Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Under DeVos, Here's How School Choice Might Work : NPR Ed : NPR

Under DeVos, Here's How School Choice Might Work : NPR Ed : NPR:

Under DeVos, Here's How School Choice Might Work

A key Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a school choice activist and billionaire Republican donor, to be secretary of education, despite the fierce objections of Senate Democrats, teachers unions and others. There's much speculation as to exactly how she might carry out President Trump's stated priority of increasing school choice.
A significant clue comes from the American Federation for Children, the advocacy organization DeVos chaired until she was nominated. AFC supports both publicly funded charter schools and even more so, "private school choice" — publicly sponsored programs that give families money to spend on tuition at private schools.
Last fall, AFC issued a report ranking the existing private school choice programs. There are 50 of them, located in 25 states and Washington, D.C., by AFC's count. AFC included only those programs that explicitly allow students to attend religious schools. DeVos, whose family has long supported causes associated with the Christian religious right, has publicly called education reform a way to "advance God's kingdom."

The program that AFC ranked No. 1 in that report was Florida's tax credit scholarships. So it's a good one to take a closer look at if you want a model of how choice programs might work in a DeVos-run Education Department. It unites three broad concepts that DeVos is friendly toward: 1) Privatization 2) religious education and 3) a hands-off approach to accountability for private schools.
Most people are familiar with voucher programs, where state dollars go to pay for tuition at private schools. These programs have faced constitutional challenges in Florida and elsewhere, among other reasons, because they direct public money to religiously based organizations.
In a scholarship tax credit program, however, the money bypasses state coffers altogether. Corporations or individuals can offset state tax liability by donating to a private, nonprofit scholarship organization. The money from this fund is in turn Under DeVos, Here's How School Choice Might Work : NPR Ed : NPR:

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