Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Nevada Voucher Law Found Unconstitutional by Molly Hunter

Judge James Wilson of the First Judicial District Court of Nevada (Carson City) has ruled in Lopez v. Schwartz that the state's school voucher law (SB 302) enacted last summer by the Legislature violates two provisions of the Nevada Constitution. Judge Wilson issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the State from implementing the law.

The case challenging the voucher law was filed by parents of Nevada public school children from across the state. They argued that the program would divert scarce funding from public schools, triggering cuts to essential programs and services for their children and all other children attending Nevada's public schools.

The Court explained that the Nevada Constitution requires the Legislature to appropriate funds for the operation of the public schools, which "must only be used to fund the operation of the public schools." [Nevada Constitution, Article 11, Sections 6.1 and 6.2.] However, the Court continued, under the voucher law, if implemented, "some amount of general funds appropriated to fund ... the public schools will be diverted to fund" the vouchers for private school tuition and other uses.

Judge Wilson further found that the parents "have [proven] that SB 302 violates Article 11, Sections 6.1 and 6.2, and that irreparable harm will result if an injunction is not entered. Therefore an injunction will issue to enjoin Treasurer Schwartz," who is charged with implementing the law, from doing so.

“Not only the plaintiffs won today,” said Sylvia Lazos, Policy Director of Educate Nevada Now! (ENN), a campaign to strengthen Nevada public schools. “Judge Wilson’s ruling is a victory for all 460,000 public school children in Nevada, their parents, teachers, administrators and school board members. We are thrilled with the decision and look forward to continuing dialogue focused on improving our state’s education systems.”

"We're pleased that Judge Wilson found that the Legislature cannot take funding designated for the operation of the public schools and transfer that funding to private schools and other private education expenses," said David G. Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. ELC is a partner in the ENN campaign, along with the Las Vegas-based Rogers Foundation.

The Court will next schedule a trial on the merits.

The pro bono counsel team representing the parents in their lawsuit includes Education Law Center, Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin LLP based in Nevada; and, Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles.

The Attorney General is representing the State of Nevada and defending State Treasurer Dan Schwartz.

January 13, 2016 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Charter School Study Offers New Findings on Student Achievement, Student Enrollment, and Teachers

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Differing Effects from Diverse Charter Schools: Uneven Student Selection and Achievement Growth in Los Angeles, offers interesting and complex new findings about how charter schools differ from traditional public schools, particularly in regard to the students and teachers they attract.  Their breakthrough appears to be a function of distinguishing start-up charter schools from conversion charter schools.  This allows them a new baseline against which to make comparisons:

Their major findings include:

  • [in elementary school], conversion charters attracted pupils with considerably higher ELA and math scores, 0.34 SD and 0.32 SD higher at baseline than the respective means for TPS peers. 
  • Conversion charters served a much lower share of Latino pupils, compared with the mean TPS (55% versus 77%), and a much lower percentage of children eligible for subsidized lunches (50% versus 84%). In short, conversion charter schools fill niches in economically better-off parts of LAUSD. Differences were similar when comparing students among charter and TPS middle schools.
  • The organizational niches filled by start-up and conversion charters emerge even more vividly when turning to high schools . . . . The 28 start-up charter high schools enrolled pupils with significantly higher test scores at baseline. The mean ELA score for these students was 0.40 SD higher than TPS peers on average.
  • These sectors also varied in terms of the kinds of teachers each attracted and retained. Many conversions essentially inherited their teaching staff after winning their independent status, while gaining discretion to attract the preferred mix of new teachers in the future. Table 3, beginning with elementary schools, shows that start-up charters employed much lower shares of tenured teachers or those with full credentials, although charter elementary schools tended to employ a higher share of teachers with masters degrees, compared with TPS peers. Just 19% of elementary teachers at start-up charters Charter schools in Los Angeles had tenure at baseline, compared with 63% employed by conversion charters and 86% at TPS campuses. These differences are reflected in the mean years of teaching experience: 4.8 years for start-up teachers, and 10.0 and 12.2 years in conversion charters and TPS, respectively. Conversion elementary schools employed a higher share of White teachers and few African American teachers, compared with start-ups and TPS campuses. Sector differences were similar at the high school level. Three-fifths of all teachers were White at conversion high schools, compared with 48% at TPS and 45% at start-up campuses. The start-up charters relied more on young, less experienced teachers with masters degrees, compared with TPS or conversion charters.
  • [With the major caveat that] pupil achievement levels are not yet adjusted for prior family background or matched propensities to enter a treatment[, the study found] students who switched from a TPS elementary school into a charter middle school outperformed peers who remained in a TPS middle school. These switchers displayed advantages of 0.15 SD in ELA and 0.27 SD in math on average. The latter difference can be interpreted as modest in magnitude. Elementary students who stayed in a charter school displayed small learning advantages relative to TPS peers: 0.14 SD higher test scores in ELA on average, and 0.07 SD higher in math. These magnitudes of difference are similar to estimates for Boston charters (Abdulkadiroğlu et al., 2011; Angrist et al., 2011), based on admission lotteries (ELA, 0.08 SD; math, 0.21 SD).

