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School Choice is Good For America; round 3

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Public Schools Cannot Be Religiously Neutral, But School Choice Makes Neutrality Possible: https://www.cato.org/blog/supreme-court-must-understand-public-schools-cannot-be-religiously-neutral


Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Espinoza v. Montana, a case addressing state constitutional provisions that bar public funds from going to religious institutions, especially schools. At the crux of the case is the belief that taxpayers should not be forced to take sides on religion. But the oft‐ignored root problem is that public schools cannot be religiously neutral; no matter what they do they are taking sides on religious matters. Only school choice — what has been quashed in Montana — frees the state from that.

The specifics of the case seem minor. The Montana Supreme Court struck down a program offering a $150 tax credit to people who donated to groups furnishing scholarships for students to attend private schools, including religious. As long as religious schools were included, the Montana court ruled that the whole program had to be struck down, lest it violate the state’s constitutional provision—a so‐called Blaine amendment — interpreted to prohibit any funds from reaching “sectarian” schools.

At the heart of many people’s concern is entangling government with religion, an absolutely legitimate worry. But as long as there is public schooling — which deals inescapably with minds, and hence worldviews — government will be entangled with religion.

As I illustrate in this Journal of School Choice article—which is also part of a new book on the nexus of education and religionpublic schooling has never been, and can never be, religiously neutral. Reproduced below is a graphic I created for the JSC article to help readers understand the many levels on which public schooling intersects with religion. They run from elevating non‐religion over religion by the very effort to have religion‐free education, to teaching religion‐saturated history.


The Public Schooling Battle Map—sadly, still in a state of reconstruction — illustrates that religion remains a powerful flashpoint in public schools. The database contains 346 state‐ and district‐level battles explicitly and foremost about the presence of religion, or perceived affronts to religion, ranging from creationist displays in schools to yoga classes. Many other conflicts may implicate religion, though it may not be the core concern, including battles over bathroom and locker room access being contested nationwide.

Quite simply, religious neutrality in public schools is impossible.

Can government promote education at all without touching on religion? Probably not, but it can come much closer than it does with public schooling. The solution is to do the very thing the Montana Supreme Court struck down: allow people to direct some of their income to groups that provide scholarships, and give them a tax credit. That would enable taxpayers to freely direct their money so that families could choose private schools that may be religious, or to otherwise let it go to public schools. What is crucial is that government no longer force funding of particular schools, and hence particular approaches to faith, rendering the state truly neutral.

There are many reasons the U.S. Supreme Court should rule in favor of school choice. But the most important is that the end that Blaine amendments are supposed to achieve — keeping government out of religion — is far better served by the measure Montana struck down than maintaining a public school monopoly over taxpayer funds.


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Brown v. Board Did Not Start Private Schooling: https://www.cato.org/blog/brown-v-board-did-not-start-private-schooling  

Lafayette joins 75 other districts out Nov. 19, as teachers take off for 'Red for Ed' rally at Statehouse: https://www.jconline.com/story/news/2019/11/11/lsc-cancels-school-nov-19-130-teachers-plan-go

Why Parents Love ‘Pandemic Pods’ for School — but Bureaucrats Hate Them https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/08/coronavirus-education-pandemic-pods-offer-parents-real-choice/ Rack this spot

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Seattle's School System Wants to Dismantle Its Gifted Programs. This Is Why School Choice Matters.: https://reason.com/2020/01/27/seattles-school-system-wants-to-dismantle-its-gifted-programs-this-is-why-school-choice-matters/


As if to demonstrate why parents should pay attention to National School Choice Week, Seattle's school system is purposefully dismantling a program to serve its gifted students—and completely ignoring parents' wishes in the process.

Last week the Seattle School Board voted to partner with a nonprofit to change and (they hope) improve the curriculum of Washington Middle School. Unfortunately, these changes are coming at the expense of the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC), an extremely popular gifted program that lets the students who score the highest on standardized tests participate in a specialized classes. There, they study material several grade levels higher than the ordinary curriculum.

The program has historically been dominated by white and Asian students, and this hasn't set well with some folks who want to see more diversity in advanced programs. But rather than improve access, some school leaders—including Superintendent Denise Juneau—have decided that the whole program is a form of "redlining" and are trying to kill off the whole thing, over the objections of their own customers.

As The Stranger's Katie Herzog reports, the parents of minority kids in the program are unhappy at the possibility that their children might be tossed back into regular classes:

"My request is that you please consider the disservice you would be doing to the minorities that are already in the HCC program," one father testified on Wednesday. "The program does more for black children, particularly black boys, than it does for their peers." He said that in his neighborhood school, his son's cognitive abilities weren't recognized and he was treated as a behavioral problem.

Many of the minority HCC parents I've spoken to over the past few months echoed this: Their kids aren't identified as academically gifted by their teachers, they get bored in the general ed classroom, and then end up being tagged as disruptive when what they need is just accelerated curriculum.

Only 1.6 percent of program's participants are African-American. But for these parents, that's a reason expand it, not end it. One parent told Herzog that Juneau hasn't talked to minority parents who have kids in the program to get their feedback. They don't seem to care about how minority students who do participate in the program have benefited. Instead, School Board Director Chandra Hampson claimed that these parents were being "tokenized" and used by white people to maintain the program.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat is baffled by those at the school district who want to eliminate a successful program rather than trying to expand its reach. One school administrator told a parent that the program is "manufactured brilliance" that leads to "opportunity hoarding" by the privileged. Westneat has been seeing the term tossed around a lot lately, and he thinks it leads to a very ugly place:

Undoing such hoarding "is delicate territory," the scholar Richard Reeves explained a few years back, because "improving rates of upward relative mobility from the bottom comes with a sting in the tail: it requires more downward mobility from the top."

Does it though? That's only if it's all a zero-sum game.

Educational opportunity isn't a capped resource (at least it doesn't have to be). In the HCC program, for example, there aren't a fixed number of slots, like in, say, admission to a selective college. So one kid getting in has no effect on another kid's chances.

