Sen. Marco Rubio released an ambitious federal school-choice plan on Tuesday night.
Photo from Speaker Boehner's Flickr account.
The nation was perhaps too preoccupied with Marco Rubio’s gulp heard ‘round the world to notice that the senator, immediately after his Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday, released a far-reaching federal school-choice plan. And that’s too bad, for what has emerged this week is the most sweeping congressional idea to empower disadvantaged kids with private school alternatives since the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Just as many states now make available tax credit scholarships—cousins to school vouchers—Rubio would empower individuals or corporations to contribute money to nonprofit “scholarship granting organizations” in return for a tax credit—anywhere in the nation. Those scholarship groups would, in turn, help low-income kids cover the tuition at a private school of their choice.
This is an ambitious plan, but one that would surely face resistance in a Democratically controlled senate that has repeatedly dogged the D.C. voucher program. And while that would not be surprising, it would surely be disappointing, for it would further widen the gulf between the national Democratic Party and a growing number of state Democrats on this issue.
A lot of those state Democrats are in Florida, where Rubio
Hurrah for Scott Pearson, the executive director of the D.C. Charter School Board, for pointing out the guile of several Washington, D.C., leaders who want to “manage” the accelerating charter school growth in the city under the guise of collaboration. Joint efforts between city, district, and charter leaders are good if they lead to more and better options for all students, but some key city officials sound more like they’re trying to put a brake on the charter momentum.
When the latest figures from D.C. showed that the number of charter school students increased by 10 percent to 34,673 students, it brought the charter school market share of public education in the city to 43 percent. This led David A. Catania, the chairman of the D.C. Council’s new education committee, to tell the Washington Post on Sunday that there ought to be a way to help charter schools and district schools learn to co-exist, even if that means “a momentary pause” on charter growth. Similarly, Mayor Vincent C. Gray wants his education cabinet to develop a coordinated “road map for public education” in the city.
Pearson was right to challenge statements like these, telling Post reporter Emma Brown, “I’m not interested in joint planning as a cover to put some sort of moratorium on charters.”
Indeed, any hint that charter growth should slow or “pause” in the spirit of collaboration ignores a fundamental reality: D.C. charters are building enough
Nurturing quality charters takes wherewithal, political capital, and—above all—interest.
Photo by woodleywonderworks.
The One Million Lives Campaign launched in the fall by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers has captured popular (and media) attention, mostly for its call to shutter the worst-performing charter schools. But that’s only half of its purpose. The point of “One Million Lives,” as its name suggests, is to create the conditions that allow a million kids a seat in at least 3,000 high-performing schools.
So let’s take a moment to consider the other half of this worthy effort. Parker Baxter, NACSA’s Director of Knowledge and one of the charter movement’s smarter thinkers on growth and accountability, has taken to the Dell Foundation’s blog to encourage authorizers and policy makers to find ways to replace bad charter schools with good charter schools.
As hard as it’s been to close bad schools, nurturing high-flying charters is at least as tricky: It takes wherewithal, political capital, and—above all—interest, or at least the adoption of laws and practices that provide an easier path for high-flying charters to prosper. Baxter recognizes this and points out some more obvious steps to quality (approving new schools carefully and establishing high standards for performance), while urging states
This report from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (widely known as CREDO) investigates, among other questions, whether it’s possible to predict the long-term academic success (or failure) of a charter school during its early years. The authors examined five years’ worth of data from more than 1,300 schools run by 167 charter-management organizations (CMOs) and 410 schools run by education-management organizations (EMOs). (Per CREDO, a CMO directly operates the schools in its network; an EMO contracts with a governing authority to operate the school.) To assess the quality of these outfits, CREDO paired charter-going students with “virtual twins” from their neighborhood district school. The analysts offer four key findings. First, initial signs of school quality are predictive of later performance: Roughly 80 percent of charter schools in the bottom quintile of performance during its first year of operation remain low performers through their fifth year. And 94 percent of schools that begin in the top quintile stay there over time. (Of course, we know from our experience as an Ohio charter authorizer that there are exceptions to this rule.) Second—as we’ve heard before—CMO quality varies greatly: Across the management organizations that were examined, 43 percent outpace the learning gains of their local district schools in reading and 37 percent do so in math. Yet a third have average gains that are worse in reading, and half do worse in math. Third, the quality of a replica charter
About the Editor
Director, Program on Parental Choice
Adam Emerson is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s school choice czar, directing the Institute’s policy program on parental choice and editing the Choice Words blog. He coordinates the Institute’s school choice-related research projects, policy analyses and commentaries on issues that include charter schools and public school choice along with school vouchers, homeschooling and digital learning.
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