Friday, November 18, 2011

New Hampshire Latest State to Support School Choice

School choice is on the verge of becoming law in New Hampshire.  This seems to be a trend sweeping across states.  Why?  It's obvious.  All states are cash strapped and realize that school choice programs always results in a revenue positive equation.  States end up saving money by offering school choice as the $$$ they offer the student is only a portion of the variable cost of education.  
 The full story follows.  Please play close attention to the idiotic quotes of the union hack at the end of the segment.

Legislation aims to allow businesses to back school-choice options

Tax credit sought for businesses that fund scholarships.
November 13, 2011 2:00 AM

Legislation to create a tax credit program that would encourage businesses to donate money to fund school-choice options for New Hampshire students could be filed for the 2012 legislative session.
Members of the House of Representatives have already started work on new legislation as a result of the recommendation of a committee of legislators who met in September and October to study the implementation of an education tax credit plan.

State Sen. Jim Forsythe, R-Strafford, who was the committee chairman, said the tax credits would help provide parents with more school-choice options, including home-schooling, private schools and religious schools. If established, the credits would encourage businesses to make a donation to a scholarship organization for a 75- to 90-percent tax credit, Forsythe said.

The tax credits would be against the 8.5-percent Business Profits Tax, and possibly the Business Enterprise Tax, depending on how other reforms to the enterprise tax play out, Forsythe said.
The legislation can be found in other states, including Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona and, in Forsythe's opinion, would improve education in New Hampshire by providing opportunities for less-fortunate students to have options besides their local public school.

"Education is hugely important," he said. "I think this is very important to improve the quality of education."

The committee has recommended a total donation cap between $10 million and $15 million that could be expanded if the program grows large enough, and caps on donations of individual entities and the administrative expenses of the organizations that would administer the scholarships.

Other recommendations are that the $1,856 the state normally provides for a special-education student follow that student if he or she participates in the scholarship program and that costs of books and materials for home-school students be eligible for scholarships.

The program is proposed to be budget neutral or a cost savings to the state. Forsythe said if children move from public to private school as a result of a scholarship, then public schools would need less state funding.

The committee heard testimony about numerous studies of school-choice programs that indicated education improved after the program was implemented, Forsythe said. He said some studies also suggested public education improved as well because it fostered competition among schools.
There are some concerns with the program, such as how to ensure scholarships go to the truly needy and not to students already attending private school. Forsythe said there has been discussion of means testing to ensure a family is eligible for assistance, but the committee could not come to a complete agreement on it.

State Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, also served on the committee. She said the program is different from voucher systems proposed in years past because the scholarships are not government money and therefore would not be subject to the same constitutional challenges as vouchers.

Stiles said she supports the program because student needs are so diverse that what works for one student may not work for another.

The state should strive for anything that could help a child reach his or her potential, she said.
"I look for every opportunity for every kid to reach their greatest potential," Stiles said. "I think we have good public schools (and) we have some public schools that are great, (but) there's always room for improvement."

Laura Hainey, a Rochester resident and president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said there are some serious problems with the program.

Hainey said she has concerns about transparency and accountability, particularly when it comes to sending money to religious schools and families that practice home-schooling.

She also said that while the issue is about providing school-choice, it is often the school that chooses the child and there is no guarantee the program would help the truly needy.

From Hainey's perspective, the program would not be budget-neutral because local school budgets would not fall as a result of one or two students leaving for a private school. And she raised concerns about businesses that would "double-dip" and use the donation as a deduction on federal taxes in addition to the state tax credit.

She said if there is real support for school-choice scholarships, it should be done through private donations.

"We'll continue to monitor it," she said. "If they can make it fair, we might consider it."
Forsythe said state Rep. Greg Hill, R-Northfield, has done considerable work on draft legislation with House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem. Forsythe said he has his own bill for the Senate, but if it mirrors Hill's legislation he will simply follow that version.

