The Times They Are A-Changin’
Thank you, Bob Dylan. And it's no longer just parents who are changing their tune on the importance of having the power to choose their child’s education.
Did candidate Josh Shapiro just join the fight?
The Democratic Candidate for Governor and current Attorney General earlier this week endorsed the Lifeline Scholarship Program, telling the Patriot News, “I’m for making sure we add [publicly-funded] scholarships like lifeline scholarships to make sure that that’s additive to their education. That it gives them other opportunities…to be able to help them achieve success.”
Now, with the strong backing of the biggest opponents of education freedom for poor parents, many suspect it might be hard to trust that Shapiro will really enthusiastically place his support behind this work once elected. Officials find all sorts of reasons to get out of commitments they made when they were running (I have a headache, the check is in the mail, I didn’t really say that, etc… 😊 ). And many will turn their backs on prior commitments, sadly like Senator Cory Booker did when he stopped supporting school choice. So we’re only cautiously optimistic, but hopeful that Democrats who support education opportunity - and citizens alike - will voice their gratitude to help keep Mr. Shapiro on the side of our little angels.
“Could it be that both Republicans and Democrats finally agree that a child’s ZIP code, ethnicity, or class should not determine whether they have access to a high-quality education?”
Pastor Aaron Anderson of Logos Academy
Choice is well-accepted outside the US
As we drove around Ireland during a brief visit this summer, I was reminded that the various schools where kids were “queuing” up and having recess as we drove through the extraordinary countryside were, in fact, schools of choice, and they are free of charge, with capital and salaries funded mainly by the government and some local contributions.
“The primary education sector is made up of different types of primary school including denominational schools, multi-denominational schools, Irish-speaking schools (called Gaelscoileanna), special schools and non-State-aided private primary schools,” according to user-friendly information produced just for citizens!
“You can send your child to the school of your choice, provided there is a place available for them. Where there is a shortage of places the school must give priority on the basis of their admissions or enrollment policy.”
1 in 4 California parents clearly want power
That’s why many switched schools, mostly from traditional public to charter post-pandemic, according to a new USC survey reported on in the LA School Report yesterday. “Thirty-eight percent of parents decided to switch schools because they wanted a different educational experience for their children. The poll also found 31% of parents dissatisfied with COVID-related safety measures at their childrens’ school and 30% dissatisfied with mental health support or one-on-one learning help.” USC’s lead researcher Morgan Polikoff says its parents are acting on their frustrations. As well they should.
“How America bungled COVID school closures…
...and failed to put children first” is a must listen podcast about Anya Kamenetz’s new book about the toll taken on our kids, at the hands of misguided adults, politics and some incompetence and it’s a huge hit. “The Stolen Year” tells the most heart-wrenching stories of families and children left to their own devices while schools were closed for nearly 24 months. In their book review, the Washington Post praises her for not playing the blame game. Kamenetz argues that “these decisions shouldn’t have been left up to districts in the first place. They were mired in political battles. They had little relevant expertise to judge incomplete and emerging evidence.” She’s right about that. Districts have very little relevant expertise in a lot of matters and their decision-making is compromised by a veritable maze of contracts, regulations, multiple chains of command, and little incentive to do anything bold. And that’s precisely why there has to be a reality check on who caused the “bungling.”
If you’re brave enough to write a book about it, you should be brave enough to capture the reality of why children were left to languish and will now forever pay the price. It was unions, Anya, and the politicians that defend them, and the medical community who failed to speak out. This podcast interview is a great primer if you haven’t time to read the book.
Back to Ireland (please!)
Ireland has some extraordinary research on the impact of school closures on their kids.
Just over 40 percent of parents thought it had a major or moderate negative impact on their kids, who are estimated to have lost about 3 months of learning. That’s a big difference from US data, which predicted as much as a year or more for most kids. Granted, there are size and socioeconomic differences but one cannot help point to the fact that Ireland’s pluralistic education system granted better benefits to students in a crisis than the US.
Oh, and they opened their schools months before the US did.
They - and others - value pluralism in education
“In fact, most democratic school systems around the world build choice and quality into their design,” says Associate Professor Ashley Berner, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy. “This is called educational pluralism.”
I dusted off the great work by Ashley Berner today and she makes just such a compelling argument and one that all of our electeds should consider.
“We fight a lot about education in the United States: districts against charters, choice advocates against teachers unions, and even parents against school boards.
But here’s the curious thing: In most other democracies, entire school sectors aren’t pitted against each other. Nor is there serious dispute about the need for all students to have access to a rigorous curriculum.” Food for thought, friends.