It should be horrifying to any parent that there are people out there who think educational equality means not just improving opportunities for those who are struggling but purposefully impeding opportunities for those the district deems too far ahead. And this isn't just happening in Seattle. Reason's Matt Welch has written about a similar fight in New York City.

When I was in middle school, we read Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," a science fiction story about a future that achieved equality by handicapping those who were more talented than others. How else could we describe dismantling an education program entirely because it helps high-achieving students?

Parent Chun Ng tells Westneat the likely outcome if the program disappears:

"This is a debate about what is the role and purpose of a public school district," he said. "Is it to get every kid to a basic standard? Or is it to foster the potential of every kid? What the district is proposing here is like Medicaid, sort of a broad safety-net approach. It's understandable because, like with Medicaid, they have people falling through the cracks. But if you want more than that, I guess you have to go to private school."

And that, ultimately, is why school choice matters. Parents should be able to respond to Juneau's blunt dismissal of their children's needs by taking their business elsewhere.


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1 hour ago, DanteEstonia said:

This is a Seattle problem, not a public school problem.

So Seattle doesn't have a government school system?


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Don’t Let Utopian Public Schooling Rhetoric Block School Choice: https://www.cato.org/blog/dont-let-utopian-public-schooling-rhetoric-block-school-choice


I recently read Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America by Johann Neem, which in its title delivers the bedrock myth of public schooling: that it is essential to building harmonious, well‐informed, citizens of a democracy. And it’s not just in the title that Neem waxes poetic about the public schools. In his preface he briefly recounts his experience as an immigrant child in Bay Area, California public schools, concluding that “by democratizing access to the kind of liberal arts education that was once reserved for the few, the common schools prepare all young people to take part in the shared life of our democracy.” Neem echoes the rhetoric of Horace Mann, the “father of the common school,” who in the 1830s and 40s brought a missionary zeal to promoting largely uniform, free public schools in Massachusetts.

The problem is that once you delve into the reality of public schooling, it does not at all match the rhetoric. To the credit of Neem and many other historians, they do not duck the reality, even if they seem to ultimately let the rhetoric get the better of them. Neem’s book is focused on pre‐Civil War education, so he may have a different view of later public schooling, but towards the end of the book he offers a sober take on the reality of common schooling:

Schools may have effectively taught the basics, the three ‘Rs and a bit more, but they were less effective at inspiring young people to be citizens and to engage in self‐culture. Instead, students saw schooling as something to get through. While in some cases this led to actual violence between teachers and students, in most cases there was tacit agreement that teachers had the authority to demand students’ compliance, and that students, with the support or pressure of their parents, would have to perform. There is little evidence that students left school wanting more.

Public schools were not forging unified, enlightened citizens, as was the goal, but were largely just a mundane part of life. Which would be fine, except that taxpayer support of uniform public schooling is compelled on the grounds that it is so much more than what it actually is — it is essential for “democracy,” right? — and in that privileged position it has often been worse than just ineffectual at its professed purpose. It has imposed or reinforced inequality and injustice.

I won’t go over all the injustice in detail — you can see where I’ve discussed it in more depthbut remember that for much of its history public schooling often discriminated against minority religions, most notably Roman Catholics. It often either completely barred or segregated African Americans—not just in the South—and in some places Mexican and Asian Americans. It attacked the culturally unifying language of German immigrant communities. It now systematically treats religious Americans as second‐class citizens. And it forces people with different values, cultures, and identities to fight to see which “equal” people win, and which lose.

School choice is fundamentally different from this. Based not on rhetoric about creating social and personal perfection, but on the reality of diverse human beings and communities, choice enables families to pursue the education that they want, that respects their cherished values and cultures, and that removes the threat that those with the most political power will impose their idea of “the good” on everyone.

No doubt believers in public schooling such as Neem are guided by good intentions — they truly seek the ideal of unity and enlightenment for all — but too often, especially if they oppose school choice, they may let their ideals overtake their understanding of reality. And sometimes, it may lead them to forget that liberty is the country’s truly bedrock value.


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Must We Fight over What Children Will Learn?: https://www.cato.org/blog/must-we-fight-over-what-children-will-learn


In 2005, the Dover Area School District in Dover, Pennsylvania, was experiencing what might be called a civil war. As ABC News reported, “Dover was at war with itself”:

Townspeople would attack each other in ways they never had before….ABC News went to Dover to tell the story, but found that a lot of people were not talking — not to us and not really to each other. Depending on which side they were on, some people had come to believe that anyone who disagreed with their views was either ignorant or quite possibly evil, and that explaining themselves only gave their enemies more ammunition.

What caused this misery? The public schools, the very institutions that “father of the common school” Horace Mann said would create harmony, fostering “a general acquaintanceship…between the children of the same neighborhood….[Where] the affinities of a common nature should unite them together so as to give the advantages of pre‐occupancy and a stable possession of fraternal feelings….”

Specifically at issue was the teaching of the development of life on Earth, a topic that inescapably implicates deep‐seated religious beliefs, and that for many requires either that only creationism or evolution be taught. As ABC News explained, “The argument in Dover is of a special kind, where to let the other side win a little is to lose your own cause entirely.”

Public schooling — in which diverse people are required to pay for a single system of government‐run schools — inherently sets up such “special” conflicts. When two things cannot be simultaneously taught as true, or different values dictate different polices, one side must win, and the other lose.

Alas, such conflicts, while not always as destructive as Dover’s, are not particularly rare. In 2005 — the same year as the Dover battle — Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom began collecting examples of conflicts like Dover’s, pitting diverse values, or other intensely personal matters such as racial identity or culture, against each other. The intent was to illustrate that assuming public schooling will create harmony is dangerous, even if it is widely accepted. Indeed, it makes little logical sense: as we’ve learned from history, people do not happily sacrifice the things that make them who they are.

The end product of that initial collection was the report “Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict.” Later, as we continued to collect conflicts, we decided to put our growing database on the Web, in searchable map form, so that wonks, reporters, and members of the public could see the kinds of very personal battles being fought in public schools, and get a sense that neither side is absolutely “right” nor “wrong,” but all are following their beliefs about what is right. We also wanted people in districts experiencing conflicts, and reporters covering them, to be able to locate places that may have suffered similar conflicts, and perhaps learn how they were ameliorated.

