The extremist and ultraconservative views taught at some taxpayer-funded voucher schools

The Huffington Post examines what some evangelical Christian schools – some largely funded with taxpayer money through vouchers – are teaching. It starts with an interview with a former student who attended multiple evangelical Christian schools where she was taught that to dance was to sin, that gay people were child molesters and that mental illness was a function of satanic influence. Teachers at her schools talked about slavery as black immigration, and instructors called environmentalists “hippie witches” and taught that Islam is a violent religion and evolution has “no real scientific basis.”

Voucher Schools Championed By Betsy DeVos Can Teach What They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies.

PORTLAND, Ore. ― It was late morning in an artsy cafe, the smell of coffee and baked goods sweetening the air, and Ashley Bishop sat at a table, recalling a time when she was taught that most of secular American society was worthy of contempt.

Charter schools contribute to segregation, lack accountability and are failing students, new studies find

Charter schools contribute to segregation, lack accountability and are failing students, according to two new studies out this week.

In one study, the Network for Public Education calls charter schools a “fiscal and educational disaster.”

“Charter schools can and have closed at will, leaving families stranded. Profiteers with no educational expertise have seized the opportunity to open charter schools and use those schools for self-enrichment. States with weak charter laws encourage nepotism, profiteering by politicians, and worse,” according to the NPE report titled Charters and Consequences. (Read summary at EducationVotes.org.)

The 48-page report details the consequences of loosely regulated charter policy and the effects that charters are having on public schools. Whatever the benefits charter schools offers to the few, the overall negative consequences must be addressed, stated the report.

In the second study, the Associated Press says charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated — “an outcome at odds, critics say, with their goal of offering a better alternative to failing traditional public schools.”

AP says its analysis of charter schools in 42 states found that charters promote “extreme racial isolation.” As of school year 2014-2015, AP says, more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily.

AP quotes Daniel Shulman, a Minnesota civil rights attorney, as saying: “Desegregation works. Nothing else does. There is no amount of money you can put into a segregated school that is going to make it equal.”

Read the EducationVotes.org summary of the NPE study:

Charter school experiment has “failed,” concludes national investigation – Education Votes

The charter school industry’s unregulated, taxpayer-funded business model of education is a “fiscal and educational disaster,” concluded a report that is the result of investigations, visits and interviews over the course of a year. Get the latest information on the issues that matter to students, educators, and public schools.

 

Read the Associated Press analysis:

US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation

MILWAUKEE (AP) – Charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated, an Associated Press analysis finds – an outcome at odds, critics say, with their goal of offering a better alternative to failing traditional public schools. National enrollment data shows that charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation.

 

Email your Members of Congress and tell them to VOTE NO on the GOP leadership’s disastrous tax plan!

Senate tax plan hands huge tax giveaways to the rich paid for by students and working families

Funding for 250,000 education jobs at risk if Congress eliminates state and local tax deduction

Click Here to Take Action!

Over the weekend, the Senate approved along party lines a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations paid for by students and working families. In addition to adding $1.5 trillion to the national deficit, the Senate voted to partially repeal the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which would leave 13 million Americans uninsured and result in drastic spikes in insurance premiums for millions more. The bill also expands an education tax loophole that would further benefit the wealthy and allow them to set aside money for private school expenses—essentially a voucher program for wealthy families.

Also, as the Washington Post reported, the bill could jeopardize the ability of states and local communities to adequately fund public education, potentially risking state funding for hundreds of thousands of education jobs. The Senate approved the measure even as the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in a new report titled “A Punishing Decade for School Funding,” found that public investment in K-12 schools has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade.

“Hypocrisy is at the heart of the tax bill approved by Senate Republicans,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “It reveals the ill-conceived and misguided priorities of Republican leaders in Washington. Instead of providing tax cuts to those who need it most — the middle class and working families — their plan hands massive tax giveaways to corporate special interests and the wealthy. Expanding education tax loopholes in order for wealthy families to stash away money for private school will hurt neighborhood public schools and students.”

