Sunday, December 11, 2016

John Thompson: We Can’t Let Betsy DeVos Destroy Our Public Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

John Thompson: We Can’t Let Betsy DeVos Destroy Our Public Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog:

John Thompson: We Can’t Let Betsy DeVos Destroy Our Public Schools

John Thompson is a teacher and historian in Oklahoma.
As the Daily Oklahoman’s Ben Felder explains, “Education savings accounts (ESAs) and vouchers have not been easy sells, including in the GOP-controlled Oklahoma Legislature.” Until this November, the same argument which defeated vouchers last year would have seemed to be persuasive. Our schools have been clobbered by a 27% decrease in per-student funding and they can’t stand a further reduction. Even a month ago, a grassroots coalition of educators and families appeared ready to send more teachers to the legislature, and to pass SQ 779, which would have raised teachers’ wages.
Then a well-funded and false advertising campaign helped derail the teacher raise, and Betsy DeVos’ the American Federation for Children, “spent nearly $170,000 in Oklahoma campaigns this year, often in opposition to public school teachers who were also running.” So, Felder now reports, “last month’s election results on both the national and state level have some school choice advocates seeing a political opening.” He cites Republican Sen. Kyle Loveless, “‘There is definitely going to be some movement on education savings accounts this next year in Oklahoma … Last year we were a couple of votes short in the Senate but I think we picked those seats up this year.'”
In addition to American Federation of Children’s money, a series of Indiana corporate reformers have repeatedly come to Oklahoma and pushed the DeVos/Trump/Pence agenda. So, it is doubly important that Oklahoma legislators, like their counterparts across the nation, become aware of what former Gov. Mike Pence and the $1.3 million that DeVos and her political action committee poured into Indiana have bought – and at what price.
Chalkbeat Indiana’s Nicholas Garcia, in “Six Things to Know about Indiana’s School Voucher Program, A Possible Model for Ed Sec Nominee Betsy DeVos,” explains that “the number of students using vouchers rose from 3,911 in 2011, when the program launched, to 32,686 in 2016.” Originally, vouchers were pushed as a way to help poor students in failing schools, but “a growing portion of Indiana voucher users are from middle-class families, and growth has been greatest among suburban families.” Now, “60 percent of Indiana voucher users are white, and about 31 percent are from middle-income families — not exactly the student population that struggles most in the state’s schools.”
Even more disturbing is the way that vouchers have grown into a greater threat to the financial stability of schools, “In 2011, just 9 percent of voucher users had never before gone to public school, Chalkbeat reports, “That was true for more than half of students using vouchers in 2016. So, Indiana isn’t offering an escape from failing schools but a subsidy for many who would never attend a public school.
Moreover, researchers at Notre Dame University conducted a long-term study which found that “students who switched from traditional public John Thompson: We Can’t Let Betsy DeVos Destroy Our Public Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog:

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