Unfortunately, about nine months ago the application we had been using to generate Cato’s Public Schooling Battle Map was phased out, and ever since we have been working to replace it. But today, in the midst of National School Choice Week, we are ecstatic to report that the new Map is up and running! It is not perfect — we will be adding more features soon — but it is working once again.

The Map contains 2,267 conflicts in thousands of districts and every state. Often the battles are centered at the state level, where everything from sex education standards to history curricula may be determined, meaning no one in the state can escape the conflict. And while the districts on the Map represent only around 9 percent of all districts, they contain roughly 44 percent of the country’s total student population. This is likely a function of our primary information source being media reports, and media tending to be concentrated in places with more people. There are also doubtless some people unhappy with school policies or curricula who do not formally complain, or if they do no reporter hears about it. The Map, then, is at best a baseline of conflicts, not a comprehensive view.

What does this have to do with school choice? Choice is fundamentally different from public schooling; its basic structure is far more conducive to peace and equality. Rather than forcing diverse families and communities to control a single system to get what they want taught, choice enables everyone to seek out what they need and desire. Rather than forcing everyone into a political arena, it lets them peacefully coexist.

Hopefully the Map will reach many eyes, and help people realize that one side winning and the other losing, or maybe both having to sacrifice cherished parts of themselves, should not be the only possible outcomes when people disagree. Especially, we hope that reporters will use the Map, and write more articles like the too‐rare ABC News piece with which this post started. Articles that focus not just on the two sides, like reporting on a boxing match, but that delve into the nature and underlying causes of the conflict. Maybe even articles that turn a spotlight directly on the zero‐sum nature of public schooling. Because there is a more equal, more peaceful, way to structure an education system: school choice.


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School Choice and Two Spheres of Liberty: https://www.cato.org/blog/school-choice-two-spheres-liberty


All this National School Choice Week we have been looking at public schooling, school choice, and the shaping of a tolerant, harmonious society. Links to the week’s offerings can be found at the end of this post. For our final installment, I want to briefly discuss two spheres of liberty: one the freedom to act, the second preservation of a diverse society.

Liberty, from a political standpoint, essentially means freedom from force, with a necessary corollary that one not use force on others. It is, basically, maximizing the sphere of self‐determination. Closely connected to this is that government treat all people equally, not favor one or disfavor another in their pursuits of the “good life.”

Educational freedom is consistent with liberty, and public schooling is not. Public schooling inherently involves government taking money from people, ultimately at the point of a gun, and saying, “This is what children will learn, or not learn, with this money, and if you want or need something else, too bad. Pay for that with what you have left over.” Whether the process by which government decides what is taught is democratic or totalitarian, it is still curbing liberty.

There is an important caveat to this: As long as education is about children, someone will ultimately be making decisions for them, whether it is parents or the state. That makes a pure “freedom to act” argument for school choice more difficult. But protection of liberty still points towards expansive school choice.

For one thing, if parents allow their children to have a say in how they are educated—perhaps to even make the decision themselves—that removes a barrier to free decision‐making by the person to be educated. But if on top of that the state dictates where the child will go to school, or at least where their education funding will be sent, that child faces two barriers to self‐determination. And that latter barrier will likely be far harder for children, who cannot vote but can have heavy influence in a family, to break.

The other level of liberty that is served by educational freedom, and is threatened by public schooling, is pluralism. This is perhaps best understood as protecting diverse communities of people. Rather than directly protecting personal freedom, it put limits on government so that it cannot standardize society. It is a shield between government and civil and communal society.

When we think of diverse groups, we perhaps think of religious communities first—Southern Baptists, Buddhists, etc.—but this also includes ethnic communities, philosophical communities, and more. Public schooling rests on the premise that maybe all these communities are nice, but that the political majority—or a powerful minority—should decide what will go into children’s heads with the money it takes. As a practical matter, that means some groups will have greater influence on those decisions, some lesser, and some none at all. Government will help some groups grow and marginalize others. School choice, in contrast, keeps government out of the position to take sides on the make‐up of society.

At best, our current education system is inverted. Freedom from government control should be the norm in a country grounded in liberty. But instead of a system in which the default is education based in diverse communities and free family decisions, the default is uniform government provision. This does not mean choice is losing the race—it continues to make great progress—but the road should be much more clear. The only way to push aside the boulders and fill the potholes is to help more Americans understand why freedom is crucial, and why public schooling, despite many fine intentions, is simply incompatible with it.


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The Perennial Case for School Choice: https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/school-choice-perennial-case/


Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, has called for a moratorium on charter-school funding. Fortunately, even if he were president, he’d have little to no control to effect such a thing. It’s an issue left to the states, and even the incumbent, Donald Trump, has called for collapsing the small amount of federal money allocated to charter schools into a block grant. Teachers’ unions, on the other hand, have deep political leverage in many states, and they have shown the ability to stop and even turn back charter-school growth in individual states.

Some of them do so based on the argument that charter schools are not real public schools. But what makes a school “public”? It’s a far fuzzier distinction than many politicians and union leaders would have you think.

Public education is not America’s civic religion, nor is it the rock upon which our democratic institutions were built. It is a work in progress, emerging some 60 years after the Declaration of Independence and only really taking root in the 20th century. In the 100 years since the end of World War I, public education has grown and evolved — adding grades and admitting whole groups of Americans who had previously been denied access. That process continues to this day.

Horace Mann, appointed as Massachusetts’s secretary of education in 1837, is generally credited with defining what we now think of as public education. Mann famously argued that “Citizens cannot maintain both ignorance and freedom.” Therefore, he said, education should be “paid for, controlled and maintained by the public,” “provided in schools that embrace children from varying backgrounds,” and “nonsectarian.”

