Sunday, May 07, 2017

Education On Wrong Path

Ten days ago, Washington Post reporters found

Students in the nation’s only federally funded school voucher initiative performed worse on standardized tests within a year after entering D.C. private schools than peers who did not participate, according to a new federal analysis that comes as President Trump is seeking to pour billions of dollars into expanding the private school scholarships nationwide.

The study, released Thursday by the Education Department’s research division, follows several other recent studies of state-funded vouchers in Louisiana, Indiana and Ohio that suggested negative effects on student achievement. Critics are seizing on this data as they try to counter Trump’s push to direct public dollars to private schools.

Vouchers, deeply controversial among supporters of public education, are direct government subsidies parents can use as scholarships for private schools. These payments can cover all or part of the annual tuition bills, depending on the school.

It is becoming clearer that vouchers are more a money-making scheme that a realistic strategy to improve education. The trend is unmistakable and the reporters add

Martin West, a professor of education at Harvard, said the D.C. study adds to an emerging pattern of research showing declines in student achievement among voucher recipients, a departure from an earlier wave of research — often on smaller, privately funded scholarship programs — that skewed more positive.

If the voucher program in the nation's capital hasn't actually harmed education as it has in other cities, it's only because

the D.C. voucher program is singular. Rather than diverting funds from the District’s public schools, it has brought them additional revenue. To make the program politically palatable in a city dominated by Democrats, Congress has appropriated millions of dollars a year for the city’s traditional public schools and its growing set of public charter schools.

With a GOP-controlled Congress hostile to funding social services and an Education secretary hostile to public schools, such largesse is unlikely to be repeated elsewhere. So of course a few days later

Speaking at a White House event attended by about two dozen children, including some participating in a federally funded voucher program in the nation’s capital, Trump said, “Every child has the right to fulfill their potential, and, if we do our jobs, then we will never have to tell young, striving Americans to defer their dreams for another day or for another decade.”

The Washington, D.C., voucher program allows low-income students to use federal funds to attend private schools. Although it is the nation’s only federal funded voucher program, some states, including Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, have funded similar programs.

Trump asked lawmakers to “extend school choice to millions more children all across the United States of America, including millions of low-income Hispanic and African American children who deserve the same chance as every other child to live out their dreams and fill up their hearts and be educated at the top, top level.”

The President does, however, have to figure out a way to marry his pander to the Christian right with his dedication to the plutocrat class.  He may already have done so:

The Education Department declined to comment on what specific legislation the administration was proposing.

Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said that Trump was likely referring to a federal tax program that would allow individuals and perhaps corporations to donate money to scholarship funds in exchange for tax credits. That method would circumvent restrictions on using public money to fund religious private schools, which many states have, by giving the money directly to parents instead of schools.

Writing about health care, conservative columnist Russ Douthat of the Times argues "if the A.H.C.A. stands as the chief policy distillation of Trumpism, then the central Democratic argument in 2018 and 2020 should be entirely clear: Trump is not a populist but just another pro-plutocracy Republican, and everything his party promised you on health care was a sham."

The emphasis in the statement above is his.  From a different ideological perspective, Jeremy Mohler and Donald Cohen recognize privatization, a fundamental strategy of the Trump Administration, as a "core assault"on "our democracy."   "One front where many citizens can come together in the Trump era," they argue, "is in the  struggle for what we own together."   Education is but one front, but one which can be fought on the national, state, and local levels.

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