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School Choice Awards Highlight Differences Between Private Initiative and Traditional Approaches

in Education, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

School Choice Awards Highlight Differences Between Private Initiative and Traditional Approaches

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

When freedom lays the groundwork for markets, colorful outbursts of creativity and efficacy can be seen, filling the air with sparkles.

Not just figuratively.

ChildrenUnfortunately for many children who now lack the opportunity to attend a school that meets their needs, many in America fail to see education as a market as well. Not because parents do not want to see results, but because special groups have, over the years, used education as a means to obtain political influence, oftentimes hurting the poorest among us. With their talk of making education a “right,” they helped to remove the market element, further hindering competition and, as a result, increasing the overall cost of education across the board.

In states like Arizona, where students have had the opportunity to experiment with the idea of school choice, even if just superficially, things seem to be getting better.

Because of the implementation of the charter school system in the state — a system that still relies on public funding — local public school students are able to “learn to speak Mandarin, study dance, [and even] become young engineers or delve into the medical sciences.”

Thanks in part to a more competitive educational environment, Arizona students have shown that adding private elements to the public school system helps to boost choice, creativity, and dedication, making the Grand Canyon state a leader in high school education.

One of the state’s charters is even among the country’s top 10 schools, according to the most recent “Best High School” ranking.

Recently, the Arizona Charter Schools Association celebrated the private element of the segment’s work, recognizing some of the best individuals involved in the private aspect of the charter school system.

During the event, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association Eileen B. Sigmust gave a speech, claiming that what “these winners have in common is their innovative approach to education and committed focus to the success of their students.”

Unfortunately for countless students in less privileged areas of the country, public school teachers and leadership often fail to focus on these two factors, mostly because of a lack of incentives to ensure children excel — a problem often caused by teachers unions, whose main accomplishments often include providing teachers with paths to comfortable and unchallenged careers by basing their salary on seniority, failing to tie pay rate with performance.

During the Arizona Charter Schools Association’s 2016 Charter Awards event, teachers were praised for “[understanding and embracing the notion] that all students learn differently and [tailoring their] lessons to each child to ensure all students make growth in her classroom.”

While the system isn’t perfect, the clear differences of approach between the traditional schools and the charter system give us further proof of the importance of private ownership, and the role it plays in helping every single child have access to the education that better meets their needs.

Surprise! Black Families Love Choice, Too

in Education, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Surprise! Black Families Love Choice, Too

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In case you were wondering, school choice is popular. Especially among those who need it most.

choiceAccording to a survey released by North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, 56 percent of local black voters favor public charter schools, while only 24 percent oppose them. At least 59 percent of those who participated also claimed that they support the expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Twenty-three percent do not want to see the program’s expansion.

Traditional schools, which are burdened with the heavy weight of union-backed demands, often tend to perform poorly, especially when compared to the majority of charter schools and other institutions that are not government-run.

In The Origins of the Public School, Austrian economist Robert P. Murphy explains that traditional schools became widely popular once “inefficient ‘firms’” sought to influence public school leadership in order to “hinder competitors.”

Murphy notes that this incident is “common to all expansions of state power.” Adding that the defense of standardization of curricula and centralization of “the disbursement of public funds” toward public schooling originally came from those who “would benefit financially from such policies,” including trade unions, he argues that protectionism—not education—is what drives teachers to unionize and burden school systems with their demands, sacrificing productivity for wages.

By becoming closer to the business of policymaking, teachers unions saw the removal of children from the labor market and the elimination of potential competition in the education industry as the only way to secure their position. By targeting poorer families who could not afford to put their children in private institutions, these groups succeeded greatly, demanding government to have more influence in the education of American children.

Murphy continues:

The Protestant schools were losing ‘market share’, and turned to government to pad their budgets and restrict the actions of their chief competitors, the Catholic schools. In other arenas, people can quickly see through such self-interested ‘altruism’. When a corporation clamors for an import restriction on foreign competition, most observers agree that it is acting to increase its own profits, not to protect the public from ‘dumping’. Why then do most people accept at face value the humanitarian justifications offered by the advocates of state education when such a bureaucracy confers immense wealth and power in the hands of an elite?

The idea of school choice is often attacked by groups claiming to speak on behalf of the oppressed and undereducated, and yet evidence shows that choice is what makes it possible for families in underprivileged situations to achieve greatness.

Whether you agree or not about the amplification of school choice through the charter or voucher systems, the fact minorities are benefiting from the addition of private elements to the schooling system is important. Unlike prohibitionists, families who struggle to provide their children with proper education see value in school choice because they live it.

If the education business hadn’t become a government business, choice would be the norm. Until freedom is restored in full, let’s celebrate those who have discovered—on their own—that freedom is always the best choice.

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new poll from YouGov brings exciting and unprecedented news for libertarians. Millenial Poll - Libertarian

Asked “Would you describe yourself as a libertarian or not?” fully one in five of likely millennial (ages 18-29) voters said yes — thus self-describing themselves as libertarians.

