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Articles: School Choice

La. Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards

Formerly, vouchers in the state of Louisiana only existed in New Orleans and for students with special needs in eligible districts. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest bill to expand the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program is set to change that. The bill, signed by Jindal on April 18, will allow low-and middle-income students attending Louisiana public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F,” to receive state-funded vouchers to attend private schools.

Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy, education reform

Since the inception of No Child Left Behind in 2002, Connecticut has held the unfortunate distinction of having the highest achievement gap in the nation—and the disparities are not just found in urban areas. In February, Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed a sweeping education reform bill, S.B. 24: An Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness, making 2012 “the year of education” in Connecticut.

If we as educators could successfully teach all children by ourselves, then it seems that we would have already done so. We haven’t, and that should be all the motivation to promote family engagement in districts nationwide.

If we want children to memorize the capital of each state or the presidents of the United States, then 3x5 flashcards, at $0.99 for 25, is a time-tested technology.

The New Tech Network, which began in 1996 as a nonprofit school improvement organization, made a splash at the Educon conference in Philadelphia earlier this year, explaining how it reformed 86 schools in 16 states. And the difference with the model is that communities, not schools, fund them. Through fundraisers, donations and other contributions, the community “invests” in the change that happens.

Michelle Rhee is back. Rhee’s grassroots organization, StudentsFirst, metaphorically descended on the state capitol in Alabama last month, ready to persuade state legislators to reform K12 education. With more than one million members, including parents, grandparents, teachers, principals and policy makers, StudentsFirst advocates for education reforms, via state or federal legislation and policies, that will improve student achievement.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

About 12 percent of charter schools in the United States have collective bargaining agreements with their unions, either by a state mandate or as part of an individual school’s mission. These union contracts—the first generation of such agreements—generally include unique innovations and are more streamlined, according to a new study by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Released on Dec.

Kansas City (Mo.) Public Schools is at a crossroads. The district has struggled for decades with poor academic achievement, dwindling enrollment and budget, and short-term superintendents—27 in the past 40 years. Most recently, after a two-year stint during which he helped the district get its financial house in order, closing nearly half of its schools and slashing staffing levels, Superintendent John Covington abruptly quit last August.

In August, as the back-to-school clothing and supplies were hitting the stores, Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools launched its own new "product line of services" to its student clientele, including additional magnet schools, a conservatory for the arts, salad bars, and new technology and online digital tools for students. This "ritual of reinvention" is a signature program of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, as he's unveiled similar plans each year since joining the district in fall 2008.

In just the first six months of 2011, 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation supporting school voucher or scholarship tax credit programs. This has been a big year for school advocates. While some states expanded already existing school choice programs, six new programs were created in Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin—beating the previous record of five new programs set in 2006.

If you were to call the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a monotone recording would answer, "The number you have dialed is unallocated."

The organization has become a ghost town since the Obama administration began phasing out the controversial voucher program, which provides federal funding for low-income D.C. students to attend private schools. The program has seen signs of a revival in the House of Representatives, however.

Memphis (Tenn.) City Schools will forfeit its charter after a landmark vote in the city on March 8 mandated the district allow Shelby County—its neighboring suburban district—to regain control of its school system. Memphis, which has been separate from the county, has long been deemed the struggling district, while Shelby County (Tenn.) Schools has been regarded as the successful one.

On Nov. 3, the Supreme Court heard arguments for a school choice case challenging the precedent set for the Establishment Clause—the separation of church and state. Winn v. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization disputes whether a tax credit program that directs public funds to private religious schools is constitutional. Since 1997, Arizona taxpayers have had the option to divert $500 of their owed taxes to school tuition organizations (STO) for student scholarships. The taxpayers can decide if their money is given to a religious or nonreligious STO.

Due to heightened vigilance regarding minority achievement, districts across the country are under scrutiny. One of these is the Wake County (N.C.) Public School System. Recently the Wake County school board decided to change the way it handles student assignments and busing between schools. Board members voted 5-4 on March 23 to end forced busing, a method initiated in the 1970s to promote diversity in public schools.

Tuition voucher program support has been withering under the Obama administration as it phases out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program, a federally funded voucher program signed into law in 2004, has provided over 3,700 students in Washington, D.C., with scholarships to attend private schools. The administration's primary reasoning, it appears, has been strong union opposition to school vouchers.