These findings offer a tangled web: start-up charters, conversion charters, and traditional public schools are all distinct in the students and teachers they attract.  Conversion charters, however, seem to be best positioned to attract more advantaged students and more experienced teachers, which presumably have reciprocal effects on one another and thereby produce higher achievement in those schools.  In other words, of course some charters perform better; they draw higher performing teachers and students.


January 5, 2016 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Are We Heading Toward a Charter School 'Bubble'?

Preston Green, Bruce Baker, Joseph Oluwole, and Julie Mead have put the draft of their forthcoming article, Are We Heading Toward a Charter School 'Bubble'?: Lessons from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, on ssrn.  The article builds on Mark Naison’s earlier essay, which highlighted the growing number of scandals and policy problems in charter schools and described their resemblance to the subprime mortgage crisis.  Green and his colleague’s article explain “how Mark Naison may be correct in asserting that charter schools are developing conditions that are reminiscent of the subprime mortgage crisis.”  In particular, they argue that the adoption of multiple charter school authorizers creates incentives and conditions similar to those previously present with mortgages.  They then posit

what a “bubble” might look like in the charter school sector. Employing the policy bubble framework developed by Moshe Maor, we explain how the combination of multiple authorizers and EMOs might work together to create an abundance of poor performing schools in Black, urban communities. We also discuss the process by which such a bubble might actually burst in the process, creating disarray in these communities. The final section discusses the steps that federal and state governments should take to avoid the creation of policy bubbles in these vulnerable neighborhoods.

December 22, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wisconsin Governor Asks Supreme Court to Bring the Superintendent of Education Under His Control

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has taken up an interesting case that questions the powers of the state superintendent of education.  In dispute is a 2011 law that requires all administrative rules to be approved by the governor.  Under that law, the governor is asserting power over the state superintendent.  But a state supreme court case from two decades ago, Thompson v. Craney, 546 N.W.2d 123, 134 (1996), held that the state superintendent is an independent head of the Department of Public Instruction.  The relevant constitution text was amended in 1902 to read:

The supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent and such other officers as the legislature shall direct; and their qualifications, powers, duties, and compensation shall be prescribed by law. The state superintendent shall be chosen by the qualified electors of the state at the same time and in the same manner as members of the supreme court, and shall hold his office for four years from the succeeding first Monday in July. The state superintendent chosen at the general election in November, 1902, shall hold and continue in his office until the first Monday in July, 1905, and his successor shall be chosen at the time of the judicial election in April, 1905. The term of office, time and manner of electing or appointing all other officers of supervision of public instruction shall be fixed by law.