Pennsylvania School Choice Bill Proves Beneficial for Families and Private Schools

The passage of a school choice bill in Pennsylvania has proven to benefit both families and private schools, including Catholic schools.  Although these benefits were expected, the major impetus for passage of this bill was slightly less altruistic.  Bottom line, it saved the state of Pennsylvania money.  It only makes sense where legislators and governor actually have some sense.  The story:

Rally for School Choice Tuesday in Harrisburg

Busloads of students, parents and educators from nine Schuylkill County schools will arrive outside the state Capitol Rotunda building Tuesday to support school choice and celebrate the Senate's approval of Senate Bill 1 during the REACH Foundation's Rally for School Choice.

"We want to show our support and thank the Senate," said Jennifer Daubert, director of development at Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville.

In addition to Nativity, the REACH Foundation said students and faculty from McAdoo Catholic Elementary, Assumption BVM, St. Ambrose, Trinity Academy, St. Jerome RegionRal, St. Nicholas, Marian High School and St. Joseph Center for Special Learning will also be at the rally from 1 to 2 p.m.

"We are very excited and looking for a huge turnout," said Otto V. Banks, executive director of REACH. "The reason for the rally is to push for the passage of Senate Bill 1 and support Gov. Corbett's education reform plan."

REACH stands for Road to Educational Achievement Through Choice. The nonprofit foundation was founded in 1991 and, along with its sister organization, the REACH Alliance, is dedicated to ensuring parental choice in education and coordinating efforts to pass school choice legislation.

"A quality education is the most important investment we can make and parents have the right to choose what schools meet their child's needs," said Matt Kerr, communications director for the Diocese of Allentown. "The point of the rally is to show our support for the legislation, thank the Senate and encourage more legislative efforts for school choice."

The foundation includes members from the business community, ethnic and religious organizations, parents and taxpayer groups, and is funded through contributions of citizens, churches and other foundations.

"We are empowering parents to make sure they have the right to make the best choice for their children and make sure that every child has the right to a good education," Banks said.

Senate Bill 1, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, was approved by the Senate by a 27-22 vote Oct. 26. The bill provides opportunity scholarships, expands the current Educational Tax Credit program and adds several charter school provisions.

"Pennsylvania really needs an overhaul on the education system. Something needed to be done," Banks said.

Opportunity scholarships will be available for both public and private school choice to low-income students at under-performing schools. The EITC program will receive a multimillion-dollar increase, eventually bringing the program to $125 million and potentially an annual increase of 5 percent thereafter.

Although statistics for Schuylkill County was unavailable, Banks said that in the Harrisburg area, students can receive up to $8,000 in opportunity scholarships. He said that critics say the amount is not enough to cover annual tuition rates, but noted that quality Catholic education at Bishop McDevitt High School, Harrisburg, has an annual tuition of $6,000.

Daubert said 300 letters in support of the bill were sent to the office of Sen. David Argall, R-29, the day it was approved.

"The EITC program had a significant impact on Catholic schools in the area," Daubert said. "Through the generosity of businesses, a Catholic education becomes a possibility for so many families."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another Study Just Released October 19 Shows School Savings in Pennsylvania

By:  Nathan Benefield  of the Commonwealth Foundation
October 19, 2011

Critics of expanding school choice in Pennsylvania often claim it will "cost too much" or drain precious resources. But in fact, school choice already saves Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $4 billion every year—more than $1,300 for every family of four.

In 2009-10, Pennsylvania school districts spent $14,300 per student. In comparison, public charter schools spent about $2,400 less per student, on average (and cyber schools more than $3,300 less), as documented in our recent policy points on charter school funding.

Private and nonpublic schools—which benefit from more than $200 million in state aid for student textbooks, transportation, and special needs students—enroll close to 300,000 students. About 40,000 of these students receive scholarships through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, with the average scholarship amount being around $1,000. Even counting the the tax credit for private donations to scholarship organizations as a "cost" to taxpayers, private school choice saves more than $12,000 per child leaving a school district.

