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Thursday, February 02, 2006

School Choice: Sustaining American Exceptionalism

This is part three of the series American Education: A Crisis Demanding Leadership.

Ultimately, school choice is about giving parents options to decide which form of education, and more specifically which school, is best for their child. By adopting school choice, states can introduce market forces into their edu-communistic, government-run systems. By introducing market forces, school will begin competing to produce quality and innovation. Leadership is needed to reform state policy so that all of the following forms, or at least complementary forms, of education are permitted in every state.

While several forms of school choice are listed, not every form qualifies as educational reform. For example...

School Choice through Relocation
“If you don’t like the schools in your district, move.” This is line of thought currently espoused by those opposed to school choice; yet uprooting from their home it is often the only option given to families in some states.

Tuition-based Private Schools
Another concept that most are familiar with are private, non-publically funded schools; many are religiously affiliated, some are not. Private school tuition can cost up to twenty-thousand dollars. 11% of students in America attend private schools.

While these options are a form of school choice, neither of these options is meant to act as reform for our public schools.

Tax Credits, Tax Deductions, and Pre-tax Savings Accounts
Tax credits are dollar-for-dollar refunds for educational expenses while deductions allow parents to receive a portion of their costs as a credit to the paying of their taxes for any education-related expense that occurs. Pre-tax savings accounts allow parents to set aside a portion of their paycheck before taxes to be used for education-related expenses for their child.

While these are helpful in paying for private school tuition and should be passed in all fifty states, they generally only benefit the middle and upper classes (if for no other reason that economic ability to set aside money in pre-tax accounts or knowledge of tax law). These benefits are currently legal in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.

Home school
Another option for families is home schooling. In 2003, there were 1.1 million students being home schooled. This method is growing in popularity especially for conservatives objecting to public school content.

Obviously, teachers unions and educational administrators object to home schooling because it effectively takes money from their program. While some states regulate their home schooled students harshly, it is legal in all 50 states.

Magnet Schools
Magnet Schools are publicly funded schools that ‘attract’ students with their thematic or specialized academic programs. They are currently used in 28 states.

Charter Schools
40 states have charter school laws. Because of the flexibility given to this group, these schools often appeal to a felt need within the community regarding time, programs, technology or required parental involvement. They are often sponsored by corporations or state boards of education but have high levels of accountability.

Dual Enrollment
47 states permit some form of dual enrollment. Dual enrollment, sometimes called Joint Enrollment or Middle College, students take one or two courses at a local college; some states permit students to complete their final one or two years of high school at a local college. Credit would be given for both high school and college transcripts. Generally, states regulate this program highly.


Tax-payer funded vouchers and scholarships
Very similar to the Pell Grant for higher education, a established amount of funding is connected to the student. Wherever school the parent determines, the tax-payer funded grant goes with them. Additional costs, if costs exceed the amount of the grant, may be carried by the family depending upon the state. There are three primary types of vouchers.

1. Universal-Vouchers: Parents receive a grant of money to apply to any school. The voucher or scholarship may be applied to public, private, or religious school tuition.

2. Means-tested Vouchers: Where eligibility in the program is income related; practiced in Cleveland and Milwaukee.

3. Failing-School Vouchers: Students from failing schools receive a voucher worth a state established amount of money to attend a different school. There are no income requirements.

Currently there are voucher programs in Maine, Ohio, Vermont, Utah, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; Florida’s voucher laws are being contested. There have been select spin-offs of the voucher program for isolated areas or severely needy students (ex. Utah permits special needs students to receive vouchers). But the voucher program has widespread support among parental choice advocates.

Open Parental Choice: Open State, Intra-district, and Inter-district
1. Open State: As a state policy, your child can attend any school in the state. School participation is voluntary. Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington State are open state systems.

2. Interdistrict: Your child can attend a public school outside of residing district. Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin

3. Intra-district: Your child may chose a school within the same district. Participation by a school is voluntary. No Child Left Behind mandates that students from schools failing adequate-yearly-progress for two consecutive years be given this option. California, Illinois, and Ohio law mandates school accept intra-district students.

A total of 15 states have public school choice within or between districts. Other states have choice programs that are optional for districts, target only specific populations, and/or require parents to pay out-of-district tuition (cite).

