Showing posts with label vouchers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vouchers. Show all posts

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Public schools fail . . . to fail as badly as private sector

Public policy in education has come to this in Louisiana -- and too much of the rest of America.

What is "this"? "This" is a Brookings Institute report on research showing students who "win" Louisiana's school-voucher lottery and escape their "failing" public schools . . . lose. Big time.

From Brookings:

The affected students had won a voucher to attend, at no cost, a private school in Louisiana. Nineteen states have such voucher programs, with Louisiana’s the fifth-largest in the country. The vouchers, averaging $5,311 per student, must be accepted as full tuition at the private schools that participate in the program; schools are not allowed to ask students to “top-up” their vouchers if the school has a higher sticker price. Further, schools can’t pick and choose among the voucher winners. Instead, they have to take any student who holds a voucher.[ii]

Nationwide, 141,000 students use a voucher to attend a private school.[iii] Louisiana’s voucher program launched in New Orleans in 2008. It was expanded to include the entire state in 2012. Students from families with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty threshold are eligible for the voucher as long as they attend a public school the state has labeled as low-performing. Over half of Louisiana’s public schools fall into this category.

Researchers have long attempted to understand the effectiveness of private schools. It’s a difficult task, because parents choose their children’s schools, either by living in a certain school district or by applying to a private or charter school. The challenges are identical to those in evaluations of charter-school effectiveness: kids who attend private school are different from those who attend a public, neighborhood school, who in turn are different from those who attend a charter school.[iv] When comparing school performance, researchers struggle to distinguish differences in schools’ effectiveness from variation in the types of students who choose those schools.

A voucher lottery provides an unusual opportunity to measure the effectiveness of private schools. The lottery serves as a randomized trial, which is the gold standard of research methods. Random selection means that lottery winners and losers are identical, on average, when they apply for the voucher. Any differences that emerge after the lottery can therefore be attributed to the private-school attendance of the winners.

The results were startling. The researchers, a team of economists from Berkeley, Duke, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that the scores of the lottery winners dropped precipitously in their first year of attending private school, compared to the performance of the lottery losers. The effects were very large: roughly a quarter of a standard deviation in math, social studies, and science. There were no effects on reading scores. On a per-year basis, these negative effects are as large as the positive effects that a similarly-designed study found for charter schools in Boston (the authors of the Louisiana study are my collaborators in the charter research).[v]
HERE'S HOW you get to the abject cluster(expletive) that exemlifies "this," and here's where you like go from "this":
1) We declare public education a failure, blaming it for not magically taking the sociological deviance amid the student population and turning it, alchemist-style, into 24-karat gold. And MIT scholarships.

2) We take a page from our highly successful Vietnam playbook: We must destroy this village in order to save it.

3) As part of the destroy-to-save process, we starve public schools of funds so we can give it to a motley crew of private and charter schools . . . because private sector.

4) We sit back and watch the chaos ensue as the private sector f***s the whole thing up worse than the public sector at $5,500 a head, if not more.

5) Wait! A solution to make the whole thing work just like we know it can! Double down -- with taxpayer money -- on what hasn't yet worked.

6) Look! A liberal! Git a rope!

7) Pay no attention to that social scientist aggregating data sets.

8) Look! Pinko-commie-fag academics talkin' trash about free enterprise and educational choice! Grab your guns!

9) We'll surely get the right charter- and private-school partners this time!

10) Well, shit.

11) Pay no attention to the poverty, chaotic lives and toxic culture of "that part of town." Public schools! Bad!

12) Avoid "that part of town."

13) MY kid's private school is pretty good -- a bargain at $9,500 a year!
14) Raise property tax on my house by $100 to fund those failed government schools?!? What, I'm made of money???

ON THE other hand . . . don't worry. Be happy. Donald Trump will fix it all.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Aske nawt fore hoom thee bel towlez. . . .

When the president of a local school board decides that, no, public education isn't necessarily a public obligation, I'm not sure how much further a community has to go before it hits rock bottom.

After all, it's a little eye-raising -- even in Louisiana -- when a public-school poobah comes out for vouchers. What's next? Prostitutes for monogamy?

THAT'S WHERE the court of winners and wretches finds my hometown -- in a nosedive and still pushing the yoke and throttle hard. If it's indeed true that a strong community is one of proverbial "brother's keepers," Baton Rouge surely bears the mark of Cain.

Not that I'm completely surprised or anything.

Why would the president of a public school board -- such as East Baton Rouge Parish's Jerry Arbour -- say, in effect, "We give up. We can't educate your kids properly. Take the state's money and run"?

Communities outsource things like collecting garbage, not educating their children. Public funds need to go to entities accountable to taxpayers as a whole, not to entities accountable to God-knows-whom (or what) or, perhaps, accountable to no one at all.

Why would communities not insist upon adhering to such a basic principle?