Eskelsen García said the Senate bill will:

  • Eliminate the state and local deductions for working people but keep it for wealthy corporations. Millions of hard working people will see their taxes increase.
  • Take away health care coverage for 13 million Americans and cause premiums to spike for millions more.
  • Possibly trigger $25 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare in 2018 alone.

“In the end,” she said, “this disastrous bill will push crushing debt and tax increases onto the middle class while Medicare, Medicaid, and education will take the brunt of the cuts.”

“Public schools have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. Now, by eliminating the state and local tax deduction, the Senate just voted to blow a hole in state and local revenue to support public education, potentially risking the jobs of hundreds of thousands of educators, exposing public school students to serious and potentially damaging consequences — ballooning class sizes and overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention,” Eskelsen García said.

“It is outrageous to hand massive tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporate special interests paid for by students and working families. This is a terrible bill for the American people and we need more courage from members of Congress to stop this runaway train.”

Voucher schools lack accountability and put students with disabilities at risk, federal study finds

Private schools funded through the taxpayer-financed voucher program generally fail to notify parents of students with disabilities that they are forfeiting rights and protections when they transfer from public schools, according a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report says vouchers schools lack accountability and transparency, and put students with disabilities – whose parents often don’t know they are giving up federal protections by enrolling in private schools – at greater risk.

Their recommendation: “Congress should consider requiring states to notify parents/guardians about changes in federal special education rights when a parent moves a child from public to private school.”

“The new report from GAO shows the outrageously low standards to which many school voucher programs are held,” said U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat who requested the GAO review.

“As Secretary DeVos continues her assault on public education and efforts to privatize schools, it is more important than ever to ensure that these programs are held accountable,” Pocan said. “Every student deserves the opportunity to go to a school that meets their needs and every parent should have the guarantee that their child is in a safe, equitable, and successful environment. The U.S. Department of Education must address the concerns in this report and should immediately institute the GAO’s recommendations. Our students deserve nothing less.”

Findings from the GAO report include:

  • Only about half of the private schools participating in voucher programs provided special education or disability related information on their websites, creating a significant problem for families making a decision about where to send their children.
  • Private school voucher programs are inconsistently providing information on changes in key protections and rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when parents move a child with a disability from a public to a private school.
  • 83% of students who were enrolled in a program specifically designed for students with disabilities were enrolled in one that either provided no information or inaccurate information regarding the changes in IDEA rights.
  • One third of the 27 programs operating in school year 2016-17 had no academic testing requirements and officials in two of the programs interviewed indicated that some private schools were unfamiliar or unequipped to administer standardized tests.
  • Only one third of the programs require schools to publicly report test results.
  • Only four programs provided information on the graduation rates at participating schools.
  • Only an estimated 13% of all private schools participating in voucher programs provide student and school performance data on their websites.
  • Just seventeen of the programs required background checks on all employees or on employees with direct and unsupervised contact with children.

Read a summary of the GAO report by the National Coalition for Public Education:

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Read the full GAO report HERE:

Private School Choice: Federal Actions Needed to Ensure Parents Are Notified About Changes in Rights for Students with Disabilities

GAO found private school choice programs inconsistently provide information on changes in rights and protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) when parents move a child with a disability from public to private school. In 2001, the U.S.

95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in new statewide ‘report card’

Racine Unified School District scored a passing grade in the latest round of state report cards, meaning it won’t face the possibility of area villages breaking off and forming their own districts.

A provision in this year’s state budget would have allowed Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant and Caledonia to leave Racine Unified if the district received a failing grade.

More than 95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in a new “report card” released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction. Private schools accounted for nearly 25% of the schools that failed to meet expectations, and most of those private schools are part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (the voucher program), according to an analysis of the report cards by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That is a very high percentage of voucher schools making the “failing” list, given the fact that they make up a much lower percentage of schools overall. In addition, 140 private voucher schools were not rated because of insufficient data.

“On one hand, the vast majority of parents choose public schools for their students, and more than 95 percent of districts are meeting or exceeding expectations set forth on the report cards,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “On the other hand, there is a troubling number of voucher schools still unaccountable for performance – even though private school tuition is paid for by taxpayers.

“If Wisconsin is serious about school performance, legislators should focus and invest in the public schools that serve the majority of students instead of siphoning public school funds off to private voucher schools.”


