Archives for category: Education

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A growing number of Americans are concerned about the increase of government intrusion in their lives. One area that this is undeniable is in our National system of education.  In years past there was more autonomy allowed by states, local districts and even schools within districts.  Flexibility was allowed and parents had a voice in curriculum, discipline and school policies for their children’s education.

Today’s PTA’s are mainly fundraising organizations for our schools’ over-tapped budgets. In years past they were as powerful as the School Boards. As laws continue to increase determining more and more aspects of our system of education, the power of parental involvement has been allocated to legislators. Laws have been made to eliminate school prayer, eliminate religious extra-curricular clubs from campuses, and Federal Laws are forcing a National Curriculum called the Common Core. California recently passed a law that prevents exemption from vaccinations for philosophical or religious reasons for public school children.

For these reasons and others, parents are opting out of traditional public education and looking for alternatives.

Between fall 2003 and fall 2013, the number of White students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools decreased from 28.4 million to 25.2 million, and the percentage who were White decreased from 59 to 50 percent.  NCES

Milton Friedman, one of this country’s biggest advocates for liberty was at the forefront of the school choice movement long before the tentacles of government involvement had reached their current levels. Along with his wife Rose, he formed the Friedman Foundation in 1996 to promote parental choice in education.  Of this he said, “Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the U.S. will be able to choose for itself the school to which its children go. We are far from that ultimate result. If we had that – a system of free choice – we would also have a system of competition, innovation, which would change the character of education.”

The options available for school choice vary by state. 40% of states offer some kind of school choice outside the public school system.  Within the public school system charter schools and magnet schools offer somewhat of a “choice” with specialized programs that can address issues such as educating the ESL population through special curriculum. Charter and magnet schools can offer an emphasis of focused learning for the Arts, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to prepare students for further education and careers in these fields.

These charter schools are so attractive academically that some parents who have homeschooled their children for religious reasons are choosing them as a better option to prepare them for college.

 School Choice is not an issue for America’s 1%.  With wealth comes choices for the best education regardless of the price through private institutions. Providing school choice for parents in America is really about levelling the field for education equality  amid the growing chasm of income inequality. Proof of this is that it is the economically privileged white population that is exiting public education.

 Homeschooling  is on the rise, with an increasingly more diverse demographic, as an inexpensive alternative for lower income families. Education Savings Accounts are available in some states to assist families that homeschool to offset expenses such as books, and online education programs.

 In an effort to recapture per student government funding, some districts are creating programs and on- line courses to facilitate homeschooled students.  Charter schools are being created for just this purpose both in the private and public education sector.

Voucher programs can make it possible for economically challenged families to provide a superior education that could help their children to break the cycle of poverty. The Blaine Laws are an obstacle in the voucher program because they consider using tax money for religious schools to be a violation of separation of church and state.  It could be argued that taxpayers should have a say in the distribution of their own money regardless of religious affiliation.

Intra and inter-district transfers are another way to level the education playing field for disadvantaged minorities. Studies  show that lower income districts underperform higher income districts. Often the registration process in districts is so complicated, that though transfers are possible, many do not take advantage of them. Many states  do not allow transfers or limit them to a very small percentage.  It takes a pro-active program to reach out to underprivileged families to make them aware of what choices are available to them.

It is interesting to see the small percentage of those who take advantage of school choice in states where it is available. It would make one conclude that there is a lack of awareness and/or an overly complicated application process that prevents parents from utilizing them. School voucher and Personal Tax credit options seem to be the most utilized of the choice options.

The ability to enroll children in the school of choice is a fundamental parental right.  In a country that promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness- it must be guarded.  Education equality could be the first step in the road to income equality throughout our nation.  School choice is the vehicle that makes it possible.

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Charter Schools are on the rise across the country as America’s failing education system attempts new models to improve itself. For the most part, these Charter and Innovative schools are making a difference and improving graduation rates, test scores, and retention. Because of this there is a demand by parents  for more charter schools.

Along with their success has come a backlash of lawsuits and legislation meant to slow their progress and in some cases terminate them altogether.

Reasons for these  lawsuits  range from civil rights violations, education equality violations, and even accusations of un-constitutional standards and requirements.