Mann’s first tenet is simple, while the second remains a great challenge. The third represents the emerging front in the evolution of public education. Despite years of effort at integration, many of our nation’s school districts are homogeneous, home to students of mostly the same race and socioeconomic status. In the wealthiest school districts (median family income of at least $166,000), public schools serve few black and Hispanic families and only a handful of middle- and low-income families. Seventy percent of families in these districts earn more than $100,000 a year. The same number are white, and only 13 percent are black or Hispanic. The majority (65 percent) of adults possess a bachelor’s degree or higher.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, in districts with a median family income below $55,000, the story is starkly different. Most families in these districts earn less than $50,000, close to 56 percent of residents are black or Hispanic, and only about 12 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

No amount of effort in large urban school districts can change this. Those with means will always be able to choose where they send their children to school, whether that means paying tuition directly for a private education or paying high taxes and home prices to live in a district with top-notch schools.

Sadly, it is the families without economic means who are stuck. They can’t afford to access the same “public” schools as their wealthy neighbors a district over, and without options like charters or tuition tax credits, they’re left with no choice but their district school. To paraphrase George Orwell, all public-school educations are equal, but some are more equal than others.

New York’s 732 school districts are a good example of this conundrum. As I found in a recent study for the Manhattan Institute, in areas of New York City where the average family makes at least $150,000, only 46 percent of students attend their local public school, while the rest choose a private option instead. Meanwhile, outside the city, high-income families’ tuition funds are spent instead on homes in areas with high taxes that fund the high-achieving public schools that 85 percent of students in these affluent districts attend.

Arguments against school choice, in all its forms — charter schools, tuition tax credits, vouchers, or public magnet schools — are based on the assertion that these schools are not “public” in the truest sense. But what is truly “public” about affluent suburban school districts, with their restrictive zoning and high price of admission in the form of housing prices and taxes? These districts allow parents to exercise choice, to opt for the type of education they want for their children, and vote to pay taxes in support of these schools.

Charter schools, tuition tax credits, and school vouchers create this kind of option for families who don’t make enough to afford private-school tuition or a home in Scarsdale. They provide freedom to families who could not otherwise afford it. They won’t gain them entry into wealthy suburban enclaves, but they can support and spur the creation of alternatives to neighborhood schools for urban parents who desire them. In other words, they give students in the “less equal” districts a choice, and at least a fighting chance at equality.


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WL teachers: Share school referendum money with charters? Outrageous, legislators: https://www.jconline.com/story/news/opinion/letters/2020/03/09/wl-teachers-share-school-referendum-money-charters-outrageous-legislators/5007114002/


Picture this. Your school needs to raise money to save extracurricular programs and keep classes small, because the state legislature squeezes your budget further every year. The school community discusses options and chooses to ask for more taxpayer funds through a referendum.

Months of planning, fundraising, door knocking and conversations take place to prepare for a special election. The day arrives, and voters support their community-based public schools by a record 94 percent. 

This is what happened in West Lafayette, and perseverance paid.

With that same determined mindset, West Lafayette’s school board initiated a lawsuit to declare the 2011 empty space law unconstitutional. As written, any building not currently being used by a public school corporation could be purchased by a charter school for $1. It’s patently unfair to thousands of West Lafayette property owners that their investments could be stolen this way. 

Yet anti-public education factions in the Indiana General Assembly have seen these attempts to recoup or prevent loss and devised further roadblocks. First, they rewrote the rules, so that teachers are constrained in how they can campaign in a referendum. Last session, they tried to limit referendums to only general elections, and they brought that rule back again this year at the 11th hour in House Bill 1222. 

The final insult was proposed as an amendment to House Bill 1065 and slipped in at the latest possible opportunity without public input or examination. Sen. Linda Rogers would “allow” public school corporations to “share” their referenda dollars with charters. Seriously?  What school board would entertain that?  But rest assured, if the language is put in place, next year an amendment will be proposed to say “shall” instead of “may.”

The bottom line is that the majority of legislators seem determined to attack public schools while they expand support for charter schools. Sen. Ron Alting and Reps. Chris Campbell and Sheila Klinker have been outspoken in their outrage with these underhanded tactics. Sen. Alting in particular has been working tirelessly to defeat the Rogers amendment. Yet all too often, their misguided colleagues vote without consideration of our state’s best investment – our children.

The West Lafayette Education Association will continue to fight alongside our administration, board, and community to stop these attacks on public education. All Hoosier students deserve a premier education, and citizens deserve transparency. Let’s keep this in mind at the ballot box.

Amusing how those who want to just perpetuate the status quo get all up in arms when real, valid alternatives come to exist.  If the co-presidents of the West Lafayette Education Association really cared about "Hoosier students deserving a premier education"  they would realize that one size does not fit all, and charter schools exists so that parents like themselves can choose.


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School Canceled Because of Coronavirus? A Homeschooler Offers Some Tips: https://reason.com/2020/03/12/school-canceled-because-of-coronavirus-a-homeschooler-offers-some-tips/


The COVID-19 coronavirus is in the news with new cases reported every day. The list of schools, colleges, and other institutions suspending their efforts is also adding up. But there's one education sector that may get away with minimal disruption: homeschoolers. Families that take responsibility for their kids' education have a distinct edge in terms of flexibility and adaptability when it comes to unexpected events like … well … a worldwide pandemic that has people on edge.

"Closing schools and using internet-based teleschooling to continue education" was the scenario envisioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Dr. Nancy Messonier in a February 25 press conference. "You should ask your children's school about their plans for school dismissals or school closures. Ask if there are plans for teleschool."

Teleschool? Homeschoolers are so on that. Or if they're not into teleschooling, they have a stack of books and papers, kitchen-counter science experiments, video lectures … The list goes on, and much of it adds up to the "social distancing measures" of which teleschooling is supposed to be part.

What's "social distancing"? As Messonnier noted, social distancing is "designed to keep people who are sick away from others." That means breaking up large gatherings where germs can be shared and spread.

Discouraging gatherings is an important move from a public health perspective, but it's enormously disruptive to businesses, government bodies, and organizations that are designed around assembling large numbers of people in one place. That means big challenges for, among other institutions, traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Homeschoolers, however, have an edge because their efforts are not inherently constructed around large gatherings.

That doesn't mean that homeschoolers never get together. Contrary to accusations from critics, family-based education is not an inherently solitary venture.