The court concluded:

Our review of these sources demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that the office of state Superintendent of Public Instruction was intended by the framers of the constitution to be a supervisory position, and that the “other officers” mentioned in the provision were intended to be subordinate to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Because the education provisions of 1995 Wis.Act 27 give the former powers of the elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction to appointed “other officers” at the state level who are not subordinate to the superintendent, they are unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt. If changes such as those proposed in 1995 Wis.Act 27 are to be made in the structure of educational administration—and we express no judgment on the possible merits of the changes—they would require a constitutional amendment.

That the current state law is in direct contradiction of this precedent.  The state attorney general is asking the court to reverse Thompson and, thereby, bring the state superintendent under the control of the governor.  I am guessing the the odds on this are long.  The lower court, in a straightforward decision, has already ruled against the state.  As it remarked in closing,

We reject th[e governor's] argument for reasons that should be obvious by now. The argument's premise, that the Governor's new power conferred by Act 21 gives the Governor “no power to fashion the text of a proposed rule,” is a premise Walker and Huebsch do not attempt to explain or defend. So far as we can tell, it is a premise that ignores reality. It seems beyond reasonable dispute that a Governor at loggerheads with an SPI over the content of a proposed rule, or proposed rule change, could use the threat to withhold approval as a means of affecting the rule content. Moreover, the analogy to the Governor's power to veto legislation is unpersuasive. As here, the threat of a Governor's veto can shape proposed legislation toward the Governor's preference. And, by constitutional design, a Governor's veto can be overridden by the legislature. Here, the Governor's approval authority is not similarly limited.

The case also has implications on a related phenomenon in other states:  charter legislation that divests the state superintendent of educational authority.  The Washington Supreme Court struck down that legislation earlier this year.  What Washington and Wisconsin's legislature and governor fail to appreciate is that in those states where the superintendent of education is a constitutional officer, the state is not free to pass any education legislation that suits its fancy.

December 9, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, School Funding, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Can Plaintiffs' Educational Adequacy Challenge to the Growing Hypersegregation in Minneapolis Reinvigorate a National Movement?

Plaintiffs in Minneapolis and Saint Paul have filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging that the racial and poverty segregation in the metropolitan area violates the state constitution's education clause, equal protection clause, and due process clause, as well as the Minnesota Human Rights Act.  The state supreme court has previously recognized education as a fundamental rights.  On that basis, plaintiffs challenged segregation in Minneapolis in 1995.  The Supreme Court never reached the merits of whether the segregation violated the state constitution, but held that plaintiffs case could move forward to trial.  Plaintiffs presented a sufficiently compelling case that the state settled the case and agreed to an integration remedy.  

In recent years, however, segregation in the metropolitan area has dramatically increased, with little or no effort by the state to abate it.  To the contrary, charter school and other attendance policies are making matters worse. While children of color and low income students are respectively only 29 and 38 percent of the state's overall school population, "the public schools of the City of Minneapolis are approximately 66 percent children of color and 64 percent free or reduced lunch; and the public schools of the City of Saint Paul are 78 percent children of color and 72 percent free or reduced lunch."  The adjoining surrounding school districts, however, are "overwhelmingly white" and predominantly middle income. Moreover, within the city school districts themselves, the state has created predominantly white and middle income schools alongside hyper-segregated poor and minority schools. Plaintiffs allege that "[t]he segregation and hyper-segregation [in these schools] have been the result of boundary decisions by the Minneapolis and Saint Paul School Districts, made with the knowledge and consent of defendants, which have had both the purpose and effect of creating and increasing segregation of the Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools by race and socioeconomic status."

Charter schools, in particular, seem to have been the means to exacerbate segregation:

The Twin Cities metropolitan area now contains 131 charter schools, over 80 percent of which are segregated by race, socioeconomic status, or both. [Nearly seventy charter schools] are either more than 95 percent students of color or more than 80 percent white students. Nearly a third (42 of 131) of charters in the Twin Cities are more than 95
percent students of color. In addition, there is a growing pattern in the suburbs of predominantly white charter schools locating near more racially diverse traditional schools. In 2013, 67 percent of suburban charters (32 out of 48 schools) were predominantly white (defined as more than 80 percent white students) compared to just 44 percent of traditional schools in the suburbs. More than half of predominantly white suburban charters were located in the attendance areas of traditional schools that were significantly more racially diverse. This figure has nearly tripled in the previous five years.