From the Department of Public Instruction:

In the second year of report cards that use legislatively mandated growth and value-added calculations, 82 percent of Wisconsin’s public and private school report cards had three or more stars, meaning the schools met or exceeded expectations for educating students. More than 95 percent of the state’s public school districts earned a three-star rating.

Overall, 361 public and private school report cards earned five-star ratings, 719 had four stars, 643 had three stars, 261 had two stars, and 117 schools earned one star. Another 173 schools achieved satisfactory progress and 21 need improvement through alternate accountability. There were 152 report cards for 140 private choice schools that are not rated because there was insufficient data. This is the second year that choice schools were included in report cards and the second year the schools could opt to have both a choice student and an all student report card.

On district level report cards, 44 districts earned five-star ratings, 190 had four stars, 166 earned three stars, and 20 had two stars. One district, the Herman-Rubicon-Neosho School District, was not rated because of district consolidation. Another district, the Norris School District with enrollment of 14 students in 2016-17, made satisfactory progress through alternate accountability.

Alternate accountability is a district supervised self-evaluation of a school’s performance on raising student achievement in English language arts and mathematics. The alternate accountability process is used for new schools, schools without tested grades, schools exclusively serving at-risk students, and schools with fewer than 20 full academic year students who took state tests.

Accountability ratings are calculated on four priority areas: student achievement in English language arts and mathematics, school growth, closing gaps between student groups, and measures of postsecondary readiness, which includes graduation and attendance rates, third-grade English language arts achievement, and eighth-grade mathematics achievement. Additionally, schools and districts could have point deductions for missing targets for student engagement: absenteeism must be less than 13 percent and dropout rates must be less than 6 percent.

For the 2016-17 report cards, 162 schools and 24 districts had score fluctuations of 10 or more points in both overall and growth scores compared to 2015-16, which is larger variability than expected. Their report cards carry a ^ notation because it is unclear if the score change accurately reflects the amount of change in performance or a symptom of statistical volatility. Report card requirements in Wisconsin Act 55, the 2015-17 budget bill, mandated the use of value-added growth scoring and variable weighting based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled in a school or district. Prior to Act 55, overall annual report card score change averaged 3.3 points. Since Act 55, the average score change is 5.8 points. Although volatility in value-added scores may decrease with another year of Forward testing, score fluctuations are likely to continue especially for small schools and districts as well as schools and districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students. The Department of Public Instruction is engaging with state policymakers, technical experts, and stakeholders about how best to address these issues. Any changes to school report cards growth or weighting calculations will require legislative action.

Report cards are intended to help schools and districts use performance data to target improvement efforts to ensure students are ready for their next educational step, including the next grade level, graduation, college, and careers. The 2016-17 report cards use data from a variety of sources, including information reported through WISEdash and two years of Forward and one year of Badger testing as well as three years ACT Plus Writing and Dynamic Learning Maps testing for growth calculations. At least three and up to five years of data are used for the gaps priority area and four years of data is needed to calculate a graduation rate. Schools and districts have access to a number of accountability resources on the department website to support report card discussions with parents, school staff, and the public.

Republican tax plan is ‘giveaway to wealthiest paid for by students and working families’

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a multi-trillion dollar tax plan that funds tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporations on the backs of students and working families. The bill, championed by Republican leaders, eliminates a popular tax deduction that allows educators to deduct up to $250 of the money they spend on their classrooms and students. The bill also expands a tax loophole for the wealthiest to pay for private school expenses while cutting tax deductions for the middle class. The elimination of most of the state and local tax deductions would blow a hole in state and local revenue to support public education and risk funding for nearly 250,000 education jobs, including 4,680 in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin’s students lose big with today’s vote,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade teacher. “It’s wholely irresponsible, including a provision eliminating tax deductions for teachers who buy classroom supplies, while allowing corporations to keep their deductions. This is highly hypocritical especially since some Republicans voted to make this deduction permanent in 2015. Now they want to eliminate it.”

The tax plan would cut up to $4.6 million from Wisconsin schools over 10 years.

