Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Some Q&A about school choice

- Does school choice help students do better in school?
- Doesn’t school choice drain resources from public schools?
- Does school choice make public schools better?
- Are private schools that participate in school choice programs held accountable?
- Will school choice turn a private school into an over-regulated public school?
- Does the public really want school choice?
- Do a wide spectrum of Americans want school choice?
- Is school choice constitutional?
- Does school choice help special-education students?
- Does school choice really lead to more integrated schools?

If you really want to know, click here!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

School Choice Story: How a Family School Defied Swiss State Education

by Alphonse Crespo MD

Private schools do not always offer parents a choice. Not when they model their programs on public schools. As was the case in Switzerland thirty years ago when trendy socialist educators were implementing foggy pedagogic reforms both in public and private institutions. These experiments rapidly produced classes of poorly literate primary school kids - in particular within less favored segments of the population where parents were unable to fill the gaps. "Renewed french","new maths" and other revolutionary non-teaching methods are now being abandoned.

In those days I was far from certain that schools (public or private) would teach my four daughters to spell or count. I convinced four other families who shared the same concerns, to withdraw our children from the educational system. We hired a part time teacher and gave him the simple mission to make sure our kids learnt to read write and count as we had when we were at school.

The teacher taught basics in the morning. Other activities (sports, music, religion) were organized by parents in the afternoon. The teacher cost us far less than any private school tuition. The school rotated from one home to another every two months. It took two years for state authority to find out about us. We received a letter signed by the Canton's minister of education ordering us to stop our "unlicenced school" ! .

We made the case that a) our model did not qualify as a school and thus needed no specific licencing b) primary education was mandatory, however no law stated that school was compulsory. All we then had to do was to prove that our kids were receiving primary education. An elderly school inspector was sent to inspect our "family education" facility. The man was so elated by what he saw - a group of kids aged 7-11 who could all read, write, spell and count – that he asked to come back again « not for my report... just for the pleasure »!

Delphine did Russian at University before studying at Moscow's MKHAT Theater Academy, (founded by Stanislavsky): she now teaches drama in high school (and just gave birth to little Antonia my first grand daughter). Melanie her twin sister teaches math at Geneva's Calvin College and co-edits an academic mathematics educational journal. Sophie became an MD (just like me): she works in the frontline of emergency care in a high intensity helicopter medical unit. Pamela graduated in Food Science engineering from Zurich Polytechnic (where Einstein once taught); after  two years of roaming the seas a diving instructor and post graduate work at UCal Davis, she devised a simple method of protecting Swiss post-harvest carrots from disease and now conducts a key federal research project on fruit metabolism.

Had I not taken the liberty to choose where and how my daughters were going learn to read and write, they would probably not be where they are today. Defying the state can sometimes be the only reasonable course left for parents who truly care about the future of their children.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Students, families rally on issues of school choice