Well, for one thing, because it's hard. And because, first, some sort of commonweal must exist. Individuals must find it within themselves to bond themselves irrevocably to others on some level beyond that of the clan . . . or Klan, as the case may be.

John Deaux must, somewhere within himself, find the strength to be his brother's keeper. Even if that brother is a minority, or poor, or just not all that edifying to be around.

You'd think folks in the Bible Belt would be more serious about biblical principles. But we are talking about Louisiana.

AND WE ARE TALKING about the Deep South here. We are, after all, talking about a region where -- historically -- the electorate hasn't cared much for education, and what care it had was for "white" schools. "Nigger schools" got what was left over from those slim pickings.

In state after state, community after community across the South -- and, to be fair, in many urban areas outside the South -- we have seen a familiar progression from the earliest days of school desegregation.

First, a federal court steps in to order the integration of public schools long under the unequal and unjust yoke of de jure segregation. Then, after much fulminating by local pols and sometimes violent outrage on the part of the public, a token effort is made at "integration." Usually, this involves the admittance of a token number of minority students into "white" schools under the banner of various "freedom of choice" schemes.

Of course, after some time, a federal district judge would deem such tokenism as wholly unacceptable. Baton Rouge's stab as such foot-dragging proceeded at a grade-per-year snail's pace, and had not yet reached the elementary grades by the time the federal judge had enough in 1970.

Then -- at least in Baton Rouge's case -- "integration" was to be achieved through voluntary majority-minority transfers and through a "neighborhood schools" plan. That's right, going to your own neighborhood school constituted race-mixing progress.

Except that white folks either a) fled what previously were mixed areas of town, b) fled the public schools or c) both. And the "integrated" schools largely weren't.

Finally, fed up with segregated "integrated" public schools, federal courts then turned to the B-word -- busing. That, of course, led to an explosion in the numbers of private schools, particularly in Baton Rouge. And to a population explosion in "whiter" outlying areas.

As the public schools, under "forced busing," went from majority white to majority black -- and from majority middle-income to majority lower income -- the white exodus picked up steam, with previous holdouts fleeing what they now saw as "failing schools." I'm not sure, but I think the difference between acceptably mediocre and "failing" is somehow proportionate to the percentage of African-American (and underclass) students.

Now -- almost three decades after "forced busing" began and several years after it was deemed pointless and abandoned along with the 47-year deseg case -- my hometown school district has gone from 65 percent white to 83 percent minority. Whites, once a strong majority in Baton Rouge, now make up less than half the population.

Until Katrina flooded Baton Rouge with those fleeing New Orleans and southeast Louisiana, the city's population hadn't grown in two decades.

THAT'S THE HISTORY of these things, and I would imagine Baton Rouge's troubled transformation mirrors that of more than a few Southern cities. And some Northern cities, too.

No, I am not digressing. My point is to suggest that America's original sin -- slavery and racism -- destroyed basic bonds of human affection. Racism was so prevalent for so long that the notion of commonweal has become unthinkable.

When a people has become so accustomed -- so enculturated over centuries -- to thinking that some humans are chattel, that some humans are less than oneself, it becomes impossible to think of anyone as one's brother. And impossible to believe that you are The Other's keeper . . . and he yours.

Is that, ultimately, why Jerry Arbour, the school board president, finds it easy to figuratively throw up his hands and abandon his responsibility to educate the public's children? Is that, ultimately, why Baton Rouge -- why Louisiana -- pretty much always has thrown up its hands and abdicated its responsibility too?

And why, when someone at the capitol gets the notion that the state budget is too big, it's always education, health care and social services that take the big hit?

IF PRESSED by someone up here in Yankeeland to explain my hometown and home state, maybe I'll tell them that to understand Baton Rouge (and Louisiana) you need to understand a city (and a state) that throws its hands up.


See, when you're faced with a really big problem -- as most people are sooner or later -- you basically have two choices: You bear down and fix it, or you throw your hands up.

For centuries, when faced with corrupt oligarchs and politicians, what have Louisianians done . . . what do Louisianians do still? They throw their hands up, and the crooked pols are still in charge.

When faced with endemic poverty and social dysfunction? Throw your hands up.

Sputtering economic infrastructure . . . ignorant workforce? Put on a pot of gumbo, grab a six pack of Abita . . . and throw your hands up.

Failing schools? Throw your hands up.

In other words, "It ain't me, it ain't my kin, throw the bastards a voucher and let the private schools clean up the mess."

IF I AM NOT my brother's keeper (if I have no brother, just The Other) there is no such thing as commonweal and -- unless I'm getting directly screwed here -- civic culture and governance ain't my problem. My problem is how to move heaven and earth to get a prime tailgaiting spot at Tiger Stadium.

To be born a Louisianian is to learn not to ask for whom the bell tolls.

It's much easier just to throw up your hands.