“Hypocrisy is at the heart of the tax plan approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “It reveals the ill-conceived and misguided priorities of Republican leaders in Washington. Repeatedly, their plan takes from working families to pay for massive tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy.”

The House tax bill eliminates the state and local deduction for people but keeps it for corporations. It eliminates the educator tax deduction for school supplies but allows corporations to continue to claim deductions for supplies they purchase. It eliminates the student loan deduction but opens a new loophole for wealthy families to sock away money to pay for private school tuition.

“It is outrageous to expand education tax loopholes for wealthy families to stash away money for private school,” Martin said. “Make no mistake: this poorly veiled and risky voucher program will only benefit those who can already afford private school tuition at the expense of our students and neighborhood public schools – where 9 out of 10 children attend. This is not normal. As with their health care debacle this year, Republican leaders are rushing to pass a massive, partisan bill that impacts every American household, critical public services like education, and our economy without giving it the scrutiny and deliberation it deserves. The American people demand Congress reject this reckless plan.”

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Charts detail financial impact of private school vouchers on state’s public school districts

School Funding Reform For Wisconsin has created charts like this for every Senate district in the state. Click chart to view them.

An organization called School Funding Reform For Wisconsin has compiled a series of informative charts that summarize the financial impact of taxpayer-funded private school voucher programs on public school districts throughout the state. The charts are grouped by Senate district.

It is important to note, the organization says, that school boards are being placed in the difficult position of either:

  1. Losing this funding from their budgets permanently, resulting in loss of opportunities and programs for students, or
  2. Replacing lost aid by raising local property taxes.

In effect, it says, state legislators are forcing local taxpayers to pay for vouchers in their school districts.

A recent WEAC Research Brief concludes that there is little evidence to substantiate the expansion of private voucher schools on the grounds that they are intended to help student achievement:

“Research in Wisconsin and other states consistently shows little to no voucher school advantage, and in fact often documents significant ill-effects on students including: school closings, high rates of student attrition for lower-performing students, and decreased assessment scores in math and reading.”

View all the charts.

Find out more about the impact of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers on Wisconsin’s public school districts and students.

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Private school voucher enrollment up 8 percent, cost to taxpayers is $270 million

Enrollment in Wisconsin private school vouchers programs increased nearly 8 percent this year and cost state taxpayers $270 million, an increase of $25.5 million over last year, according to figures released Monday by the Department of Public Instruction.

Across the three programs – Milwaukee, Racine and statewide – a total of 36,249 students received a voucher to attend one of the 238 participating private schools. This is an increase of 2,684 students and 29 schools across the three programs compared to the prior school year.

Generally, the vouchers are paid for through a mixture of general purpose state revenue or money taken away from the public school district where the student resides.

There are 3,007 students in the Racine program, 4,540 students in the statewide program and 28,702 in Milwaukee.

For the 2017-18 school year, each participating private school may receive a voucher payment of $7,530 per FTE (full-time equivalent) in grades kindergarten through eight and $8,176 per FTE for students enrolled in grades nine through 12.

Read more from DPI:

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Review exposes faults in Walton family study calling for more private charters

WEAC partners with the Great Lakes Center to share and provide academically sound reviews of education-related studies. WEAC President Ron Martin sits on the Great Lakes Board of Directors and shares this academic review exposing a so-called study funded by the Walton Family Foundation calling for more privately run charter school funding in New York City.

Review exposes faults in Walton family study calling for more private charters

They wrongly assume charters, public schools provide same services, so should get same funding

Across America, privately run charter schools receive public school funding but in most cases fall behind public schools when it comes to student performance. Yet, in Wisconsin and beyond, some policymakers support funding for these charter schools as a way to expand school choice.

A recent study promoting privately run charter schools uses flawed methods and conclusions – and policymakers are strongly urged not to rely on the faulty claims when making public policy.

Read the Review

Charter School Funding: Inequity in New York City claims New York City charter schools receive 19 percent less funding than district schools. The authors used 2014 data to say there is a $4,888 per pupil funding gap between charter schools and district schools. The authors fail to acknowledge that New York is giving charter schools an increase in per-pupil funding in 2018.

