Monday, April 10, 2017
If you want the little boogers to learn
Then the Florida approach to edumacation is 180 degrees off course. Florida, which has funneled millions of taxpayers dollars into scholarships and vouchers for private schools, ostensibly to provide equal access to quality education for lower income students, has shown no measurable difference in results.
Florida has channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into scholarships for poor children to attend private schools over the past 15 years, using tax credits to build a laboratory for school choice that the Trump administration holds up as a model for the nation.Even the Trump administration has given up on the improved education malarkey and settled into a position of providing sufficient funds to insure profits for the private school owners and administrators, which was all it was ever about.
The voucherlike program, the largest of its kind in the country, helps pay tuition for nearly 100,000 students from low-income families.
But there is scant evidence that these students fare better academically than their peers in public schools. And there is a perennial debate about whether the state should support private schools that are mostly religious, do not require teachers to hold credentials and are not required to meet minimal performance standards. Florida private schools must administer one of several standardized tests to scholarship recipients, but there are no consequences for consistently poor results.
"After the students leave us, the public loses any sense of accountability or scrutiny of the outcomes," said Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County public schools. He wonders what happens to the 25,000 students from the county who receive the scholarships. "It's very difficult to gauge whether they're hitting the mark."
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime advocate for school choice, does not seem to be bothered by that complaint.
She is driven instead by the faith that children need and deserve alternatives to traditional public schools. At a recent public forum, DeVos said her record in office should be graded on expansion of choice-friendly policies. She did not embrace a suggestion that she be judged on academic outcomes. "I'm not a numbers person," she said.
In a nutshell, that explains how the Trump administration wants to change the terms of the debate over education policy in the United States.
In the past quarter-century, Republican and Democratic administrations focused on holding schools and educators accountable for student performance.
Now, President Donald Trump and DeVos seem concerned less with measuring whether schools help students learn and more with whether parents have an opportunity to pick a school for their children. They have pledged billions of dollars to that end. And they have visited private schools in Florida to underline their support for funding private-school tuition through tax credits.
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