This case is, of course, Minnesota's version of the Sheff v. O'Neill litigation in Connecticut, which produced the first and only state supreme court decision holding that racial segregation--even if de facto--denied students equal educational opportunity under the state constitution.  The remedies in Sheff have garnered significant attention over the past year or so, with the New York Times criticizing the state of New York for its failure to replicate Connecticut's common sense remedies to address New York's hyper-segregation.  Were Minnesota's supreme to eventually become the second state supreme court to formally validate the theory in Sheff it would go a long way to speeding along a movement two decades in the making.  It is also worth noting that charter schools were not around in any real sense when Sheff was decided, but magnet schools were.  Those consciously pro-integration magnet schools of choice have been the central means of integrating schools in Connecticut, whereas Minnesota's integration-agnostic charters of choice have become a major tool of segregation.

Get the full complaint here: Download Minnesota Complaint

December 3, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Massachusetts Attorney General Debunks Plaintiffs' Constitutional Demand for More Charters

Earlier this year, I posted on a lawsuit in Massachusetts that challenges the state's cap on charter schools as violating the state's education clause.  I noted the connection between the charter theory and that in Vergara v. State (California challenge to tenure).  Both cases pick out single education policies as impeding their access to a constitutional education.  In that respect, they both ignore the larger education structures at play in their states.  The charter claim, however, is an even bigger stretch, as it is not asking for a fix to the public education system itself but the right to exit it and gain access to an alternative system.  In other words, since the state would give them what they are owed under the constitution, they want something else.

The state attorney general, Maura Healey, finally fired back this week in the state's responsive briefs.  Here's the Boston Globe's summary:

She contends that the argument advanced by the five plaintiffs that there is a direct link between the charter school cap and the poor education they claim to be receiving is “illogical, highly speculative, and remote.”

“Numerous other factors” other than the charter cap could be responsible for the poor performance of some schools, Healey writes. And simply opening more charter schools won’t necessarily help because there is no guarantee that they would be high-quality charters, she contends.


“Not all charter schools in Massachusetts are high-performing,” Healey writes. “In fact, it is not unusual for the department or the board to impose conditions on existing charter schools, or close them because they do not perform as required.”

Healey also asserts that Boston has not, as the plaintiffs argue, reached its limit on the number of charter schools because it still has seats available in so-called Commonwealth and in-district charter schools, which are given more flexibility than traditional public schools, though not as much as full-fledged charter schools.

Healey also argues that the court should not step in to lift the cap because the state Constitution “leaves the details of education policy making to the governor and the Legislature.”


That sounds about right.  For a similar critique of the constitutional challenge to tenure, see here.


November 18, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nationwide Study of On-line Charter Schools Reveals Inherent Flaws and Paltry Results: Is This the Beginning of the End

Three new studies came out last week, all raising red flags about the academic effectiveness of online charter schools.  In the past year or so, a few states have already begun to put the breaks on authorizing on-line charters, primarily due to scandals.  These new studies, with their focus on academic outcomes, may provide the hard systematic data to bring a complete end to them in some jurisdictions. The first study is by Mathematica.  If finds:

  • Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction
  • Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day
  • Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge
  • Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56 , and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction
  • These findings suggest reason for concern about whether the online charter school sector is likely to be effective in promoting the achievement of its student.

The second report is by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.  It found that

  • students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.
  • online charter schools exist in a number of different policy environments due to variation in state charter law and administrative regulation. Most of the existing regulation is reactive to controversy (restrictions on growth and autonomy), rather than proactive policies to guide the unique opportunities and challenges of online charter schools.
  • several drawbacks to forcing online schools into the charter context, including:
    • Open admission requirements that prevent schools from screening for students who are most likely to be successful in an online school.
    • Authorizing and accountability provisions that are not well suited to the unique challenges of regulating online schools.
    • Funding mechanisms that preclude outcomes-based funding.

