Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Voucher School Failure!

By Jeff Simpson 

There has been a propaganda bus tour, to tell us how great private/voucher schools are and we know that the Governor will also tell us how great they are at his version of the State of the State.   Everyone knows, you can count on AFP-WI and Scott Walker to not tell us the truth, it is time to look more closely at voucher/charter schools.   

1.  We will start right in Milwaukee, WI, where we see that the Milwaukee Public School system outperforms the area voucher schools.   

 A new report from the Public Policy Forum in Milwaukee found that the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which enrolls about 25,000 students in private schools through the state's voucher program, has similar demographics and poverty levels as Milwaukee Public Schools, but students there perform slightly worse on standardized tests in math and reading.

2.   Diane Ravitch points out exactly what Milwaukee needs and it is NOT vouchers:

Gov. Scott Walker's answer to the Milwaukee problem is to call for more vouchers and charters and for virtual charters. But if the students in those schools are not outperforming the ones in the public schools after 20 years, why should those sectors grow? And we know from multiple studies that students in virtual schools do worse than those in brick-and-mortar schools.
More of the same is no answer. Doubling down on failure is a bad bet.
Yes, Milwaukee needs a bold vision. It needs a reset.
It needs one public education sector, not three competing sectors. The time for dual- and triple-systems should have ended in 1954, with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
Milwaukee needs one public school system that receives public dollars, public support, community engagement and parental involvement.
Vouchers and charters had their chance. They failed.
Now it is time to build a great public school system that meets the needs of the children of Milwaukee.
The children of Milwaukee need universal pre-kindergarten so that they arrive in school ready to learn. Children with high needs require small classes and extra attention. Public schools should provide a superb program in the arts for all children in every grade. They should have a rich curriculum - history, literature, foreign languages, the sciences, mathematics and civics - for all children. Every student should have daily physical education. The schools should have the nurses, guidance counselors, social workers and librarians they need. Children should have after-school programs where they can learn new skills, strengthen their bodies, and get extra tutoring.
It is impossible to achieve these goals in a city with three competing school systems. It is entirely possible to achieve when there is one school system that becomes the focus of the energies of parents, civic leaders and the business community.
Many children, one Milwaukee.

3.   The School Administrators Alliance(aka union), hardly a liberal group, has come out with their own research report about voucher schools, and had the following findings:

 In the memo, the SAA makes four major points about private school voucher expansion and why it is the wrong choice for Wisconsin:
1) The ultimate objective of voucher advocates is a statewide system of private school vouchers for all Wisconsin school children.
2) Vouchers do not improve student achievement.
3) Vouchers eliminate public accountability.
4) Vouchers take resources away from public school students.
4.  Jake, like he so often does, showed us how Private schools copy failure NOT success. 

   Wisconsin's strong educational base was once again illustrated with the release of a report last week showing the Wisconsin high school class of 2010 had the 2nd-highest graduation rate in the U.S. at 91.1%. This improved on the 2009 figure of 90.7% when Wisconsin was Number 1 in the nation for best graduation, and Wisconsin's graduation rate improved from 83.3% in 2001 to that 90.7% in a span of 8 years the 11th largest increase in the nation.

  And it wasn't like Wisconsin was just pushing kids through the system, as Wisconsin high schoolers have consistently scored well above the national averages on the ACT test,  despite the state potentially watering down the scores by encouraging more Wisconsin students to take the test in recent years.
 5.  The Northwestern likes Senator Ellis idea that local referendum passes before vouchers be expanded to a community

One can only hope his act of outspoken courage helps fuse the spine of fellow senators and pushes this partisan plum off the Republican agenda during biennium budget discussions. The school choice movement is little more than an employment agency for former Republican lawmakers who continue to push for taxpayers to foot the bill for private education. There is no evidence the voucher experiment in Milwaukee has produced results better than public schools.

Nor are voucher advocates prepared to suggest private schools operate under the same myriad of federal and state regulations Wisconsin’s public schools are required by law to follow. Private and religious school choice advocates would be wise to stop courting public dollars for they may ultimately find they get the dollars and long strings attached. Parochial schools have long and proud traditions that will continue to flourish without the deep pockets and pages of requirements of public dollars.

