Monday, January 23, 2023

In Case You Missed It – January 23, 2023

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.

The new year brings new legislative sessions. Most of this week's stories (and probably for the foreseeable future) are about attempts by Republican-led legislatures to destroy public education -- whether intentional or not -- by transferring public money to private schools.

We start with the Network for Public Education's Carol Burris who writes about the impact of the pandemic.


What Happened to the 1.3 Million Children Who Stopped Going to School?

School privatizers want you to believe parents are abandoning the public system, but that’s not the whole story.

From The Progressive Magazine
Between the fall of 2019 and 2021, 1.3 million children left the American public school system, according to Education Week. For those who care about the welfare of children, this sharp decline is worrisome. We know that enrollment declines were the steepest in large cities, where our neediest students reside and where COVID-19 was more devastating.

How many have dropped out, working in the underground economy or languishing at home without schooling? The honest answer is that there is no comprehensive accounting of where (or if) all of those 1.3 million children are now being schooled.

However, what should be a national concern centered on the welfare of children has instead become promotional material for those who wish to eliminate public schools. The libertarian right and its allies, including the Center for Education Reform, have chalked up the decline to a story of unhappy public school parents exercising school choice. But is it?


Don’t Be Fooled. Education Savings Accounts are a Taxpayer-funded ATM for Private and Homeschool Parents

The latest story from Public Voices for Public Schools by Nick Covington - Don’t Be Fooled. Education Savings Accounts are a Taxpayer-Funded ATM for Private and Homeschool Parents.

Nick exposes how the Iowa GOP seems intent on following the Arizona voucher model, creating a program that will end up as a similarly universal slush fund of public money for well-off parents who already send their kids to private schools. Read Nick’s entire story on Public Voices for Public Schools

From Public Voices for Public Schools
With re-election in the rear-view mirror, the Republican trifecta in Iowa has made its intentions clear: ending public education as we know it is on the 2023 legislative agenda. Among the tools for this would-be unmaking is an enormous Education Savings Account (ESA) scheme re-branded by Governor Kim Reynolds as “Student First Scholarships.” While Reynolds and the GOP legislature will undoubtedly assure Iowans that eligibility and cost will be limited – by placement, by income, or a capped number of applications – the end-game is always the same: universal eligibility, at exorbitant cost, that turns public money into a taxpayer-funded ATM for private and homeschooling parents.

Just look at Arizona, where a decade ago “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts” were sold to taxpayers as a limited-eligibility program intended for students with special needs. The very next year, the program was expanded to include students without special needs and those attending public schools that had been poorly rated by the state. Further expansions followed nearly every year until this summer, when then Governor Doug Ducey signed “the nation’s most expansive school voucher law,” making every K-12 student in the state eligible for an ESA.
Drowning Public Education in the Bathtub

More on the Arizona ESAs...

...they’ve been chipping away at the amount available to district schools by the continuous expansion of privatization options.

Guess you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the battle over vouchers (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) during the past decade. ESAs were enacted in 2011 and GOP lawmakers have been steadily expanding these vouchers over the years. In 2022, (I’m really cutting to the chase here), they were finally successful in enacting a universal expansion. Not only are students no longer required to have previously attended a district school to qualify for a voucher, but there are no guardrails or caps and no transparency or accountability for private schools. And, only two months into the new law, AZ DOE had received nearly 30,000 filings for the vouchers, totaling an immediate hit to the state fund of $210M. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee only budgeted $33M for the program for the 2022-23 school year, but some now estimate the bill could approach as much as $500M.

Senate panel to consider ‘universal voucher’ bill

Not to be outdone by Arizona and possibly Iowa, the Indiana General Assembly is set to expand our state's voucher program to ESAs. This would put the money for public education into private hands with no fiscal or educational oversight. In essense, the state is stripping the public schools of needed funds. "But the public schools aren't doing their job?" And they won't be able to without full funding.

Parental choice or money laundering? After you read this article, check out the next item on our blog today.

From School Matters
An Indiana Senate committee will consider a proposal this week for a universal private school voucher program that would be open to any elementary or secondary-age student in the state.

The legislation, Senate Bill 305, would accomplish the goal by expanding Indiana’s education scholarship program. The program was created 2021 with little fanfare and was initially limited to students who qualify for special education. SB 305, which would extend it to all students, is on the agenda for a Senate Education and Career Development committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Under ESA programs – more commonly called education savings accounts – the state sets up an account for each qualifying student and provides it with funding for private school tuition and other educational expenses. Under SB 305, each student’s account would receive the same per-pupil funding that the state provides to local public schools. On average, that’s about $7,500.


Diane Ravitch in Conversation with Josh Cowen

From Diane Ravitch's Intro: "...70-80% of the students who use vouchers were never enrolled in public schools. Many return to the public schools. The political pressure for vouchers comes from politicians and parents seeking a subsidy for students already attending private and religious schools. The claim that they will help “save kids from failing schools” is a hoax to cover up the real purpose of vouchers: to transfer funds to private and religious schools."

From Diane Ravitch and the Network for Public Education
The Network for Public Education invites you to join us for a video conference with NPE President Diane Ravitch. Diane’s guest is Josh Cowen, Professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University. Dr. Cowen has been studying school choice, teacher labor markets, and other policies for nearly two decades, and works directly with policymakers, stakeholders and media professionals to understand the consequences of various education reforms.


Indiana bill would require teachers and schools to report student requests to change names, pronouns

Chalkbeat believes that the Indiana General Assembly will avoid "some of the controversial social issues that defined the last legislative session..." That remains to be seen, but one social issue Hoosier legislators -- actually, the Republic supermajority -- are not avoiding is gender equality. LGBTQ+ students, and especially transgender students, are seriously at risk. The party of "small government" is determined to intrude government into what ought to be personal family issues.

From Chalkbeat: Indiana*
Gender identity and transitioning are the focus of a number of bills filed by Indiana lawmakers in the 2023 session, including one that would require teachers and schools to disclose if students request to change their names or pronouns.

The focus on transgender youth this year builds on similar themes from the 2022 session, when lawmakers passed a controversial bill to ban transgender girls from girls’ sports. At the same time, lawmakers appear to be steering clear of bills on other controversial social issues in schools that have sparked previous disputes in Indiana and elsewhere.

The proposed legislation is causing alarm in some camps, including the ACLU of Indiana, which has called for action to stop the “record number of anti-LGBTQ bills” in the Indiana legislature, referring to them as a “slate of hate.”
*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

Note: NEIFPE's In Case You Missed It is posted by the end of the day every Monday except after holiday weekends or as otherwise noted.


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