Topic: Education and Child Policy

New York Can’t Afford NOT to Have School Choice

I wrote recently about the bad economy causing parents to pull their kids from private schools and enroll them in public school; it costs school districts and taxpayers a bundle of money to educate these new kids.

The New York Post reports today that Catholic schools are hemorrhaging students:

In the Archdiocese of New York - which operates schools in Manhattan, Staten Island, The Bronx and northern suburbs - enrollment at elementary and high schools dropped by nearly 6,000 students in one year, to 88,273, officials said.

Those 6,000 students put taxpayers on the hook for another $120 million dollars at New York’s current $20,000 in per-student spending if they go to public school.

Regardless of what you think about educational choice, governments and taxpayers are in no shape to pony up that kind of cash. It’s a lot cheaper to keep those kids in Catholic schools with an education tax credit.

A little more than a quarter of current public per-student spending – $5,500 in tax credit funds – would pay for the entire average Catholic high school tuition. An education tax credit that size would mean a savings of $14,500 for every kid that stays in private school because of the credit. A credit like that might have saved taxpayers more than $80 million if it kept those 6,000 students in the school of their choice.

And that’s just Catholic schools … private schools are losing students across the board because many parents can’t afford to pay both school taxes and private tuition in this economy. Every kid they lose is a huge cost to public schools and taxpayers.

A recent Cato fiscal analysis found that a broad-based tax credit could save New York more than $15 billion in the first ten years … and that doesn’t even count savings from kids who would otherwise have gone to public schools without the credit.

New York and other states in financial trouble need education tax credits – they can’t afford not to have school choice.

For Better, Definitely for Better

Over at Flypaper, Mike Petrilli thinks that “for better or for worse,” when it comes to federal education policy, congressional Republicans will dump their eight-year, NCLB-led foray into big-government education and get back to following the Constitution.

OK, Mike didn’t mention the Constitution — I added that part — but the important point is that the sooner Republicans abandon a rotten law and a failed political strategy, the better.

OK, I added the “failed law and failed political strategy” part, too, but Mike does think congressional Republicans will get back to small government, and no matter what he thinks is the reason for that, it would be great news.

Maybe Gates Is Starting to Get It

Yesterday, I wondered aloud why Bill Gates keeps banging his bucks and head into the public-schooling brick wall rather than backing reforms that go around it. I noted that no matter what he does—as his efforts to date have borne out—he will never be able to turn the immovable teachers unions, administrators, and politicians.

Mr. Gates might be starting to see what I’ve been writing about. As reported in Education Week’s Campaign K-12 blog, at the event in which Gates unveiled his plans to create and promote national standards (obviously, he hasn’t completely learned his lesson), Gates admitted that his reforms haven’t worked because they wouldn’t help influential people, and that his very establishment Strong American Schools effort (which also went by the moniker “ED in 08”) just did what tweak-the-beast reforms always do: cause people to “mouth platitudes,” and little more.

At the risk of repeating myself, there is a better way: Universal school choice—like, say, universal tax credits—will get a lot more people on board than a small school here, or a new test there, because it would offer tangible benefits to everyone. That’s how you get broad-based support. And as far as getting past platitudes, the only way to do that is to get around the system in which nice rhetoric, not education, is what’s most important. Again, I give you school choice.

Bill vs. Reality

Fresh off his failure to defeat political reality with his Strong American Schools—which tried to push education high on the list of presidential election concerns—as well as disappointment with his small-schools efforts, Bill Gates is trying a new fix for American education: national standards.

How much money does this man have to lose before he gives up on the socialist, monopoly system we’ve got now and starts pushing truly game-changing reforms like school choice?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Gates trying to formulate standards and tests and convince schools to use them. I don’t distrust Gates because he’s too influential, for instance, nor do I have any problem with national standards as long as parents are free to choose schools, and schools are free to adopt, oh, let’s call them Standards Vista. I just think Gates is delusional if he thinks the inevitably politicized, special-interest-dominated public schooling system that he’s never been able to change before is going to suddenly rush to adopt really challenging standards and tests.

As I’ve repeated until I’m blue in the face (or numb in my typing fingers) really high standards and rigorous tests will never be adopted and maintained by most public school systems because they would be hard to reach and, hence, a big pain for the people with all the power: teachers, administrators and politicians. Why challenge yourself when you can get the money for free?

So let’s get first things first, Mr. Gates: Get education money to parents, and autonomy to schools, so we can have real choice and competition. Then I’ll gladly cheer on Microsoft as it battles Apple, the Educational Testing Service, Billy Mays, or anyone else who wants a piece of the suddenly competitive, innovative, and dynamic national-standards action.

Change We Need, Except When, Umm, the Unions Don’t Like It!

Kudos to Clarence Page for hitting President-elect Barack Obama on school choice.

Obama’s daughters are currently enrolled in a private school. The Obamas are likely to send them to one of the more expensive and exclusive private schools in DC. But Obama opposes private school choice programs that would allow parents with smaller incomes and less power to find good schools for their own children.

Page asks Obama, “what about the kids left behind in failing schools?”

Unfortunately, Obama has followed the lead of most other black politicians and decided that the poor black (not to mention white, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) kids left behind can wait for another 5, 10, or 15-year plan to improve the public schools.

It’s a sad political fact that black leaders are as strongly opposed to school choice as black parents are strongly supportive of it.

A 2001 study from the Joint Center Political and Economic Studies found 70 percent of black elected officials oppose vouchers while “in the black population, there was what can accurately be described as overwhelming support for vouchers (approximately 70 percent) in the three youngest age cohorts” under age 51. Support for vouchers in the inner-city can hit 77 percent according to research conducted by Terry Moe.

There is a massive and problematic disconnect on education policy between the average black voter on one side and the Democratic Party and black leaders on the other. It’s nice to see a liberal pundit point this out.

Cato Today

Op-Ed: “The Voters’ Message to Republicans,” by Michael D. Tanner on Cato.org

Given a choice between two “big-government parties,” voters will choose the Democrats every time.

Video: Daniel J. Ikenson discusses an auto industry bailout on CNN

Where is it written in scripture and in stone that we need to have a big three?…If one of them goes down, the industry will be doing much better.

Article: “Worse Than Bush?,” by Ted Galen Carpenter in National Interest Online

Although it is hard to imagine, Obama’s foreign policy could prove even worse than that of the Bush administration.

Article: “Save Parents the Lecture,” by Neal McCluskey in Educationnews.org

Are there things that parents could do to improve education? Sure, but they don’t need… Barack Obama lecturing them on getting involved in their kids’ learning. What they need is real power over their kids’ education. What they need is school choice—but that’s something for which Obama refuses to use his bully pulpit.

Podcast: “The New Face of the GOP,” featuring Michael D. Tanner