Author Archives: herbert1820

Please Think of the Children

School choice advocates argue that when certain local public schools aren’t working, children in those areas have a right to a decent education even if it means an alternative learning environment.

When defenders of the status quo refuse to let parents pick something other than their (failing) local public school, they’re saying that maintaining the current system is more important than providing a good education for children.

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal (sorry, subscription required) confirm the worst suspicion of school choice reformers.  The story details a maddening case where people with plans for innovative charter schools were not allowed to establish alternatives to failing public schools. Who denied them? The local school board, of course. Read the extended excerpt after the jump. Continue reading

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Why Parents Love School Choice Even if Politicians Hate It

learning-and-discipline.jpg

Who does school choice help most? You could make the case it’s people like Washington, DC single mother Deborah Green and her daughter Tanisha Bethea. Look:

When she was not satisfied with her daughter’s education, [Deborah Green] took advantage of the only option she could afford — enrolling Tanisha in a charter school during middle school.

However, teachers at the charter school told the 53-year-old single mother that her daughter could do better in a more challenging environment and urged her to put Tanisha into private school.

“Her teachers were feeling she had potential, and I needed to get her out of there,” she said.

The only problem was Miss Green could not afford it. In 2005, a co-worker told her about the Opportunity Scholarship.

She jumped at the chance, and when Tanisha won a voucher, she enrolled at Dupont Park Adventist School, a small Christian school in Southeast.

The difference was dramatic, Miss Green said.

Tanisha had to learn how to do more homework because her schoolwork was more demanding. She learned self-discipline and stopped procrastinating. Her mother said she began working harder when more was expected of her.

“More so with the private school, I see she’s working to get that grade,” Miss Green, inside her small but cozy apartment in Anacostia, said at the end of May, just before school let out for the summer.

Tanisha spends hours in the afternoon doing her homework, she said.

“Private schools expect a lot more than public and charter schools, so that’s good,” said Tanisha, a shy but articulate teenager. “It was more about applying yourself, and I wasn’t used to that. It seems like they’re preparing you for college.”

There were differences outside of academics, too.

“It’s strict,” Tanisha said. She was home from school for the afternoon, and had changed from her school uniform into a camouflage tank top. “I have a little trouble with that, but I can adjust.”

It’s no wonder that the parents who have tried it are ready to fight so hard to keep choice alive. Politicians who would deprive children of their opportunities will have to deal with…well, with this:

[Deborah Green] said she is ready to hit the streets in protest when the program comes up for reauthorization in Congress next year in what is expected to be a fierce confrontation.

“We’re going to have a battle,” she said. “I’m ready to do that because they need to keep the program going. Without it, the students don’t have a choice, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

That’s from a pretty good article in The Washington Times. You should really read the whole thing.

Use School Choice to Secure The Best Education for EVERY Child

revised-1.jpgVouchers could desegregate schools better than buses, argues Dr. Herbert Walberg whose CV is as long as my arm.

Meanwhile, Harvard University’s Paul Peterson writes an incisive article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal entitled “”School Choice and Racial Balance.” (subscription required, unfortunately) Professor Peterson argues that a desirable level of integration will occur when parents of all races are allowed to send their children to the best school possible. In his words:

To achieve racial balance, let parents choose their school, and let oversubscribed schools admit students by lot. If parents of all races and ethnicities seek admission to a particular school at the same rate, then a lottery will ensure that the school’s social mix reflects that of the school district, the very goal Seattle said it tried to achieve.

Article in The State

There’s a pretty good article in Sunday’s edition of The State newspaper that highlights the school choice issue from the perspective of the Black community’s attempt to improve student achievement and educational attainment. The strongest part of the article is its multi-perspective view; its assessment of the political calculations of the people involved and how the legislative alliances are fluid based on what people perceive will get better education for kids. Another strength of the piece is its recognition that school choice is part of the education reform debate and that it’s an enduring issue of doing what’s right for the children.

Unfortunately, in what seems to be a genuine attempt to be fair, the author Rodney Burris prints some descriptions of school choice which are factually inaccurate.

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Did Jim Rex Steal the Election…

…by illicitly appropriating  state resources?

You be the judge.

Overlooked Gem

studying-boy.jpgAmong the people who keep track of these things, a large proportion will tell you that The Economist is the best news magazine in the world. Observers say that its thorough and careful approach to facts and analysis is unparalleled in any popular publication. So what does (arguably) the best news magazine in the world have to say about school choice? I’m glad you asked!

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Interlude: First Amendment Freedoms Survive Serious Attacks

On this fourth of July, it’s a good time to take a tiny break from the school choice issue and reflect on some patriotic themes.  While most Americans get caught up in the lovely trappings of the 4th—fireworks, barbecues, all that red, white, and blue—it’s also important to keep in mind the basis of the celebration.  Two hundred thirty-one years ago the United States began its fight for independence facing long odds against the world’s sole superpower.  With our unlikely victory, a chain of events was set in motion that ended with a new birth of liberty.

To this very day, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution remain America’s chief contributions to civilization by providing not only lofty ideals but a working blueprint for peaceful, prosperous, and free society.

Part of the greatness of our Constitution—some would say the greatness—lies in the protection of the right to criticize the government, ensuring that freedom of discourse and public reasoning mean that our elected officials will always be able to hear when something is wrong and, hopefully, respond.  (If not, our right to kick the bums out of office is also a handy feature of the Constitution.)   It’s no exaggeration to say that free expression, even against the government, is what America’s all about.

So it was sad a few years ago when modern American politicians acted like petty ruling clique of some half-civilized backwater and moved to limit free expression.  Striking a direct blow against our right to criticize the government prior to an election was a dastardly and un-American thing to do.

Fortunately the First Amendment was wounded but not killed.  Last week the Supreme Court ruled that at least part of McCain-Feingold speech restrictions were unconstitutional, illegal, and being pushed back.

Meanwhile, another attempt to suppress citizens’ First Amendment rights—the deceptively named “Fairness Doctrine”—has just been defeated by our elected representatives in Congress.  Bully for them!

It’s not clear that the First Amendment is out of the woods yet.  The patient is recovering but by no means back to full health.  Still, on this fourth of July, let’s be thankful for the freedoms we still have and hopeful about the ones we may yet win back.