Homeschooling often involves group lessons that take advantage of specialized expertise, collaborative projects, field trips with homeschooling associations, sports teams, and more—which means that homeschoolers have changes to make in a time of pandemic, too, in terms of reducing or eliminating outings and activities. But that doesn't mean cutting down on education; these days, there are loads of relatively easy work-arounds for homeschooling families.

If you're new to family-based education, and especially if you're busy with your own remote work, you may find it best to go with a comprehensive online program, like a virtual publicly-funded charter school or tuition-charging private school.

Virtual private schools are available anywhere in the United States, while the availability of charters depends on your local laws. Arizona, where I live, maintains a list of virtual charter schools, but you'll need to do a bit of research for your own state.

Besides full schools, the Internet is a treasure-trove of learning materials that don't require you to trek to a bookstore, a lecture hall, or even to wait for package delivery. Classic literature is available for free in electronic format through Project Gutenberg, Khan Academy has long since expanded beyond its original mission of delivering math lessons, the American Chemical Society gives away a complete chemistry curriculum, and a variety of lesson plans are freely available from the National Endowment for the Humanities' Edsitement. If you're interested, I've prepared a downloadable list of resources.

I've never met a conference software that I've loved—video sometimes freezes, audio drops out, and connections fail. That said, my son has used both Blackboard and Zoom in the course of his lessons, and he and his peers as young as 10 or so took to it naturally, even troubleshooting glitches as needed. Conferencing software will accommodate presentations, feedback, shared screens, and other means of simulating a classroom across distances and without putting students in one place to share germs. Teachers and students can even transfer files back and forth.

Skype is an excellent stand-by for online meetings with teachers. Yes, your kids can be verbally quizzed in a foreign language across that platform while the teacher looks on to check for cheat sheets or other shortcuts. The kids might then receive messaged feedback through the same software.

For teamwork on projects, I think working online may be more effective than getting a bunch of kids together in one room. Recently, I got to listen to a bunch of 14- and 15-year-olds collaborate on a script for a skit that they edited in Google Docs. For presentations, they've worked the same way in Google Slides. One nice feature is that the technological solutions really cut down on the "I left my work at my friend's house" factor. No, you didn't, kid; it's sitting in the cloud.

(Incidentally, collaborative software doesn't make teenagers act any less like teenagers. If forced to listen in, you will still want to bang your head on a table.)

When it comes to sharing short pieces of work, art, and the like, my son and his friends sometimes take photos of their efforts and text them to each other or to an instructor. That's a quick and easy solution in many cases when uploading and downloading documents is more effort than necessary.

The hard part isn't finding work for your home students to do; it's keeping them focused. Every child is different, and some are more self-directed than others.

Yes, you will have to check on them even if you're not directly administering their lessons. That can be a challenge for new homeschoolers, but my experience is that most kids respond better to mom and dad than they do to teachers they barely know and won't see after the year's end.

Socializing is where the "social distancing" recommended for our virus-ridden times bites deep. But I have to imagine that cell phones, social media, and video chat make easier work of dealing with the requirements of the pandemic than what our ancestors suffered when they dodged polio or the Spanish flu. The kids can all complain to each other over their favorite apps about the privations they're suffering in these hard times.

Fast delivery, downloadable books, and streaming video do away with a bit of the sting, too. The kids can still consume current media and discuss their favorite shows and novels—just not face-to-face for a while.

And here's the thing. If you try homeschooling, you may discover that it's not just a good way to keep COVID-19 at bay, but an effective approach to education more generally and a good fit for your family. If so, well, welcome to a happy, healthy, and growing club.


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Rightsizing Fed Ed: Principles for Reform and Practical Steps to Move in the Right Direction



The federal government has been heavily involved in education since the mid‐1960s, intervening in everything from early childhood education to graduate schooling. This paper lays out the principles that should govern federal involvement in seven specific areas and briefly examines the effects of Washington’s policies. The areas are elementary and secondary education funding; curricular standards and testing mandates; state and local planning mandates; school choice; higher education; early childhood education and care; and civil rights. Each section also lays out steps that can be taken relatively quickly to move in the right direction. These include the following:

  • Allow states to control distribution of federal funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • Allow states to approve multiple, diverse curricular standards and aligned tests and permit local education authorities to select the ones that best fit the needs of their students.
  • Eliminate federal mandates for centrally designed state and local policies and replace federal review panels with state assurances that they will meet federal requirements.
  • Expand private education choice options to more students who live in Washington, DC, are in active‐duty military families, or attend Bureau of Indian Education schools while protecting private school curricular autonomy and enhancing parent‐driven accountability.
  • Reduce federal student aid, starting by phasing out PLUS loans, to restore discipline to college pricing.
  • Phase out the ineffective Head Start program and return early childhood education and care to states, communities, and parents.
  • Move civil rights enforcement from the Department of Education to the Department of Justice and use standard notice‐and‐comment procedures, not “Dear Colleague” letters, to make substantive regulatory changes.


The federal government has become heavily involved in education over the past six decades. In so doing, it has exceeded its constitutional bounds in numerous ways and created policies that have negatively impacted education. Rather than present a sweeping review of the evolution of the federal role—everything it does, why it does those things, budget growth, etc.—this paper furnishes quick explanations of the current federal role in seven major areas of education and offers suggestions for reforms that could be quickly undertaken to move policy in the right direction.

Feel free to read every section or to proceed directly to the area or areas that most interest you. The areas are elementary and secondary education funding; curricular standards and testing mandates; state and local planning mandates; school choice; higher education; early childhood education and care; and civil rights. The authors stand ready to assist anyone who wishes to dive more deeply into any area.


Looks like good, common sense reforms to me.  It's a start.


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The School Closures Are a Big Threat to the Power of Public Schools



Twenty twenty is likely to be a watershed year in the history of public schooling. And things aren't looking good for the public schools.

For decades, we've been fed a near-daily diet of claims that public schooling is one of the most important—if not the most important—institutions in America. We're also told that there's not nearly enough of it, and this leads to demands for longer school hours, longer school years, and ever larger amounts of money spent on more facilities and more tech.

And then, all of sudden, with the panic over COVID-19, it was gone.

