Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Loch Ness monster, DOJ spreadsheets & more

We’re trying something new today: an occasional report card that offers a quick analysis of education reform news from around the country. Who gets a satisfactory? Who’s in need of improvement? Read on.

MrGibbonsReportCard

Joy Resmovits, ed writer at Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is a fair news outlet when it comes to offering a broad range of view on education reform. But sometimes it voluntarily repeats the same bizarre or weak criticisms of school choice. Joy Resmovits’ most recent article on the DOJ suit against Louisiana vouchers gives added weight to bizarre, one-off criticisms while not giving enough weight to the evidence supporting vouchers.

Joy reports the “evidence on the value of vouchers is limited.” I’m not sure how she means to use the word “limited.” Results are “limited” in the sense that vouchers themselves are generally only available to a small group of highly disadvantaged students who then receive a relatively small scholarship to attend private schools. The value is usually around half the amount spent on a district public school. Even then, 11 of the 12 of the random assignment studies on the value of vouchers shows positive results for students using them.

gopplotIn another instance,  Joy references a private school which teaches that the Loch Ness monster is evidence in favor of the Young Earth Creationist theory. It’s a point of criticism Joy has raised in at least three  other  articles on vouchers, but it really doesn’t deserve the weight and attention she gives it. The use of the Loch Ness monster is so weird even other creationists make fun of it.

Using a rare and off-the-wall case in a private school to criticize an entire voucher system would be like me criticizing public education because a single district banned a lesbian girl from wearing a tuxedo for her senior portrait, or because a district has a high school named after one of the Ku Klux Klan founders, or because a district banned a book from the library – or any number of other examples of bad and/or discriminatory behavior in our nation’s schools.

Grade: In Need of Improvement

 

Polk County (Fla.) School District & Southeastern University

Students attending Lake Gibson High’s career academy can now take accredited college level courses at no cost, thanks to the district’s first public-private education partnership. But what’s especially worth noting is the private university assisting in this public education endeavor is faith-based Southeastern University.

Florida is a state with a Blaine Amendment, which prohibits public money from flowing to religious institutions. But this isn’t the first  example where the Blaine Amendment is ignored by policymakers or even the courts. Ignoring the increasing irrelevant amendment might be a good thing, especially if your focus is on enhancing the educational opportunities of students. That’s something both the Polk County School District and Southeastern University appear interested in.

Grade: Satisfactory

 

JebJindal

Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush

On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took the stage to mock the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit blocking Louisiana vouchers from serving low-income students in failing public schools. In its defense, the DOJ argued it did not want to stop the voucher program, only to enforce the requirement that districts get court approval to allow students to leave their assigned public school with a voucher.

The focus on maintaining balanced ratios on their Excel spreadsheet isn’t winning the DOJ any friends,and it has allowed a slew of columnists and politicians to beat up on the Obama administration. Where did we make this turn anyway? I was under the impression we desegregated schools with the aim of improving school quality for minorities who were being undeserved by their former segregated schools. When did the focus change from improving education quality to maintaining mathematical formulas?

The irony is 91 percent of voucher recipients in Louisiana are non-white and all are low-income. In the end, the DOJ chose government-mandated zones to achieve an “appropriate” racial makeup over parental choice and the opportunity for  a better education. The last time race was invoked to bar minority parents from choosing a better school for their children…well, that  is what sparked the desegregation cases to begin with. Jindal and Bush are rightly pushing back on the DOJ.

Grade: Satisfactory