The last study was by CREDO at Stanford University.  It found:

  • Online charter students had weaker growth than their [controlled counterparts in the study].
  • Pre-online mobility is the same for online charter students and their [counterparts].
  • Positive growth across a sector is possible. Some online charter schools which were part of multischool networks had average impacts on academic growth which were stronger than the typical online charter. Online charter schools in Wisconsin and Georgia had academic growth in reading which on average was stronger than their VCRs. These findings show it is possible for online charter schools to produce stronger growth, but it is not the common outcome.
  • Few school-level practices had a strong relationship with academic growth. A review of the relationship between school practices as reported in the Mathematica survey and student academic growth found mostly insignificant correlations between school practices and growth. Of practices in the survey which had strong positive correlations, attending schools which offered some self-paced classes was the most wide-spread and was found to be consistent across all school levels. The findings on the expected parental roles was also revealing in that placing more instructional responsibilities on parents was strongly correlated with weaker growth across most settings.
  • Teasing out the impact of state-level policies is difficult. The role of state-level policies matters in online charter education. The state-level policy changes included in the study did have significant relationships with the academic growth of online charter students. With the data included in this analysis, it was not possible to tease out which aspects of the particular policy changes led to the changes in academic growth. This is a critical area for future study.
  • Being an online school matters more than being a charter school. Finally, the major impacts of attending an online charter school appear to be primarily driven by the online aspect of the schools.


November 3, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Charter Schools With Lists of Students Who "Got to Go"

Civil rights activists and scholars have long speculated that some charter schools manufacture the student populations they would like to teach so as to produce better results.  On the front end, they could achieve this by bending the rules and discouraging special education and English Language Learner students from applying.  On the back end, they would weed out undesirables that made it in through the lottery system.  Some data has confirmed the front end problem, but the later has been little more than speculation.  Until last week.

[D]ocuments obtained by The New York Times and interviews with 10 current and former Success employees at five schools suggest that some administrators in the network have singled out children they would like to see leave.

The heading on the list was “Got to Go.”

Nine of the students on the list later withdrew from the school. Some of their parents said in interviews that while their children attended Success, their lives were upended by repeated suspensions and frequent demands that they pick up their children early or meet with school or network staff members. Four of the parents said that school or network employees told them explicitly that the school, whose oldest students are now in the third grade, was not right for their children and that they should go elsewhere.

The current and former employees said they had observed similar practices at other Success schools. According to those employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs or their relationships with people still at the network, school leaders and network staff members explicitly talked about suspending students or calling parents into frequent meetings as ways to force parents to fall in line or prompt them to withdraw their children.

Last year, for instance, the principal of Success Academy Harlem 2 Upper, Lavinia Mackall, told teachers not to automatically send annual re-enrollment forms home to certain students, because the school did not want those students to come back, two former members of the school’s staff said. Ms. Mackall said that her comments had been misinterpreted and that she was trying to encourage parents to take the school’s requirements seriously, but that she also did not believe the school was right for all students.

In another example, a current employee said, a network lawyer in a conversation with colleagues described a particularly unruly student’s withdrawal as “a big win” for the school.

Read the full story here.

November 2, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Right to an Education or the Right to Shop for Schooling: Examining Voucher Programs in Relation to State Constitutional Guarantees