YouGov found that young Americans are more likely than any other age group to accept the label libertarian — great news for a growing political movement. And there is room for this figure to grow significantly as libertarian ideas spread, because, in addition to the 20% who self-identify as libertarians, another 42% said they were “not sure.” Only 39% rejected the label.

Among older voters, 17% of 30- to 44-year-olds, 15% of 45- to 64-year-olds and 9% of those 65 and older say that the word “libertarian” described their views.

More great news: a majority Americans are, broadly, embracing libertarian ideas of limiting government. Fully 51% say they want to shrink the size of government. A whopping 30% of Americans even agree with the radical libertarian statement that “Taxation is theft.” (It probably didn’t hurt that the poll was conducted April 8-9 — a week before Tax Day.)

But what is most remarkable about the YouGov poll is that it has found so many millions of voters who accept the libertarian “brand” as a label for their political views — something inconceivable just a few years ago.

Nor are these self-described libertarians tied to either of the two older political parties. The libertarian vote is up for grabs to the candidate or party that appeals most to it. Writes YouGov: “There is little difference between partisans when it comes to identifying as libertarians. Republicans (13%) are essentially no more likely than Democrats (12%) to identify as libertarian, while 19% of Independents describe themselves as libertarian.”

Notes Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie: “Let’s be clear about a couple of things: First, the fact that YouGov and other groups are hunting down the number of libertarians afoot — Pew even went ‘In Search of Libertarians’ just last year — is itself a sign that something new and different is happening. When you start touting up the way many things are breaking in a libertarian direction — the energy surrounding Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, majority acceptance of pot legalization and gay marriage, serious efforts at criminal justice reform, plummeting numbers for faith in government, the rise of school choice, embrace of a sharing economy that routes around old-style regulation, general acceptance of free trade and free speech as positive values, and much more — it’s fair to call attention to what we’ve dubbed here as ‘The Libertarian Moment.’”

For more excellent commentary on the YouGov poll see “Millennials Are More Likely to Identify as Libertarians” by Robby Soave, Reason.com.

Millions Celebrate Education Choice

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Happy National School Choice Week! National School Choice Week

This week (January 25 to 31) is National School Choice Week, a non-partisan public awareness effort designed to “shine a positive spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children.”

I wasn’t aware of the scope of this project until just recently, but it is huge. And this year is its biggest, highest-profile celebration yet.

Millions of Americans in all 50 states will participate in more than 11,000 unique independently planned and independently funded events and activities celebrating school choice. These events will range from open houses and talent shows at schools to 5k runs and rallies on the steps of state capitols.

And there is growing political clout behind this diverse movement. This year the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to recognize January 25-31, 2015 as National School Choice Week. More than 100 U.S. governors, mayors and county leaders have issued proclamations recognizing National School Choice Week in their states and localities. I’m impressed!

National School Choice Week doesn’t focus on a single tactic or solution for increasing education choice and quality. Instead, it focuses on bringing public awareness to this issue and, in doing so, creating a mass movement for the broad goals of education choice and diversity.

As the group says: “Participants in National School Choice Week believe that parents should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children. Supporters plan events that highlight a variety of school choice options — from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling — while uniting with like-minded groups and individuals across the country.”

One of the resources that National School Choice Week offers is a national map that provides facts about school choice in each state. Click on a state on the map and discover the types of school choice available — and not available — to families in that state. Great resource! Check it out.

The growth of such a mass movement for liberty in education is heartening. And support is strong and growing fast, as this Beck Research national survey of likely 2016 voters proves:

“When asked, ‘Generally speaking, would you say you favor or oppose the concept of school choice? School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs,’ fully 69% support school choice, including 45% who strongly support it, while 27% oppose it. School choice support has strong support across partisan lines; 60% of Democrats, 67% of Independents and 81% of Republicans back it.”

That’s astounding progress.

Of course, the ultimate goal for libertarians is what Advocates Founder and education reform pioneer Marshall Fritz called “separation of school and state.”

I’ll finish by quoting from a recent column by Ron Paul inspired by National School Choice Week. As usual, Paul gets straight to the heart of the matter:

“If Congress was serious about improving education it would shut down the Department of Education. … So as long as federal education programs exist, school children will be used as guinea pigs for federal bureaucrats who think they are capable of creating a curriculum suitable for every child in the country. …

“It would also shut down all other unconstitutional bureaucracies, end our interventionist foreign policy, and reform monetary policy so parents would have the resources to provide their children with an education that fits their children’s unique needs.

“Federal and state lawmakers must also repeal any laws that limit the education alternatives parents can choose for their children. The greater the options parents have and the greater the amount of control they exercise over education, the stronger the education system.

“These reforms would allow more parents access to education options such as private or religious schools, and also homeschooling.”

Let’s hope this week moves us further in that direction. Happy National School Choice Week!