By: Jennifer Daddario Staff Reporter, JewishNews

“Education is a key component to bringing back Cleveland,” says Josh Mandel.
The crowd that gathered on a hot spring day had a clear message to shout: “Don’t take away my school.”Parents, children, teachers and administrators gathered May 24 at Citizens’ Academy near University Circle for a “Save Our Schools” rally in support of school choice in Ohio and a budget bill that will keep it available.
Earlier this year Gov. Ted Strickland in his budget proposed a moratorium on new charter schools. The Ohio House budget, which passed unanimously, rejected the moratorium and put the funding back into the budget. The Senate is currently hearing the bill and will consider the issue.The rally was in support of the school choice budget bill. Speakers, including state Rep. Josh Mandel (R- Lyndhurst) and House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Dayton), urged like-minded parents and children to contact their state senators.Four miles away from Citizens’ Academy, another rally was being held n this one in support of Strickland’s moratorium.
Amanda Breckner supported her charter school in Akron at the rally.
The Cleveland Municipal School District organized the rally, Chief of Staff Pamela Smith says. Chief Executive Officer Eugene Sanders “wanted to be certain we had a rally in support of the governor’s budget,” she explains. Sanders and Smith took part in the rally along with students, teachers and administrators.“We wanted to send a strong signal to our governor and state representatives that we support Strickland’s strong commitment to public education,” Smith added. The rally participants praised Strickland’s stance on charter schools because it “puts public education as a priority,” Smith says.Cleveland Municipal School District believes it can offer choice within the school district, Smith explains. “We have five new schools of choice opening in fall,” she says. “And 120 schools provide different opportunities for students.”Perry White, founder of Citizens’ Academy, hosted the “Save Our Schools” rally and told the crowd, “We are here because we all believe in school choice. We know in our hearts that students and parents have a right to make choices on where to go to school.”To the cheers of the crowd, White added, “Competition is the American way and keeps us on our toes. Students need the education that we provide, and they cannot take that away.”
The rally was the fourth of five rallies across Ohio sponsored by the group “My School, My Choice.”Although the House of Representatives passed the bill to keep charter schools open for their 100,000 students, Husted explained that “the work is not done.”He challenged parents and students to make the trip to Columbus to tell their stories to politicians who oppose charter schools and the voucher program. “Collectively you are very powerful,” he said. “If you don’t fight for yourselves, no one else will.”Mandel echoed Husted’s sentiments and explained that he believes in school choice because “education is a key component to bringing back the Cleveland area, Northeast Ohio, and Ohio as a state.”
He added that during his campaigning days, he heard from parents afraid to send their children to schools such as Glenville. “It rings loud that the decision should be in the hands of Mom and Dad, not a politician or bureaucrat,” he told the cheering crowd.A Citizens’ Academy student, a parent, and a charter school graduate also spoke.Timothy Roberts, whose son has been at Citizens’ Academy for five years, explained that he could see the change the charter school made for his son. “My child’s attitude toward the learning process has changed for the better, and there is no going back,” he insisted.Amanda Renish, a 2003 graduate from Life Skills Center of Elyria, a charter school, told the crowd that “school choice changed my life.” In danger of not graduating from her public high school, she decided to attend Life Skills Center and turned her education around. As a result of a school organization she formed, she was offered a full college scholarship and is now a student at Lorain Community College.
“If I did not have school choice,” she related, “I would not have graduated and not have gone to college.”

India’s School Choice Movement

Posted on AtlasNetwork 12 June 2008 by Brad Lips

Last week,
I was privileged to participate in an event at the Harvard Club up in NYC. Atlas
was a co-sponsor for this reception and panel discussion, which was hosted by Centre for Civil Society, founded
in 1997 by Parth Shah in New Delhi, India. CCS is one of my favorite think
tanks. Its chairman, Gucharan Das, authored the international best-sellar India
, and gave remarks about the relevance of school choice to the
challenge of sustaining the growth of India’s economy, which is so dependent on
educated labors that are in short supply. Other experts affiliated with CCS
talked about the sad state of government schools in India, where something like
25% of teachers simply fail to show up and an even higher percentage fail to teach. (Another
Atlas friend, James Tooley of the EG West
Centre, has done remarkable work in documenting the popularity - in India and
elsewhere - of low-budget private-sector alternatives to these incompetent
government schools.) And they explained the early results of their school choice
, which has demonstrated the high demand for school choice reforms
in different localities within India.
It was an
impressive event with great turnout. We had forecasted an audience of 30-40, so
the room was a little hot and crowded when the actual numbers hit 85. But that
is a wonderful tribute to the CCS team that promoted the event. The Centre is
obviously doing important work, and we’re hopeful that friends of Atlas will
pitch in to help them expand their school choice programs.
The photo comes
courtesy of Atlas’s ever-talented Deroy Murdock. That’s Gucharan Das in the
middle speaking, and me on the end, obviously trying to fit in with the 75% of
remaining panelists by following their lead and touching my face. ;-)

State Regulation of Private Schools: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released a report that evaluates how each of the 50 states regulates private schools. While all states regulate things like health and safety, most states go further and impose unreasonable and unnecessary burdens on private schools. This creates barriers to entry, hindering competition and thereby reducing the quality of both public and private schools; it also limits the freedom of parents to choose how their children will be educated. Friedman Foundation Senior Fellow Christopher Hammons graded each state based on how good a job it does of regulating private schools.