Julie Mead's new article, The Right to an Education or the Right to Shop for Schooling: Examining Voucher Programs in Relation to State Constitutional Guarantees, 42 Fordham Urb. L.J. 703 (2015), explores the question of "at what point, if any, does a state's funding of private education subvert its constitutional obligation to provide adequately for public education, thereby converting a child's right to an education to merely the right to shop for one?"  The key issues courts have addressed in answering this question are:
First, the cases draw attention to the distinction between a constitutional obligation and a discretionary benefit. Second, the reasoning makes clear the relationship between school funding and legislative fulfillment of constitutional obligations. Third, the cases demonstrate that the source of a school's funding does not define its public-ness or lack thereof. Finally, the cases raise the issue of uniformity in the public sector as one measure of a legislature's execution of its constitutional mandate.
Based on her review of the cases, Professor Mead concludes that
The state constitutional obligation of state legislatures to fund and nurture the common public school is paramount and may not be subordinated to a legislative desire to subsidize the private choices of individual parents. Legislatures may enact private school choice provisions, but state constitutions direct that legislaturesmust provide public schools. State constitutions have clearly established that children have a genuine right to a quality public education, not merely the privilege to shop for schooling in the educational marketplace.


October 29, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Scholar Finds That Some North Carolina Charters Are Likely Violating State and Federal Non-profit Law

Tom Kelley's new article, North Carolina Charter Schools' (Non-?) Compliance with State and Federal Nonprofit Laws, 93 N.C. L. REV. 1757 (2015), is now in print.  The debate has long raged over whether charters are really non-profits.  Too much of that debate is rhetoric that paints with a very broad brush.  Kelley's article is deep on specifics and legal analysis, concluding that some charters in the state of North Carolina are no more than fronts for for-profit education management organizations (EMO) and that, as such, they are probably violating federal and state non-profit law.  His article is a serious indictment that will surely generate some attention.  He goes so far as to call for an investigation of a particular EMO--Roger Bacon Academy.  His abstract offers this summary:

In North Carolina, as in most jurisdictions across the country, state law requires that charter schools be governed by nonprofit corporations. This Article examines the governance practices of a select group of North Carolina charter-holding nonprofits and asks whether they are complying with state and federal nonprofit law. It scrutinizes with particular care a group of North Carolina charter-holding nonprofit corporations that have entered into comprehensive management agreements with for-profit educational management organizations, also known as EMOs. Based on an exhaustive analysis of the nonprofit corporations’ board meeting minutes, contracts, financial reports, tax filings, and real estate records, this Article concludes that certain North Carolina charter-holding nonprofits have very likely violated nonprofit law by in essence handing the keys of the charter schools over to the for-profit EMOs, permitting them with minimal supervision or disclosure to convert public educational dollars into significant corporate profits. This Article calls for legal and regulatory reform to rein in abusive practices by for-profit EMOs and more effectively safeguard the public funds that North Carolina citizens have devoted to education.

October 28, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Searching for Equity Amid A System of Schools: The View from New Orleans

Robert Garda's newest article, Searching for Equity Amid A System of Schools: The View from New Orleans, 42 Fordham Urb. L.J. 613 (2015) is available on westlaw.  He abstract offers this summary:
Hurricane Katrina leveled both the buildings and governance structure of the New Orleans school system. The system was transformed from one elected school board controlling nearly all the schools to a system of schools with sixty-three school districts operating within the city's geographic boundaries that are run by forty-four independent school boards. There is not a more decentralized school governance structure in the United States. This Article discusses how this new system of schools is attempting to achieve equal educational opportunities for its most vulnerable and at-risk student populations: the poor, minorities, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners.
For the first seven years after Katrina, the system of schools operated with virtually no centralized planning or unified services, instead pushing all decision-making and service provision down to the autonomous schools. With little oversight, the schools became balkanized by race, class, and ability because of unequal access, retention, and service provision, and because certain schools are specialized for discrete student populations. It became apparent that centralizing certain services and unifying policies was essential to creating equal opportunities for vulnerable students, which slowly began occurring in 2012.
Today, New Orleans education stands at a crossroads in deciding how to achieve equity for its vulnerable student populations. One route relies on centralizing services, planning, and oversight to ensure that every school provides an appropriate education to any type of student that walks through the schoolhouse door. This path embraces the version of inclusion equality set forth in Brown v. Board of Education: “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The other route relies on the market driven reform underlying the charter movement to create specialized schools to fill the unmet demands of vulnerable populations. This route embraces an emerging view of equality--where separate can be equal, possibly even superior, if parents are empowered to maximize their child's academic outcomes in specialized settings. This Article argues that New Orleans is headed down this latter route and identifies the lessons that can be learned from its evolution to a system of schools.