It turns out that public schooling wasn't actually all that important after all, and that extending the lives of the over-seventy demographic takes precedence.

Yes, the schools have tried to keep up the ruse that students are all diligently doing their school work at home, but by late April it was already apparent that the old model of "doing public school" via internet isn't working. In some places, class participation has collapsed by 60 percent, as students simply aren't showing up for the virtual lessons.

The political repercussions of all this will be sizable.

Changing Attitudes among the Middle Classes

Ironically, public schools have essentially ditched lower-income families almost completely even though school district bureaucrats have long based the political legitimacy of public schools on the idea that they are an essential resource for low-income students. So as long as the physical schools remain closed, this claim will become increasingly unconvincing. After all, "virtual" public schooling simply doesn't work for these families, since lower-income households are more likely to depend on both parents' incomes and parents may have less flexible job schedules. This means less time for parents to make sure little Sally logs on to her virtual classes. Many lower-income households don't even have internet access or computing equipment beyond their smartphones. Only 56 percent of households with incomes under $30,000 have access to broadband internet.

Nonetheless, working-class and lower-income parents are likely to return their children to the schools when they open again. Many believe they have no other choice.

Attitudes among the middle classes will be a little different, however, and may be more politically damaging to the future of the public schools.

Like their lower-income counterparts, middle class parents have long been happy to take advantage of the schools as a child-care service. But the non-educational amenities didn't stop there. Middle-class parents especially have long  embraced the idea that billions of dollars spent on school music programs, school sports, and other extracurriculars were all absolutely essential to student success. Sports provided an important social function for both the students and the larger community.

But as the list of amenities we once associated with schooling gets shorter and shorter, households at all income levels will start to wonder what exactly they're paying for.

Stripped of the non-academic side of things,  public schools now must sell themselves only as providers of academic skills. Many parents are likely to be left unimpressed, and this will be all the more true for middle class families where the parents are able to readily adopt homeschooling as a real substitute. The households that do have the infrastructure to do this are now far more likely to conclude that they simply don't need the public schools much of the time. There are now so many resources provided for free outside the schools—such as Khan Academy, to just name one—that those who are already savvy with online informational resources will quickly understand that the schools aren't essential.

In addition to this, many parents who were on autopilot in terms of assuming they were getting their money's worth may suddenly be realizing that public schools—even when they were physically open—weren't that much of a bargain after all. As Gary North recently observed,

For the first time, parents can see exactly what is being taught to their children. They can see the quality of the teachers. They can learn about the content of the educational materials.

Many parents may not like what they see, and as many increasingly take on the job of providing in-person instruction, school teachers won't look quite like like the highly trained heroes they have long claimed to be.

Budget Cuts

With the image of schools as indispensable social institutions quickly fading, the political advantage they have long enjoyed will rapidly disappear as well. It wasn't long ago that schools could go back to the taxpayers again and again with with demands for more money, more resources, and higher salaries. Teacher unions endlessly lectured the taxpayers about how getting your child into a classroom with one of their teachers was of the utmost importance. Voters, regardless of political ideology or party, were often amendable to the idea.

That narrative is already greatly in danger, and the longer the COVID-19 panic ensures that schools remain closed, the more distant the memory of the old narrative will become. As school budgets contract, school districts from Las Vegas to Denver and across the nation are bracing for furloughs and layoffs.

With smaller staff, fewer teachers, and smaller budgets, expect virtual public learning to become even more bare bones, and less rewarding and engaging for students.

What Will Things Look like This Fall?

Even if schools open this fall, the reforms currently being pushed will ensure that schools continue to lack many of the amenities many have come to expect. If these reforms are adopted, students can forget about social events. They can expect shorter school days, and an ongoing role for online schooling. Team sports will be gone. Old notions of universal mandatory attendance and long days will seem increasingly quaint and old fashioned—or possibly even dangerous.

For many parents, this will just reinforce their growing suspicions that public schools just aren't worth it anymore. Maybe they never were.


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Thanks to Shutdowns, Many Will Learn That Public Schooling Isn't All That Essential After All



While some of America's most demagogic politicians try to exploit the COVID-19 outbreak, some Americans are trying to make the most of their de facto state of house arrest.

Government-imposed lockdowns have resulted in the shutdown of a number of schools across the nation. During this period some schools have gone online, while others have closed up indefinitely. Society is conditioned to believe that children cannot possibly be able to receive an education under such circumstances. After all, education can only take place in a classroom, at least in the social planners’ view.

However, some families are daring to do the unthinkable by experimenting with homeschooling. Counter to the opportunistic political class, which views every crisis as a moment to undermine people’s liberties, a number of homeschooling proponents have flipped the script to promote homeschooling. What better time to do so, when most families are stuck at home and don’t even know when schools will open up again.

Even in times of uncertainty, people have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to experiment and try different methods without the tutelage of central planners. Unfortunately, we live in a political culture in which voluntary alternatives to state-dominated institutions never show up on the chattering class’s radar. Public education happens to be one of the rituals in the American civic religion that one dares not question lest one is burned at the stake of public opinion.

When people start experimenting outside educational norms, ivory-tower elites feel almost obliged to nudge their disobedient subjects back to the government schooling plantation. Harvard Magazine had to make sure that the rubes did not stumble upon the benefits of homeschooling by publishing a piece skeptical of the practice. The article put particular emphasis on Elizabeth Bartholet’s perspective, the faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, and her call for “a presumptive ban on the practice” in the Arizona Law Review. Bartholet invoked some of the most egregious forms of newspeak by suggesting that homeschooling is “essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18.” In her ever so enlightened view, the very thought of homeschooling is “dangerous.”

There’s a lot to break down in Bartholet’s antihomeschooling screed, but let’s focus on her assertion that homeschooling is “authoritarian.” This notion is risible. Such claims don’t even pass a laugh test when considering that the majority of the curriculum in contemporary public schools puts forward progovernment narratives when it comes to taxation, social welfare programs, war, and every other pillar of the modern-day managerial state. Parents voluntarily making educational arrangements in their children's best interests is the polar opposite of authoritarianism, unless the definition of the word changed in our sleep.