Homeschool students receive no taxpayer subsidy, saving taxpayers $14,300 for each of 22,000 homeschoolers. Even the proposed voucher program—less than half the amount, per student, of district spending—would represent significant savings for taxpayers.

If the 380,000 students attending schools of choice returned to district schools, at current spending levels, taxpayer costs for education would rise by $4.3 billion.

Total Taxpayer Savings from Students Attending Schools of Choice
2009-10 School Year

Savings Per Student* Number of Students** Total Savings
Private and Nonpublic $13,279 287,092 $3,812,403,692
EITC Scholarship Students $12,235 38,646 $472,848,486
Home School $14,301 22,000 $314,622,000
Public Charter (Total) $2,367 73,054 $172,903,936
Cyber Charter $3,366 20,406 $68,685,860
382,146 $4,299,929,628
* Includes All state funding for nonpublic schools plus tax credits for EITC scholarships as cost; homeschooling enrollment estimated based on 2007-08 data
Sources: PA Department of Education, Summaries of Annual Financial Report Data; Public School Enrollment Reports,

Big Year for School Choice

The Heritage Foundation
2011 has been a milestone year for school choice, setting the bar high for state legislatures across the country to increase families’ educational options. What began with a crucial re-authorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program continued with 12 states creating or expanding school choice options.

The movement toward educational freedom in 2011 was unprecedented; state after state moved away from the government’s public education monopoly and toward policies that put power in the hands of parents, and educational opportunity in the grasp of children.

Today, families in 18 states and the District of Columbia benefit from private school choice options. More than 200,000 children are benefiting from vouchers, tuition tax credit programs, and education savings accounts to pay for tuition at a private school of their parents’ choice. Millions more benefit from virtual education options, charter schools, public school choice, and homeschooling. But, although these options are proliferating, millions of children across the country are still trapped in government schools that fail to meet their needs, fail to provide them with a quality education, and in some cases, even fail to provide for their safety.

Congress and state and local leaders must continue the work of ensuring that every child has access to a safe and effective school.

School Choice in America
As of August 2011, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have policies that support private school choice:
  • Nine states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island—offer education tax credits to encourage businesses and individuals to make donations to organizations that provide tuition scholarships to students to attend private school.
  • Nine states and the District of Columbia have voucher programs: Colorado (Douglas County), Florida (special needs), Georgia (special needs), Indiana, Louisiana (New Orleans and special needs), Ohio (Cleveland, Ed Choice, special needs, and Autism scholarships), Oklahoma (special needs), Utah (special needs), Wisconsin (Milwaukee and Racine County), and Washington, D.C.
  • Five states—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, and Minnesota—offer tax deductions to reduce their state income-tax liabilities by taking deductions on education-related expenses, including private-school tuition.
A majority of states offer some form of public school choice:
  • Forty-six states have policies that permit public-school choice.[1]
  • Forty states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws that allow the creation of charter schools—public schools that are free from many of the regulations imposed on traditional public schools, but are held accountable to the same achievement measures as their traditional counterparts. This allows charter schools to be more flexible and innovative than traditional public schools.[2]
Many more families pursue options outside the traditional school public model:
  • Homeschooling is legal in every state.[3]
  • More than 1.5 million students participate in online classes.[4]
Continue here to read the full report:

From the Heritage Foundation

The Future of School Choice

October 11, 2011

For decades now, spending on public education has been increasing significantly, while academic achievement has remained stagnant. What if, instead of pouring money into failing schools, we give the money to parents and allow them to spend it any way they see fit on their children’s education?
Well, in states like Arizona, education savings accounts (ESAs), which do just that, have become a reality and could be the future of school choice.

Heritage’s Lindsey Burke explains what it means for some residents of Arizona:
"In April 2011, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB 1553, creating Arizona Empowerment Accounts. The first of their kind, Empowerment Accounts allow parents—in this case, parents of special-needs children—to remove their children from the public-school system and receive the money the state would have spent on them in an education savings account."
This opens the door for many more educational opportunities for special needs children who deserve better than the schools they are forced to go through because of the district they happen to live in.
This is just the starting point for the true potential of ESAs. They could also be used to attend online schools, which offer a learning alternative to brick-and-mortar schools. Additionally, if the money is not used, parents can roll it over from year to year and can even save it to invest in a 529 college savings account for their children.