October 26, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

School Choice As a Proxy for Segregation and Inequality?

Controlled choice has been central to the ability of progressive school districts to voluntarily desegregate.  The title of this post is in no way meant to disparage school choice in general, but rather to highlight a recent study by Julia Burdick-Will.  Her study revealed an interesting pattern: "as a neighborhood’s income decreases, its range of educational experiences greatly expands."  In other words, the assumption that students in disadvantaged neighborhoods are trapped in their failing local school is not necessarily true.  Rather, children in wealthier neighborhoods are the ones most likely to stay in their neighborhood schools.  No one, of course, would claim these students are trapped.  Rebecca Klien points out that going to a strong neighborhood school is the privilege, not choice.  Wealthier students have this privilege.  Low-income students do not.  

Continue reading

September 15, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nevada Parents Sue to Stop State's Voucher Program, Arguing It Is the Most Expansive in Nation

Here is the Education Law Center's press release:

Several Nevada public school parents today filed a lawsuit opposing the state's new voucher program, which became law in June at the close of the legislative session. The lawsuit contends that the voucher law diverts funds earmarked for Nevada's public schools to private schooling and other education expenses, in direct conflict with the state constitution.

Nevada's new voucher law sets no household income limits, has no cap on the number of vouchers, and allows public school funding to pay for a wide range of private spending, including private and religious school tuition, home schooling, transportation, and other expenses, including those related to home-based education. The Nevada law creates the most expansive voucher program in the nation.

Continue reading

September 10, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A State Supreme Court Finally Gets It Right and Finds Charters Are Not Regular Common Schools

Last week, the Washington Supreme Court in League of Women Voters v. State held that Washington’s charter school statute was unconstitutional.  Its reasoning was straightforward.  First, the state constitution mandates that the state create and fund “a general and uniform system of public schools.”  Second, the constitution further provides that “the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.”  Third, charter schools are funded out of the common school fund.  Fourth, charter schools are not “common schools” because: a) they are not subject to the same rules and oversight as the other public or common schools in the state, b) they are governed instead by a charter school board; and c) that charter school boards are not elected by the people, but appointed or selected. As the Washington Supreme Court had established in a previous case, “a common school, within the meaning of our constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.”  Thus, in short, the charter school legislation is unconstitutional because it directs common school funds to schools that are not “common schools.”

Continue reading

September 9, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Could School Funding In Pennsylvania Be Any More Problematic?

Pennsylvania had long been one of those states that somehow managed to distribute money to its public schools without an actual funding formula.  Rather than distributing money based on head counts, locality cost, special need students and the like, Pennsylvania funded schools through what I call the "Pittsburgh ought to get this and Philly that" method.  During Governor Rendell's administration, the state, for the first time, passed a formula, which seemingly improved things a little.  But during Governor Corbett's time in office, the state abandoned the formula.  This in, no small part, led to the horror stories in Philadelphia, including school nurses being told they could only work one or two days a week.  In 2013, on a day when the school nurse was told to stay home, a girl began exhibiting symptoms at school, which later that day would lead to her death.  This along with other atrocities led the civil rights community to uncharacteristically descend on the state.

Over the past half year or so, a commission on school funding has traveled the state to seek input from districts and stakeholders on what should be done.  This summer the commission submitted a proposal to the legislature, which has yet to act.  But whatever legislation might come out of the state house the legislature has proven unable to keep its word in the past.  The abandonment of the funding formula is case in point one.  Case in point two is the crisis in Chester right now.  A few years ago, teachers had to work for free because the district was so upside down in its payments to charter schools.  The district is right back in the same position.  