The instigators of these lawsuits are varied.  Parents, Teacher’s associations, School Districts and the  ACLU have filed complaints against charter schools. Now, the  Black Lives Matter Movement is accusing them of propagating racial injustice. In the same way crime rates were reduced by the increased incarceration of black Americans, the NAACP and BLM believe that test scores in minority rich urban charter schools are being accomplished by increased suspensions and expulsions of black students.

Most explanations for the suits are financial. As the numbers of Charter schools continue to grow, money is diverted from traditional schools and, therefore, limiting their resources.

At a  recent Conference on School Choice  I  attended, put on by the Franklin Center for Public and Government Integrity, the point was made by Ben Scafidi of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice that if the student is no longer in the school, it is no longer an expense of the school, so it is not costing the school anything if it loses funding.

A school board member with whom I am acquainted, says that this is a simplistic interpretation and not a real picture of the costs to traditional public schools in losses to their program funding.

Perhaps the lawsuits are more motivated by control issues between Teacher’s Unions, Districts and government entities all vying for their own education agenda. Whatever the reasons, there is a cost and the cost is the children.  Money that would otherwise be used for supplies, teachers, curriculum and programs is spent on attorneys and court costs.

As Tim Keller, an attorney who represents charter schools for the Institute For Justice, and another speaker at the conference said, Charter Schools are here to stay”.  It would make sense to accept this, and learn to work with them and not against them for the sake of our children.

The  Denver Public Schools  have made great strides because the district and charter schools are learning to work together and support  each other’s efforts. As America continues to grow in cultural diversity, it is important that our educational system accept and embrace this change.  One of the ways that it can do this is through charter schools that are better suited to the ESL population.  These programs may not work in a more homogenized setting or curriculum, but only in the freedom allowed in the charter schools. Charter Schools by their nature have less regulations and can be more innovative in programs and curriculum.

The Strive Program in Denver is an example of how charter schools can meet the needs of the ESL segment of the community through curriculum created for them that integrates English learning.

If we really want to make America great, it begins with educating our children to be the best in the world.  With only two countries in the world that outspend us on education per child   there is no reason why we shouldn’t be the best educated in the world.

It is time to try a new model for learning. Perhaps the charter schools are leading the way. If only the naysayers and opponents would just give them a chance and end the lawsuits and legislation attempting to stop them.

US govt student loans

The Regents of the University of California have made a ruling to increase tuition  on their campuses another 5% per year over the next five years compounding to a total of 27%.  This passed in spite of protests by students and impassioned pleas against it, one most notably, from Governor Jerry Brown.

Governor Brown went so far as promising a 5% increase per year in funding if the current tuition freeze were to remain in effect. Apparently, this was not enough for Janet Napolitano, the UC President.

The controversies surrounding the rate hike are myriad.

“Two months ago, the UC regents gave pay hikes of up to 20% to the leaders of the Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Merced and Riverside campuses and awarded the new Irvine chancellor 24% more than his predecessor. We’re talking salaries ranging from $383,000 to $485,000, plus perks” LA Times

The article also explains:

“So UC undergraduate tuition today is more than eight times what it was 25 years ago, at $12,192. Tack on campus fees, books, room, board and other stuff and you’re up to $33,000 a year.”

California once had the best fees in the nation for State operated institutions.  According to the New York Times article, they are already above the National average.  The increase will put them even further afield from other States.

Napolitano’s promises for the money include additional courses, more financial aid and staff increases.  These may give way to another more urgent budgetary issue:

“.. UC officials say the system also needs the money to help rescue its pension fund – neglected for two decades and facing $7.2 billion in unfunded liabilities – and to cover the growing cost of retiree health benefits.” Sac Bee

A new wrinkle has also come forward, thanks to President Obama’s new Immigration Order. Napolitano has offered to fund expanded legal services  to its undocumented students. At the same time, legal citizens are being forced to up the ante for their education.

The most disconcerting fact surrounding the UC tuition rate hikes is the fact that the State of California   is predicting budget surpluses in the amount of $5.6 billion for the 2014-15 fiscal year with projections of annual increases to over $10billion by 2017-18.  It appears that a reevaluation of budget priorities are in order.

The outcome of this will be students graduating with an even greater debt than they already have .  Loans which the U.S. government   continues to make money on by the fistfuls.

If California ever expects to climb its way back up in the rankings of states, it needs to give its future a chance with a quality, affordable education for its citizens.