Research over and over shows us that voucher schools do NOT perform as well as public schools, we also know that without public oversight, administrators in private schools, show us that they can not always be trusted!

6.   A Reuters reprt on charter schools, shows us that - many such institutions disregard their own promises of inclusion and equal opportunity by creating barriers to needier students while targeting for enrollment those most likely to pad test scores or otherwise enhance their own promises of "success".

As Reuters reports, many charter schools across the US, despite their assurances to the contrary,
aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.
And the barriers documented include:
  • Applications that are made available just a few hours a year.
  • Lengthy application forms, often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.
  • Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law.
  • Mandatory family interviews.
  • Assessment exams.
  • Academic prerequisites.
  • Requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs. The U.S. Department of Education considers this practice illegal on the college level but has not addressed the issue for K-12 schools.
 full report here!

7.  We also know that while the test scores at voucher schools do not outperform public schools, we also know we can not trust the private schools to even give us the correct results!

A for-profit school that was hyped by Republican lawmakers as a solution to Tennessee’s education problems recently admitted deleting bad grades to “more accurately recognize students’ current progress.”
A December email obtained by WTVF showed that Tennessee Virtual Academy’s vice principal instructed middle school teachers to delete “failing grades” from October and September.
“After … looking at so many failing grades, we need to make some changes before the holidays,” the email says, adding that each teacher needed to “take out the October and September progress [reports]; delete it so that all that is showing is November progress.”
“If you have given an assignment and most of your students failed that assignment, then you need to take that grade out.”



  1. Notice the Gov gave 400 million to schools...only he gave 127 to public and 117 to voucher schools....there are more public schools then there are voucher scools...thus disproportionate funding..he is biased, why is there no reporting on this. With liberty and justice for ALL.

  2. Ummm I think we ARE reporting on this!

  3. Fight back or lose anywayFebruary 19, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Until all families in the state realize that their schools and their educational benefits are under attack by Walker and the RW these attacks will continue.

    Drip, drip, drip. Step by step destroying local schools and local control.

    Schools have responded to reduced funding by cutting programs. In a lot of districts programs have been cut to the bone resulting in larger classes and fewer academic offerings.

    Yet with this pressure few families are completely engaged.

    Some families pride themselves as "Standing with Walker" attitudes... all the while they are losing those things that affect their kids futures.

    I say it is time to provide all parents with a wake up call.

    Years of school board membership has lead me to believe that if you REALLY want to engage your school district families. If you want them to pay attention to the financial plight being foisted on Wisconsin schools. If you want to get them to listen......

    do this: Cancel ALL sports. Cancel ALL... no exceptions.

    Cancel sports to pay for academics.

    Be prepared to open a community wide discussion about how desperate funding issues have become and how much worse they are going to get.

    Cancel all sports while their is still hope of saving your local district. The current funding trend will eventually force the same result but by then education in Wisconsin will belong to corporations who don't care about anything but profit.

    If that desperate move doesn't get a loud and engaged response than your district is probably beyond help. Sorry the truth hurts.

  4. Fight Back? Sports are the life blood of most small communities in Wisconsin. The whole town attends basketball and football games. It is the only reason many kids stay in school. Sure, a cut would open some eyes but to what solutions?
    Jeff. Great article. Let's see if Ellis and Olsen et al cave in to party pressure. I don't think they will.

  5. It's hard to believe that Republican business people in this state actually think that destroying the public schools is a productive endeavor. The same A-holes will then complain about a shortage of qualified workers. Man this state is in real trouble!

  6. Fight back or lose anyway.February 19, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Sports are the life blood of most small communities in Wisconsin. The whole town attends basketball and football games

    EXACTLY! That's the point WAKE-UP people. It's meant to get everyones attention. It's meant to make the point that THEIR schools are under attack.

    Since when is football and basketball going to get you the training and skills to get a job.

    Don't bother answering with the tired phrases like teamwork, sportsmanship etc. etc.

    None of that will do you any good if you can't read, write and perform basic math calculations. You know the things you learn in schools. Without schools no sports in small communities.

    You still lose Friday night basketball and football but your local school will either be gone or it will be a for profit pay for play corporate institution.