Go Big or Go Home
And other tales from the education wars
Texans are buckling in for a potential special session - and a fight over whether Governor Greg Abbott and his legislature will come to terms on his proposed Education Savings Account program. The compromise seems to be between Abbott’s proposal, which passed the Senate, providing most K-12 students in Texas up to $8,000 toward the education of their choice and a dramatically scaled-back program, if any. The House, fueled by rural Republicans being led to believe that they will lose students and funds that go along with them, initially banned funding for the program and is now set to consider choice only for students in F-rated schools and students with disabilities.
To that, Governor Abbott says no.
To that, we say no. Isn’t it interesting that the compromise position essentially means: “You can take our least advantaged kids, but not those who make us look good”?
Abbott’s resolve is critical to securing the freedom for parents to choose the school their child attends.
The Not-So-Silent Opposition
Raise Your Hand Texas, funded by TX Billionaire and Harvard/University of Pennsylvania graduate Charles Butt appears to be the air traffic controller of the opposition, funding negative ads as well as having targeted dozens of pro-education choice lawmakers over the years. They also back the Texas Federation of Teachers (aka. teachers union) and districts fighting against choice. Thankfully their misguided campaign is facing an uphill battle.
Parents Prevailed In Oklahoma
The good news is that just a hop, skip and a few hundred thousand jumps away, OK Governor Kevin Stitt’s resolve to give parents purchasing power over their education became a reality this week. He is poised to sign into law a new refundable tax credit program that would give parents with less means the ability to spend $7,500 on their student’s education, and a sliding scale of up to $5,000 for families with higher incomes. The Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act provides parents the ability to qualify for upfront payments before taxes are due each April. The program is capped at $150 million for 2024 and moves up successfully. That means potentially up to 20,000 students will qualify next year.
Stitt also faced opposition from rural groups, and from those who thought vouchers were too difficult to enact. The deal that seemed to deliver the right number of votes raises public education funding by $625 million plus another $125 million for rural districts and pay raises of up to $6,000 for teachers who have taught 15 years or more.
It would seem that the public education bureaucracy should have nothing to complain about, but sad that so much money has to change hands for a comparably few parents to have choice.
“The rich folks already have school choice; they already have options. I’m thinking about the moms who are stuck in a ZIP code in Tulsa, and during COVID, their school was shut down, and other schools were open. If their kid’s not thriving, let’s give them another option.” - Governor Stitt
It’s a good start.
Unions Prevailed In Oakland
The Oakland Teachers Union decided it was a good time to strike and leave students who are already behind because of their bad actions and policies to decline even further. While they settled after 14 days this past Monday, the union was the only party that won. They got a 15.5% pay raise without any requirement that kids learn in exchange. In fact, to shut a school down now requires a unanimous vote by the board.
As parent organizer and Oakland Reach’s founder Lakisha Young, whose group won a 2021 Yass Prize semifinalist award and is represented in Forza’s featured picture said:
“There’s a false assumption going around that this ongoing strike is meant to help Black and brown students. It’s not. Instead, this strike is proving the opposite. Without school in session, the flatlands of Oakland are a ghost town, where our lower income Black and brown students already have some of the lowest reading and math scores in California and an absenteeism rate close to 50% among Black students.”
Bombshell Reading Revelation
New York City’s unusually candid schools chancellor David Banks condemns 23 years of failed reading instruction, which is why more than half of all students fail reading.
In a message to the parents, Banks said: “It’s not your fault. It’s not your child’s fault. It was our fault.”
“Far too long, children across the city suffered in silence as they struggled in school with an undetected learning disability,” the Mayor said in a statement last year.
Mayor Eric Adams is one of the estimated millions in this country who has dyslexia. Kudos to these public officials for their honesty, and commitment to making it right for kids.
Kids with dyslexia can learn and learn well. We’ve seen it up close and personal. Next week, I’ll share more about that, and a lot more…