Other states, such as Florida and Utah, have also considered offering parents ESAs.
The Wall Street Journal called 2011 “The Year of School Choice,” because 13 states have enacted or expanded school choice options for families. This should send shockwaves to the Obama Administration, which is hoping for a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.

But in order to free more states to explore innovative education options like ESAs, federal policymakers should allow states to completely opt out of No Child Left Behind and use funding in a manner that would best meet the needs of local children.

States like Arizona are leading the way with new ideas like ESAs, and the future of school choice options seems brighter than ever.

Higher Graduation Rates for School Choice Students

Higher Graduation Rates for Milwaukee Students
School Choice Students Continue to Lead the Way

By School Choice Wisconsin
Last Updated: January 10, 2011

Milwaukee—High school graduation rates in Milwaukee have risen steadily since 2003, with students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) more likely to receive diplomas than students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). These are the key findings in a new report by University of Minnesota Professor John Robert Warren, a national expert.

Based on seven years of data, Professor Warren estimates that the graduation rate for students in Milwaukee’s choice program was about 18% higher than for students in MPS. Had MPS achieved the same graduation rate as students in the MPCP, an additional 3,939 Milwaukee students would have graduated from 2003 to 2009. Based on findings in separate research reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the annual impact from these additional graduates would have been about $4.2 million in extra tax revenue and $24.9 million in additional personal income.

Warren’s research shows a general pattern of growth in Milwaukee graduation rates. From 2003 to 2009 the MPS rate grew from 49% to 70%. For the MPCP the rate grew from 63% to 82%.

The positive school choice results come on the heels of alarming news that the number of 9th graders entering the MPCP decreased in 2010-2011. Per-pupil funding cuts and increased regulation have threatened the sustainability of private high schools in the MPCP. The result has been a decrease in the number of freshman seats offered through the program, at a time when demand significantly exceeds the supply.

Currently, per-pupil taxpayer support for the MPCP is $6,442, less than half of the $15,034 spent per-pupil in MPS. The program now serves over 20,000 students.

Professor Warren notes that the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), which is made up of researchers at the University of Arkansas, is conducting a detailed study of the choice program. He said their work might offer explanations for the higher graduation rates of choice students.
Professor Warren’s report is available at:

Note to reporters:

• Questions about the study may be directed to John Robert Warren, Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, 612-624-2310 and

Professor Warren received his doctorate in 1998 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His published scholarship reflects extensive examination of issues associated with the accurate measurement of high school graduation rates. In one key study, “State-Level High School Completion Rates: Concepts, Measures, and Trends,” he provides a comprehensive review of those issues and validates a rigorous method for accurately calculating graduation rates (See Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 13, No. 51, December 23, 2005—

• Questions about the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program may be directed to Michael Ford, Vice President of Operations, School Choice Wisconsin, 414-319-9160 and

Another Study Showing Taxpayer Savings and Better Student Performance

School Choice Research: Taxpayer Savings and Parent/Student Satisfaction
Last Updated: February 26, 2008

DATE: February 26, 2008

RE: Longitudinal Study, Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

FROM: Susan Mitchell, President, School Choice Wisconsin

This summarizes information in four reports issued yesterday by academic researchers who are conducting an independent longitudinal study of school choice in Milwaukee. The reports are available at

The reports represent initial findings from a five-year longitudinal study directed by some of the nation’s most knowledgeable scholars in the subject of educational choice. The study team includes University of Wisconsin Professor John Witte. The head of the team is University of Arkansas Professor Patrick Wolf. Officials from the Milwaukee Public Schools participated in developing the study design.

Fiscal Impact

The SCDP evaluation of fiscal impact represents the most comprehensive findings ever assembled on the issue. The conclusions of the analysis are consistent with numerous reports previously issued by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), despite the continual misrepresentation of the facts by program opponents.

