve written about “Tiger Mothers” and the new homeschooling trend among progressives (or is that “mini-trend?”). Now it’s time to consider the French. The French? Well, do they do parenting any better over there? Apparently not, writes blogger Joanne Jacobs, who links to a new commentary in the Atlantic magazine.


Lawrence Hardy|March 16th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, High Schools, Privatization, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Education headlines: Pennsylvania school boards blast voucher plan

An editorial by Tom Gentzel, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, explains why taxpayer-funded tuition voucher legislation – supported by massive amounts of pressure and dollars spent by out-of-state interest groups –is a bad idea for his state and education policy. Read more in the Philadelphia Inquirer

The New York Times examines Impact, a fast-growing teacher evaluation system being used in the District of Columbia and other school districts… Florida Gov. Rick Scott praised school choice as he signed five education bills that aim to expand charter schools, virtual schools, school vouchers and a program that allows students to transfer out of low-performing public schools, the Sun Sentinel writes. Education advocates say the measures will lead to the privatization of education and benefit for-profit companies…

In a recent commentary for the Huffington Post, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant calls for relief from the most onerous requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act to allow more funds and resources to be used for the critical purpose of teaching and learning. NSBA has asked Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to use his regulatory power to help school districts by the beginning of the 2011-12 school year… Bryant also responded to a question posed by the National Journal on the regulatory process, noting that NSBA has concerns about a plan put forth by Duncan that would require states states to apply for waivers in exchange for specific reforms.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 29th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Privatization, School Vouchers|

The week in blogs: Now about that asterick…

It’s summer — time to break the routine. So, in that spirit, let me begin this column with a subject that is truly dear to my heart:

Interesting Facts About Your Week in Blogs Editor

Readers, did you know that:

A) I’m a champion swimmer*

* in the struggle-across-the-pool category

B)  My wife says I have distinctive taste when it comes to home decorating*

* distinctively bad taste

I could go on, but, you get the point: Place a qualifying asterisk (*) after almost any assertion, and you can pretty much claim anything. It doesn’t make much difference when the subject is my swimming ability or home decorating prowess. But if I did the same with, say, a piece purporting to compare the relative advantages of charter school start ups to traditional public school turnarounds, the consequences might be  greater.

To his credit, Mike Petrilli does indeed qualify his assertion in a Fordham Institute blog entitled Charter start-ups are 4 times as likely to succeed as district turnarounds* (Note big asterisk). But that doesn’t stop him from making sweeping policy pronouncements based on data from just 19 schools. That’s the number of schools (in 10 states studied)  in which 1) the start up charter was near a traditional school with state reading and math proficiency in the bottom 10 percent, and 2) either school subsequently increased its performance to above the state average.

Those 19 schools further break down to 15 charters and just four traditional schools, meaning, Petrilli concludes, that serious questions must be raised, “about the wisdom of the federal government pumping $3 billion into school turnaround efforts instead of using some of the money to replicate and scale up successful charters.”

Lawrence Hardy|June 10th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Charter Schools, Privatization, Week in Blogs|

NSBA: Supreme Court’s Arizona ruling may promote state voucher schemes

A divided U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped the major issue in a case involving an Arizona scholarship program that effectively funnels public money into private religious schools, ruling 5-4 that Arizona taxpayers bringing the case did not have standing to sue because they weren’t directly affected by the program.

The decision announced Monday in Winn v. Christian School Tuition Organization, was a setback for NSBA, which had filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs.

“We’re disappointed,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negron Jr. “The court’s ruling encourages bad educational policy that serves small numbers of children and discriminates on the basis of religion.”

In ruling that the plaintiffs did not have standing, the court majority drew a distinction between tax breaks and direct government funding of sectarian schools. That position drew a lengthy dissent from Justice Elena Kagan, who noted that “cash grants and targeted tax breaks are means of accomplishing the same government objective — to provide financial support to select individuals or organizations.”

The program gives state income tax breaks to donors who provide tuition for children to attend private, predominately religious schools. NSBA argued that the program violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits government from advancing religion. But the high court never got to the constitution issue itself, with Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a “swing voter” on controversial cases, writing the majority opinion.

“By ruling solely on the question of standing, the Supreme Court missed an opportunity to set aside legislative schemes aimed at diverting public tax dollars into private, sectarian hands,” Negron said.

In its brief, NSBA noted that most of the students in the program had been attending private schools before receiving scholarships and that the program was too small to give public school parents the financial support to send their children to private schools.

Joining NSBA in the amicus brief were the Arizona School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association, and the Arizona Education Association.

Lawrence Hardy|April 4th, 2011|Categories: Privatization, Religion, School Board News, School Law, School Vouchers|

Vote for ineffective D.C. voucher program is a waste of money, NSBA says

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 225-195 on March 30 to allot $20 million a year to vouchers for students in the District of Columbia and reopen the program to new students.

NSBA urged members  to vote against H.R. 471, the Scholarships for Opportunity Results (SOAR) Act, which would renew and expand the failed District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally-funded voucher program. The program stopped accepting new students in 2009.

“Today’s vote hurts the school children of our nation’s capitol,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy.  “Vouchers have been proven ineffective in raising student achievement and this failed federal voucher program is unnecessary spending that will cost U.S. taxpayers $100 million over the next five years. Congress must focus on investing in and improving public schools, where the majority of our children attend, as public schools are currently facing budget shortfalls, laying off teachers, and cutting programs that advance student achievement.”

The pilot voucher program, which based on federally-mandated studies, has repeatedly failed to show effectiveness in improving student achievement over the last seven years, a letter issued March 28 from NSBA’s advocacy department states.

The $14 million program has given vouchers of up to $7,500 for about 1,700 students each year, but the new legislation would expand that amount. While the program technically expired in 2008, it was funded for additional years in the FY 2009, FY 2010 appropriations bills and the FY 2011 continuing resolution. The current program, based on a 2009 compromise bill, allows participating students to continue in the program and stipulates that no new students will be added.

President Obama has announced his opposition to the bill, but has not threatened a veto, according to the Washington Post. The bill could become part of negotiations for an Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization or other education bill, the Post reports.

The SOAR (Scholarships for Opportunity and Results) Act was introduced in January by Speaker of the House John Boehner.

NSBA notes that numerous studies have found no significant gains in the reading and math achievement of students who had attended traditional public schools in Washington. A report by the General Accounting Office, Congress’s watchdog agency, found numerous accountability problems, including federal taxpayer dollars paying tuition at private schools that do not even charge tuition, schools that lacked a legally-required city occupancy permit, and schools employing teachers without bachelor’s degrees and/or certification. That report also noted that children with physical or learning disabilities were underrepresented compared to public schools.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 30th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Privatization, School Board News, School Vouchers|
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