The report also assumes charter schools and district schools provide similar services, so both should receive equal funding. The report fails to demonstrate how these schools are equal and excludes important school data such as enrollment numbers. For example, the report doesn’t consider that students who need special education services are more likely to enroll in district schools than charter schools and it costs more to provide those services to students.

Finally, the authors of the flawed report validate their findings with previous reports they have written themselves, making their approach biased. Even though there is already a large body of research, the authors do not cite any existing independent research or reports.

The review was conducted by the National Education Policy Center.

Find WEAC resources on voucher schools at www.weac.org/vouchers.

Expansion of unproven, unaccountable private school vouchers harms public schools and raises taxes, analysis finds

School voucher programs – including the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) – divert much-needed funding away from public schools when they are expanded, according to a new policy memo by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The peer-reviewed memo, Assessing the Fiscal Impact of Wisconsin’s Statewide Voucher Program, examines the fiscal impact of the WPCP and how it affects public schools.

The analysis found that if WPCP were expanded, public school funding would decline and taxpayers would be burdened with extra costs. This report is timely because Wisconsin policymakers are looking at expanding WPCP to more students in the state of Wisconsin.

“This national research is worth paying attention to, and cautions other states not to go down the same road as Wisconsin in terms of unaccountable private school vouchers,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “If policymakers are really interested in improving education, they should invest in the public schools that serve all students.”

The research outlines the sad reality: as the statewide program expands, the reduction to local school districts increase. The statewide program is already distributing tens of millions of dollars for private school tuition. The research expressly recommends Wisconsin not increase the income limit on the program to allow wealthier families to receive tuition subsidies – however that’s just what the governor’s budget signed in late September did.

“The available evidence suggests that policymakers across the country should think carefully before emulating Wisconsin’s statewide voucher program in their own states,” the author says.

While the policy memo acknowledges there is still more research that is needed, the memo urges policymakers to consider the repercussions of further transferring public school funding to private schools. There is limited evidence on the effectiveness of voucher programs. Despite the lack of proven results, voucher and voucher-like programs across the country continue to expand and grow.

The new policy memo found expanding the statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) could worsen disparities in public school funding. It concludes:

  • Policymakers should think cautiously about whether the limited benefits of voucher programs outweigh the unintended consequences to our public schools.
  • Voucher and voucher-like programs divert much-needed funding from public schools and redirect it to private schools where, in some cases, there is little accountability or evidence to support expansion.
  • If state policymakers expand voucher programs, this could increase the tax burden of citizens, especially those living in rural communities and small school districts with fewer students.
  • Policymakers should focus on what already works, which is strengthening public schools and ensuring school districts have the resources they need to adequately prepare students for the future.
    • There is no clear evidence that demonstrates students who receive vouchers and attend private schools perform better than students who attend public schools.
    • Voucher programs, in most cases, do not empower low-income families to choose schools that they would not otherwise attend, since many voucher recipients have already attended private schools prior to receiving vouchers.
    • Many private schools do not provide special education or other services that public schools are required to provide, which is a significant cost for public schools.
  • To promote high-quality education and funding equity, the policy memo urges policymakers to carefully rethink expanding or replicating the WPCP.
    • The author of the policy memo recommends that Wisconsin policymakers maintain the income threshold for voucher program participation at 185 percent of the federal poverty level, instead of increasing it to the proposed 300 percent income limit.
    • To protect funding for public school districts, the author recommends keeping the enrollment cap at one percent in each district and using a lottery to determine participation.
    • Finally, the author recommends funding the WPCP through the state’s general-purpose revenue, paying for statewide school vouchers through state taxes instead of placing the burden on taxpayers living in communities where students receive vouchers.

“More than ever,” the analysis concludes, “many public schools struggle with inadequate funding. As voucher programs expand, this could mean less money for public schools in communities where students receive school vouchers to attend private schools.”

There are currently 33,775 students enrolled in Wisconsin’s school voucher programs. Two percent of students in each district could enroll in WPCP and the enrollment cap will expand by one percent through 2026 when the cap is eliminated. The memo found if the program expands, it could shift millions of dollars in public school funding to the WPCP and private schools.

Find the report on the Great Lakes Center website: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

This report can also found on the NEPC website: http://nepc.colorado.edu/