“Voucher or tax credit programs have been proposed in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Virginia.” Given the sad decline in quality and innovation in American schools, promoting voucher programs or open state programs are the best solutions to reform education in America. By introducing competition into an otherwise closed system, quality and innovation will increase and America will be able to sustain its exceptionalism.

Resources from the Department of Education, the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and the Center for Education Reform were used in this analysis.

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Thoughtful Readers Speak:
Pre-tax savings accounts aren't really a practical idea under an economy where the national savings rate has fallen below zero.

School choice means nothing unless we're able to attract people to be teachers; that means paying teachers enough to live on and putting an end to the conservative war on teachers, who are alternatively described as "evil", "ideologues", "pedophiles" and "incompetents." It needs to be understood that teaching is not just the last recourse of persons who couldn't "succeed" in their field, but is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor in itself.
Conservatives exalt teachers. We need quality teachers and when we find them we should reward them. You can not show me a conservative war on teachers--unless you consult with your "non-partisans" at the NEA--otherwise, that's nonsense.

About savings accounts, most do not or can not take advantage of these benefits.

About paying teachers enough, well, that's a typical liberal response--throw more money at them. The average teacher makes $45,822 (more per hour than architects, accountants or any other educated professional).
Dude, I don't know what country you live in, but in America, architects don't even start as low as $45k, and the average salary is well over $60k. Average accountant salaries are somewhere like $70k.

Moreover I assume you're inflating your averages by including private schools and other high-paid positions; if we look at the teachers in question, we find that a teacher in a public primary or secondary school isn't likely to pull in much more than about $38k.

I don't know where you got your stats but you should have done better homework than that. My stats come from the Department of Labor's own analyses.

The idea that teachers make more than architects and accountants doesn't even pass the smell test. Seriously - what a ridiculous thing to say.
More per hour...read closely before the rant.
Teachers don't get paid by the hour. They don't work any less, either. I don't see the relevance of your rejoinder, Franklin. Do you ever try thinking before you post these things?
My friend is a 6th grade teacher at a charter school in Oregon and she makes maybe $30k/year.
chet, don't be so rude. measuring wage by the hour is completely relevant regardless of how teachers or architects are paid.

erica, anecdotal evidence may assuage your conscience but does little to combat reality.
measuring wage by the hour is completely relevant regardless of how teachers or architects are paid.

Measuring the wage by the hour is, in fact, a wrong thing to do when people are not getting paid by the hour. It doesn't take into account the amount of hours that are invested in the job...when the hour's vary, the wage is still the same. By saying that someone who is getting paid $41,600 does not necessarily mean they are making $20 an hour...they could be putting in 80 hours a week and still making the same amount.

Your lack of math skills and ability to comprehend the basic logical fallacy of comparing apples to oranges is impressive.

erica, anecdotal evidence may assuage your conscience but does little to combat reality.

I was unaware that Erica's friend didn't exist in the frameset of reality. I'm glad we have someone in these threads who has the all-powerful ability to dip into the depths of non-reality and pull out inane comments.
If I work 30 hours per week and make 40,000 and you work 40 hours per week and make 40,000, who get's paid more for their work?
Ah, Franklin, I think I finally get it. You're laboring under the severe misapprehension that teachers only work 30 hours a week, nine months out of the year.

That also explains your woeful ineptitude at addressing my arguments - you're apparently the victim of a vastly substandard education if your teachers did as little work as you portray.
measuring hours by wage is still valid. However, I never said that teachers only work 30 hours per week. I was simply explaining the statistic...its called reading attentively.
I was simply explaining the statistic...

You've explained nothing. If teachers don't make more salary than the other jobs mentioned, and they don't work less hours than the other jobs mentioned, then they don't make more - per hour, or per anything else - than the other jobs mentioned.

JR's assertion was flat-out false, and you've done nothing but backpedal out of your original effort to shore him up.
chet, unproven statements lack credibility. Your verbosity smells a lot like fact but in reality lacks substance. you don't know what you're talking about.

frankly, you're opinion of what I've done is really of no concern to me.
chet, unproven statements lack credibility.

Please identify specifically which statements you're referring to. Your MO here appears to be to level as many spurious charges as possible without actually saying anything of value. Nonetheless its obvious that I've refuted everything you've said in this thread.
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