Also, what does Bartholet have to say about the current public education system taking children away from their parents and subjecting them to more than fifteen thousand hours of school time over their K–12 careers? Some politicians don’t even think this amount of time locked up in school is enough. For example, California senator Kamala Harris proposed extending the school day to ten hours. Curious minds would like to know what Bartholet thinks about Harris’s idea. I, for one, would not hold my breath at this point. For the high priests of public education, more time interacting with the state represents virtuous behavior, whereas unplugging from the public education grid is tantamount to heresy in the managerial priesthood’s view.

Academics such as Bartholet should spare us the sanctimonious hand wringing over the dangers of homeschooling. Bartholet is concerned that homeschooling is an impediment to a child’s right to a “meaningful education” and their right to “be protected from potential child abuse.”

Education reformer John Taylor Gatto has demonstrated in his life’s work that public schooling is anything but education. In fact, he has a book titled Weapons of Mass Instruction in which he eloquently makes the case that public schooling is designed to create malleable cogs in the machine and discourage any form of independent thinking.

As far as child abuse goes, I’d invite Bartholet to take a look at what’s taking place in America’s allegedly “safe” government schools. During the 2017–18 school year, approximately 962,300 violent incidents took place across the nation according to a study from the Institute of Education Studies. In this report, violent incidents consist of rape, other forms of sexual assault, robbery, physical attacks, and threats of physical attack.

Similarly, the Associated Press found approximately seventeen thousand cases of sexual assault committed by students from 2011–15. Moreover, the number observed in that period does not portray the full extent of the problem, because a significant number of sexual assaults are unreported. For example, some states don’t even track the stats, and those that do record have different standards for how they categorize sexual violence.

Although public schools may be “safe spaces” for politically correct curricula, they do not guarantee safe environments for students’ physical and mental health. According to a study from the US Department of Health and Human Services, 49 percent of school children in grades 4–12 reported being subjected to bullying by other students on a monthly basis, while 30.8 percent reported that they themselves engaged in bullying. How’s that for constructive socialization?

Allow me to come down somewhere in the middle: some children will require traditional schooling models, albeit in a privatized setting. On the other hand, other students will thrive in homeschooling environments. Markets serve to satisfy the demands of diverse sets of consumers, not the political desires of central planners. For the political left, who claim to be “pro-choice” and “diverse,” they sure love sticking to one-dimensional models for education. The idea of nonstate education is not a radical proposition.

Throughout American history, countless Americans have built parallel educational institutions without the central direction of the state. Americans have always found ways to get around government-imposed obstacles and will continue to do so despite the draconian measures that state governments have taken during the current pandemic.

American homeschooling has increased considerably in the last two decades despite the government barriers in place and the social pressure that naysayers exert to make sure America’s youth don’t veer away from the government schooling conveyor belt. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of homeschooled students doubled from 850,000 in 1999 to 1,800,000 in 2012. Such numbers will likely grow as more families begin experimenting with education at home.

I tip my hat to the homeschoolers. They’re the ones who are engaging in revolutionary acts by categorically rejecting the public school industrial complex. Hopefully, more Americans learn about the benefits of homeschooling while government shutdowns continue and millions of Americans are kept under house arrest. As for Bartholet, she can continue decrying homeschooling all she wants. The good news is that markets don’t care about the opinions of ivory-tower elites. Regular people are the ones in charge, and they determine how services will be provided. As long as Bartholet’s idea of homeschooling prohibition does not become a political reality, she can continue yammering on about the supposed authoritarianism of homeschooling in the confines of her Ivy League pedestal for all I care.

Millions of homeschoolers and other Americans who opt for nonstate education programs will go on with their lives without having to worry about what some Harvard elite has to say about their educational choices. Once the pandemic subsides, we should start focusing more of our time on a different public health problem. That is government schooling. I’ll gladly support a permanent lockdown of government schools; that way, we can prevent the statist mind virus from spreading even further.


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Supreme Court Delivers Big Win for School Choice and Religious Liberty Advocates



The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a major victory today for both school choice and religious liberty advocates. "A State need not subsidize private education," declared Chief Justice John Roberts. "But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious."

The case is Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. It centered on a 2015 scholarship program created by the Montana legislature "to provide parental and student choice in education." The program functioned by offering a tax credit to individuals and businesses who donated to private, nonprofit scholarship organizations, which used those donations to fund educational scholarships. Qualifying families could then use the scholarship dollars to help send their children to a "qualified education provider," including religiously affiliated private schools.

But the Montana Supreme Court killed the scholarship program in 2018, holding that it violated a provision of the Montana Constitution which bars the use of public funds "for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in party by any church, sect, or denomination."

The Montana Supreme Court acknowledged that U.S. Supreme Court precedent—which has upheld the constitutionality of similar school choice programs—cut against its decision. But "we conclude that Montana's Constitution more broadly prohibits 'any' state aid to sectarian schools and draws a 'more stringent line than that drawn' by its [federal] counterpart." The state court, in other words, charted its own path in opposition to the federal jurisprudence laid down by SCOTUS.

Today the Supreme Court reversed the state court. "The Montana Supreme Court invalidated the program pursuant to a state law provision that expressly discriminates on the basis of religious status," Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a 5-4 majority. That decision "burdens not only religious schools but also the families whose children attend or hope to attend them. Drawing on 'enduring American tradition,'" he continued, "we have long recognized the rights of parents to direct 'the religious upbringing' of their children. Many parents exercise that right by sending their children to religious schools, a choice protected by the Constitution."

"Given the conflict between the Free Exercise Clause and the application of the no-aid provision here," Roberts concluded, "the Montana Supreme Court should have 'disregard[ed]' the no-aid provision and decided this case 'conformably to the Constitution' of the United States."

The Supreme Court's ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue is available here.

Read the Reason Foundation's amicus brief in support of Kendra Espinoza here.


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On 4/7/2020 at 7:04 AM, swordfish said:

How do the atheists feel about the missed days in the school system being deemed/classified as "act of god" ?