Taxpayer support for students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) is a maximum of $6,501 per pupil. In 2006 (the most recent year cited in the research), per pupil spending in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) was $11,885.

Key findings include:

• Net taxpayers savings from the MPCP in 2006-07 totaled $24.6 million.

• The savings are unevenly distributed among taxpayers.

o Those who pay state income and sales taxes as well as property taxpayers in school districts outside the City of Milwaukee benefit. Ending or curtailing the MPCP would increase those taxes.

o There is an adverse impact on City of Milwaukee property taxpayers.

o Legislative efforts in 2007 to address the City of Milwaukee impact were inadequate.

In May of 2007, Mayor Tom Barrett and State Rep. Jason Fields advanced a plan, with bipartisan support, to end the so-called Milwaukee “funding flaw.” Key Milwaukee legislators blocked the Barrett-Fields plan.

Parent and Student Satisfaction

The research team conducted extensive surveys involving a representative sample of parents in the MPCP and in MPS. Both groups report levels of satisfaction above the national average. On a variety of measures, parents of students in the MPCP were more satisfied.

• The majority of parents — MPCP and MPS — cite educational quality as the primary reason for choosing a school. Teacher quality and safety are the next highest priorities.

• A majority of MPCP parents are “very satisfied” with: what is taught at their child’s school; school safety; what their child has learned; and information received from teachers about student progress.

• Nearly three times more MPS parents felt that weapons in their child's school were a serious problem (16.6% vs. 6.3%).

• Far more MPCP parents felt that fighting in schools was not a serious problem.

• Far more MPCP students strongly agreed with the statements, “My school makes sure that classrooms are safe and orderly” and “My school promotes a drug-free environment.”

The survey results also show that most Milwaukee parents, in both public and private schools, make active and informed school choices. The longitudinal research team finds that 77.9% of MPCP parents, and 74.1% of MPS parents report that their children are attending their first school choice. In MPS, 55% of parents report choosing a school outside of their residentially defined area. When MPS parents were asked why they did not apply to the MPCP, only 1 percent cited a lack of information about individual MPCP schools. These results are at odds with a widely publicized report issued last year. That report, which used no data from Milwaukee, concluded that most Milwaukee parents make uninformed choices and often accept “default” school assignments.

Participating Schools and Students

Key findings:

• 29% of teachers at MPCP schools have master’s degrees (compared to 43% in MPS). Teachers at MPCP schools are more likely to have five or more years of teaching experience than their MPS counterparts.

• MPCP schools have an average student to teacher ratio of 13.6, compared to 16.6 in MPS.

• More than 30% of the 122 schools in the MPCP have opened since the program began.

• MPCP schools serve disabled students. The survey of MPCP parents showed that 8.7% have children with special needs. This is particularly noteworthy given that private schools are less likely than MPS schools to label students with mild disabilities as special needs students. In addition, more than two-thirds of MPCP schools offer programs for students with learning problems. Opponents for years have claimed that schools in the MPCP serve few if any such students.

• The majority of students — 78% —in private schools that participate in the MPCP, including MPCP and private-pay students, are minority. The estimated average household income of MPCP parents is $23,371.

• Consistent with multiple findings in earlier studies, enrollment in MPCP schools is less segregated racially than in MPS.

• Of the 122 schools in the MPCP:

o 83.3% have music programs;
o 79.8% have art programs;
o 72.9% have after-school programs;
o 70% offer personal tutoring.

Academic Achievement

The initial reports draw no conclusions about the impact of school choice on academic achievement and high school graduation. Rather, the “baseline” reports describe (1) test scores for a scientifically selected, representative sample of MPCP and MPS students and (2) other scores of MPCP students on standardized tests. Future reports will measure changes among the comparison groups from the baseline and evaluate the impact of school choice.

The study team cautions that readers should not use baseline data to draw conclusions about issues of academic achievement and attainment. Future reports will provide information about these issues