The little family that could

The Little Family

The Little family - Steve, Sheona, Tyrece, Tiara and Tamel - has been truly blessed. Steve is a math teacher in the Harrisburg School District. Sheona, a housewife and full-time mother, is finishing her bachelor’s degree. One thing they always wanted for their children was a school that best fit their children’s educational needs. This task seemed very hard at first; Steve and Sheona didn’t have the income or resources to do this. After many attempts with various daycare centers and schools, the Little Family finally found a school that had everything they were looking for. A few years ago, they enrolled Tyrece and Tiara into Emmanuel Baptist Christian Academy. Tamal followed a few years later. Everyone really fell in love with this school and they are very grateful that an EITC scholarship was presented to us. Without this help, Tyrece, Tiara and Tamel would not be able to attend this school – the school that is best for them.

This scholarship has made it possible for these children to continue to attend Emmanuel Baptist Christian Academy. Without this scholarship, the Little's would have no option and their children would be forced to attend a public school.

School-Choice Stories: The Role of Culture

This article uses data from in-depth interviews conducted with the parents of a sample of 88 ninth-grade students from public, private, Catholic, and Christian high schools in two different suburban communities. This research investigates the ways in which parents understand education and how they make sense of schooling options for their children. It shows both how families who choose schools make the selection among various alternatives and why some families seem not to choose schools. This research finds that the financial and information resources of families are not enough in and of themselves to explain school-choice behavior. While these resources are indeed used by families as they make school choices, such measures do not capture the cultural dimension of school choice. In this context culture is understood as the lens through which people make sense of the social world. The decision to activate resources and the direction in which those resources will be activated are mediated by culture. In particular, as these school-choice stories show, the school-choice decision is influenced by the past educational experiences of the parents and by their religious faith.

Link here

In Sweden it has been working for many years!

