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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Breakthrough In Arkansas Advances #SchoolChoice

The most callused aspect of the current education monopoly in Arkansas is that it willingly and deliberately forces children--except those whose parents have wealth--to attend bad schools. And it does so with financial resources taken from parents already struggling financially and at the expense of their ability to choose a better school for their sons and daughters.” Policy Foundation report, September 1998
by Greg Kaza: School choice gives students the freedom to attend schools or obtain educational services that best fit their individual and family needs. These can include public, private or home-schools depending on the circumstance. School choice has advanced to a significant degree since the Policy Foundation raised the issue in 1995. The citizenship of Arkansans has advanced school choice, with foundations playing a key leadership role.

The Mid-1990s Policy Climate
The mid-1990s policy climate in Arkansas was largely hostile to school choice at the K-12 level. Options such as private schools existed for some parents and guardians but state regulatory overreach in the 1980s was a recent memory. The right of parents to home-school was also questioned. Charters are non-traditional public schools. They did not exist in Arkansas, though congressional Republicans and the Clinton administration reached an accord on the issue. The Policy Foundation was the first Arkansas research organization to publish a study on charter schools. The first Arkansas charter opened later in the decade, and state Department of Education records show 52 conversion and open-enrollment charters today.

The Early 21st Century: School Choice Breakthrough
The U.S. Supreme Court, in June 2002, upheld the constitutionality of Cleveland, Ohio's school choice program in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. The ruling removed the U.S. Constitution from the legal arsenal of school choice opponents.4 The Policy Foundation hailed the ruling in its media response.

The ruling made it possible for school choice to advance in other states. Only eight states had school choice programs at the turn of the century. That number increased to 30 by 2016. Last year, Arkansas became the 25th or "tipping point" state to adopt school choice after the Succeed Scholarship program was enacted. The program provides a voucher for up to 100 students to attend "a private school of choice." The program is available for students with disabilities and the children of active-duty military.

School Choice Options In Arkansas
School choice programs include education savings accounts, tax credits and deductions, tax credit scholarships and vouchers. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice provides the following descriptions for each type of program:

Education savings accounts allow parents "to withdraw their children from a public school district or charter school and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts. Those funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, educational therapies, college course costs, and other higher education expenses."

Tax credits and deductions allow parents to "receive state income tax relief for approved educational expenses, which can include private school tuition, books, supplies, computers, tutors, and transportation. Tax credits lower the total taxes a person owes; a deduction reduces a person's total taxable income."

Tax credit scholarships allow taxpayers to receive "full or partial tax credits for donating to nonprofits that provide K-12 private school scholarships. The amount of tax credits distributed is capped at an amount determined by" a legislative body, "which, in turn, affects the availability and size of scholarships."

Vouchers give parents "all or a portion of the public funding set aside for their children's education to choose private schools that best fit their learning needs. State funds typically expended by a school district are allocated to families in the form of a voucher to pay partial or full tuition at a private school, including religious and non-religious options." Arkansas' Succeed Scholarship Program, enacted in 2015, is a voucher-style program.

The Role Of Citizenship
School choice's advance in Arkansas did not occur by accident. It occurred because a small group of private individuals and foundations worked to advance the idea that students deserve the education that fits their needs.

The Policy Foundation is part of this process but there are other groups that have played key roles advancing school choice. One is the Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation, a group of business leaders committed to advancing accountability and transparency within the K-12 education system. The group's activities seek to advance "substantive reform to improve educational outcomes for Arkansas children." The group has worked tirelessly and led on charter schools, a school choice niche market.

Another is the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which has worked with the Foundation for 10 years to educate citizens about school choice by staging an annual event in July for parents, guardians and students. Dr. Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was the 1976 Nobel Economics Laureate. He advanced school choice with his wife, Rose (1938-2009).

Records show the Arkansas school choice market continues to expand, growing expanded from an estimated 66,627 K-12 students in 20132 to 70,533 in 2015. The niche market includes students participating in public school choice programs, and homeschooled, private and charter students.

The School Choice Market in Arkansas
School choice has advanced since Foundation analysts Allyson Tucker and Donna Watson wrote their 1996 study recommending charters and Murphy Commission studies advanced other options in three 1998 education studies.

Segments of the Arkansas school choice market include the following groups:
  • Charter school students 19,1793
  • Public school choice students 13,9094
  • Homeschooled students 17,9045
  • Private school students 19,5416
  • Total (2015) 70,533
Citizens interested in the issue School Choice should contact the Policy Foundation
Greg Kaza is the director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation. The above article is a composite of three issue papers.

Tags: Arkansas, School Choice. Citizenship, School Choice market, 21st Century, breakthrough, segments, Arkansas Policy Foundation, Greg Kaza To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 1:13 PM - Post Link


Anonymous Patrick L. Booth said...

Once good schools have gone to pot both literally and figuratively and no longer provide any more than the least basic of educations, not the least reason is because the schools have been dumbed down to fit the lowest common denominator rather than attempting to raise students up to an acceptable standard.


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