Continue reading

September 3, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 17, 2015

North Carolina Voucher Program Survives Constitutional Challenge, Court Reasons the Special Funding for the Program Exempts It from Scrutiny

Earlier this summer in Hart v. State, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school voucher program that pays tuition for eligible students to attend private schools using taxpayer dollars.  Plaintiffs alleged that the Opportunity Scholarship Program violates the North Carolina Constitution by allocating taxpayer money to private schools; appropriating taxpayer money to private schools without the Board of Education supervising those funds; and creating a “non-uniform system of schools.”  Plaintiffs also alleged the program was unconstitutional because eliminating accountability and permitting schools receiving voucher students to discriminate based on religion served no public purpose.

Continue reading

August 17, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Voucher Movement Finally Coming Clean? New Push Is All About Middle Income Students

Last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held its fifth annual conference in San Diego. At the conference ALEC announced that they would no longer promote private school vouchers as helping poor, minority, or disadvantaged children, but would now be pushing vouchers for middle-class suburbia. The voucher system had previously been endorsed as a means to boost racial diversity and was restricted to low income families. However, like ALEC, numerous states have transitioned to promoting the privatization of public education.

Continue reading

July 31, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Senate Votes Down Vouchers, ESEA Process Presses Forward

A little over a month ago, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a member of the education subcommittee, had foregone his voucher amendment at the committee level so that the bill could move to the full Senate with a unanimous vote.  He revived that amendment before the full Senate.  The measure would have allowed low income students to opt out of public school and use $2100 in Title I dollars to pay for tuition at a private school.  The amendment was defeated on a 45-to-51 vote yesterday. Democrats were unified in their opposition and a few Republicans joined them, including Senators from Missouri, Kansas, and Alaska.  Senate rules required 60 votes for the amendment to pass.  

Still up this week are amendments to the funding formula (discussed here yesterday) and an anti-discrimination measure to protect against harassment based on sexual orientation.

July 15, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, ESEA/NCLB | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ohio's Plan to Regulate Charters Will Not Do the Job Says Charter School Advocate

The movement to allow charter schools to operate free from regulation by local school districts, and in some instances, by state education departments, was intended to encourage innovative approaches to education. But states are learning that when money is involved, allowing charters charters to operate without sufficient oversight also fosters fraud and waste. Ohio's charter school system has been criticized for poor results, no-show students, and not counting online students' Fs in courses. Those following the national scrutiny of Ohio's charter school system (examples here and here), have seen Ohio Gov. John Kasish try to fix the state's charter school regulation. But the current legislation before the Ohio Senate will not do the job, charter school advocate Chad Aldis wrote today. The problem is that the current bill still allows charters to shop for "sponsors," the organizations that oversee the charters' performance -- and to seek sponsors who will set the bar low. Further, Ohio pays sponsors up to 3 percent of the funding received by the schools that they sponsor with no statutory restrictions on how sponsors can spend those funds, a system that allows a symbiotic relationship incompatible with rigorous oversight. Read more on Ohio's bill here.

June 17, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

New Study Says Education Reform in New Orleans May Have Served Whites' Interests, But Not African Americans'

Adrienne Dixson (University of Illinois), Kristen Buras (Georgia St.), and Elizabeth K. Jeffers (Georgia St.) have released their new paper, The Color of Reform: Race, Education Reform, and Charter Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans, 21 (3) Qualitative Inquiry (2015).  They argue that

By most media accounts, education reform in post-Katrina New Orleans is a success. Test scores and graduation rates are up, and students once trapped in failing schools have their choice of charter schools throughout the city. But that's only what education reform looks like from the perspective of New Orleans' white minority -- the policymakers, school administrators and venture philanthropists orchestrating and profiting from these changes. . . 

From the perspectives of black students, parents and educators -- who have had no voice in the decision-making, and who have lost beloved neighborhood schools and jobs -- education reform in New Orleans has exacerbated economic and cultural inequities.

Get a summary of their research here and the full article here.

May 5, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Equity in education | Permalink | Comments (0)