Private schooling establishes firm foothold in Swedish life
By Malin Rising, Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — Schools run by private enterprise? Free iPods and laptop computers to attract students?
It may sound out of place in Sweden, that paragon of taxpayer-funded cradle-to-grave welfare. But a sweeping reform of the school system has survived the critics and 16 years later is spreading and attracting interest abroad.
"I think most people, parents and children, appreciate the choice," said Bertil Ostberg, from the Ministry of Education. "You can decide what school you want to attend and that appeals to people."
Since the change was introduced in 1992 by a center-right government that briefly replaced the long-governing Social Democrats, the numbers have shot up. In 1992, 1.7% of high schoolers and 1% of elementary schoolchildren were privately educated. Now the figures are 17% and 9%.
In some ways the trend mirrors the rise of the voucher system in the United States, with all its pros and cons. But while the percentage of children in U.S. private schools has dropped slightly in recent years, signs are that the trend in Sweden is growing.
Before the reform, most families depended on state-run schools following a uniform national curriculum. Now they can turn to the "friskolor," or "independent schools," which choose their own teaching methods and staff, and manage their own buildings.
They remain completely government-financed and are not allowed to charge tuition fees. The difference is that their government funding goes to private companies which then try to run the schools more cost-effectively and keep whatever taxpayer money they save.
Bure Equity, listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, is the largest private school operator in Sweden and is expanding rapidly. In the first quarter of this year, net profit for its education portfolio rose 33% to about $3 million.
Such profit-making troubles Swedes who don't think taxpayers should be enriching corporations.
The Social Democrats strongly opposed the change as anti-egalitarian, but when they were re-elected to power in 1994, they found it was so popular that they left it in place, though they imposed a lid on fees.
Barbro Lillkaas, a 40-year-old accountant, is considering putting her child in a private school, and has no problem with the profit motive.
"If you run a good operation then you make a profit. But you won't get any students if you are bad," she said. "You have to do a good job to get money; that is even more important for a private school."
At the Vittra chain of 27 schools owned by Bure Equity, children of different ages share classrooms and have individual curriculums designed for their needs and skills.
Despite initially being labeled elitist, the new system has gradually gained support and is being recognized as a success story.
Andrew Coulson, an education expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., called the Swedish program "a beacon, being more market-like than any other among rich countries," but said he had caveats.
In an e-mail, he said the system needed to be more flexible about how money can be spent, students recruited and curriculums chosen. "It's not a very market-like program. But since it's the best thing around in the rich world, it's definitely worth watching," he said.
Michael Fallon, who served in Britain's former Conservative government, said his party is working on a similar plan to be implemented if it defeats the ruling Labour party in the next election.
"It is a model that is clearly working and we need to learn from that," said Fallon, who visited Sweden in May.
In the United States, publicly funded private school voucher programs for low-income children exist in some areas, including Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and Ohio, but the issue still arises from time to time in the U.S. presidential campaign.
Some Swedes say the private system drains funds from public education, but officials say independent schools have forced public schools to raise their own standards and improve efficiency.
"Today, I think we have at least as good quality if not better than some independent schools because we have really joined the battle and use our money in a much better way," said Eva-Lotta Kastenholm, who is in charge of public schools in Sollentuna, a suburb of Stockholm.
Competition has forced Gardesskolan, a public school in Sollentuna, to put two teachers in each class of 30 children instead of one. Its student body has risen more than fivefold to 400 since 1992.
"All the schools work with some kind of board or parents' council where they can take part," said Anette Lundqvist, Gardesskolan's principal. "Parents have a bigger influence now."
Many are irked by the private schools' marketing campaigns, which include those free I-Pods and laptops.
"Education is about profound learning, but now it has become superficial," said Kerstin Solang, headmistress of a public school in Eskilstuna, 75 miles west of Stockholm.
Some teachers worry about job security at private schools, but appreciate their greater autonomy.
"There was a lot of skepticism toward this in the beginning but we don't have an opinion about which owner is better," said Eva-Lis Preisz, head of the Swedish Teachers' Union.
It doesn't matter how the money is channeled because ultimately, she says, "it's all financed by taxes."
For some pupils, private and public schools have become wholly interchangeable.
In the Vittra school, a 10-year-old boy named Oliver has an assignment to write a crime novel, but he says, "I don't have the patience to become a crime novelist." He is leaving Vittra in the fall for a public school specializing in music because, he says, "music really is my life."

Everybody likes Cartoons!

click to enlarge the picture!

Positive Developments in Expanding School Choice in 2007

Everybody likes cartoons N.2!

What do students think about school choice?

Bobby Moore,
"Me and all my friends here in Compton are hoping to go to Phillips-Exeter Preparatory Academy if this initiative passes."

If you want to read more opinions, click here

A real-life story: How school choice saved my life!

The DiTonno Family

The product of two working parents, Abbi had been enrolled in daycare since she was an infant. Though she hated going to daycare, we had no choice but to enroll her 3 days a week. When the time came for kindergarten, we did some research on our local school district and were not impressed.

We immediately fell in love with the Harrisburg Academy. It had everything we wanted - a large class and a half day program which meant Abbi would still need some form of daycare.

She is currently in third grade at the Academy and doing great! Along with a challenging curriculum, we discovered the added benefit of attending a school that has a very diverse student body, an experience she would not have had in public school. The feeling we get knowing that we have Abbi in a school of our choice is comforting when we think about her future.

The Institute for Justice fights for your children's education!

“In courtrooms across the country, school choice programs are
under assault-a single law firm, the Institute for Justice, has found itself
defending parents in choice cases before five different state supreme courts.”
—Wall Street Journal

Since 1990, school choice advocates have secured a long
string of major policy and legal victories. From groundbreaking decisions in the
Wisconsin, Ohio and Arizona Supreme Courts—followed by victory before the U.S.
Supreme Court—to new choice programs in Florida and the District of Columbia,
the demand for educational freedom is spreading nationwide.The Institute for
Justice continues the battle for school choice in the courtroom and the court of
public opinion.

If do you want to learn more about school choice and IJ, visit