I am going to go on a limb and say they had a bunch of pent up energy and decided to take it out through riots, fires, looting and "peaceful" protests.  😉

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47 minutes ago, DannEllenwood said:

I am going to go on a limb and say they had a bunch of pent up energy and decided to take it out through riots, fires, looting and "peaceful" protests.  😉

Take my bet. 

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1 hour ago, TheStatGuy said:

Take my bet. 

What part of , I do not support the murdering of babies, do you not understand, Mr. Janitor?


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From the Article:


LV charter school alleges it paid $1.6m to Utah management company ‘for nothing’

A contract dispute between a Las Vegas charter school and a for-profit Utah corporation is exposing the financial inner workings of the charter school industry, which involves sending millions of dollars in Nevada tax dollars out of state.

On June 11, the American Preparatory Academy Las Vegas board of directors voted unanimously to end its contract with the Utah-based “education management organization” American Preparatory Schools. In response, American Preparatory Schools has filed a lawsuit against APA LV, alleging breach of contract, among other things. APA LV has not yet formally responded to the suit, but representatives of the charter school have publicly said they stand by the decision.

APA LV Attorney Jason Guinasso told the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority board, which has to be informed and approve of any “material changes” made by individual school boards, that severing the contract means millions in per-pupil funding “will no longer leave the state of Nevada to benefit a Utah corporation.”

Guinasso explained that APA LV was paying American Preparatory Schools a flat fee of $997 per student. With 1,639 students enrolled last academic year, that works out to $1.6 million being sent out of state to a for-profit company.

And that fee was expected to rise to $2.3 million annually with the opening of a second APA campus in Las Vegas later this year.

Lee Igbody, chair of the APA LV board, described the school’s return on investment harshly: “$1.6 million for essentially nothing and $2.3 million for even less.”

Guinasso, who previously served three years as a charter authority board member, said the financial transactions did not involve an invoicing process or any statement of services rendered. Instead, the money was paid out automatically through the municipal bond agreement the school entered in order to build its campuses.

On its website, Denver-based Buck Financial lists that APA LV bond value at $17.9 million. Buck Financial states on a blog post that it was a financial advisor on the project. Utah-based Charter Facility Support Foundation is the borrower of that bond and will lease the land to American Preparatory Academy Las Vegas, a common setup for charter schools who operate standalone buildings.

According to correspondence from Guinasso to a lawyer representing the Charter Facility Support Foundation, the bond is secured by the per-pupil funding guaranteed to the charter school through Nevada’s Distributive Schools Account. The Nevada DSA is the primary source of funding for K-12 education and provides more than $6,000 per pupil to individual districts and schools.

Publicly funded, privately managed

Relationships between educational management organizations and individual charter schools vary, with some sticking to administrative and back-office functions and others being more hands-on with academics. Guinasso told the charter authority board it’s common for schools to rely heavily on an education management organization in the first few years of operation before eventually “right sizing” their services down or breaking away completely once they are established.

APA LV opened in 2014.

Charter School Authority Executive Director Rebecca Feiden estimated that APA LV sending $997 per student works out to about 10 to 15 percent of the school’s total budget being sent to American Preparatory Schools management company in Utah.

The authority says it does not explicitly track what percentage of school budgets are sent to education management organizations, though it does consider information during its renewal process. The percentage of a charter school’s budget that is sent to its management company can range from 5 to 15 percent here in Nevada.

Nationally, the average is 12 percent.

Academica, the non-profit organization contracted as the educational management organization for approximately one-third of all charter schools located in Nevada, charges $450 per student. The authority says that works out to about 6 percent of those school’s budgets, making the state’s average lower than the national average.

Because charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed, oversight can be a challenge.

APA LV board members say since late last year they have asked for specific details on how the millions of dollars they have paid to American Preparatory Schools were spent to no avail. At their June 11 meeting, an attorney for the education management organization told APA LV he would not be providing the information requested by the board: “As you know, APS is a private, for-profit company and is not required to disclose any of the information.”

The moment was highlighted during a news segment by Salt Lake City-based television station KUTV, which has for years investigated American Preparatory Schools and its five associated APA Utah schools.

According to legal correspondence obtained by the Current, APA LV has attempted to find out how American Preparatory Academy is spending an undisclosed amount of federal relief money it received through the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP was intended to help small businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

APA LV requested from American Preparatory Schools its PPP application and a detailed breakdown of what the money was being spent on. In their denial of that request, American Preparatory Schools through their attorney wrote that the Utah company “intends to use the PPP funds for authorized purposes consistent with SBA guidelines. It cannot, nor will it, allocate any funds to APA-LV.”

The answer did not satisfy APA LV.

“The information we have requested is necessary to making sure that APS did not receive PPP money from the federal government while at the same time getting paid by APA-LV,” wrote Guinasso in response. “Double recovery for the payroll and expenses of APS in Nevada is not ethical and is otherwise not lawful.”

Dozens of charter schools across the country have been criticized for applying and accepting PPP funds while simultaneously receiving federal relief grants distributed to public educational institutions through the CARES Act.

Status of second campus

APA LV board chair Lee Igbody also alleged to the charter authority board that “epic mismanagement” by American Preparatory Schools has resulted in the under-construction second Las Vegas campus being over budget by at least half a million dollars.

“They tried to conceal that from us,” he added.

APA LV held a groundbreaking ceremony for their second campus in early February. Located approximately 1.6 miles from the first campus, the second campus was designed to house the school’s K-6 grades, making room for an expansion of higher level grades at the original location.

It will not be ready in time to open before the upcoming school year. Craig Jex, the APA LV employee overseeing the project, told the charter authority board the main issue holding up the project is beyond the control of anyone at the school or the education management organization: It’s related to infrastructure needs by NV Energy.

According to a letter to APA LV from the Charter Facility Support Foundation through a lawyer, a required change related to power infrastructure has resulted in $323,486 in additional fees to NV Energy. That letter also lists “wish list” items that must be cut due to the project being over budget, though it does not list monetary amounts for those items.

Charter Facility Support Foundation is an LLC formed by a Utah-based nonprofit American Preparatory Education Foundation specifically for the purchase of the school site, which it will lease to APA LV.

American Preparatory Education Foundation owns Charter Facility Support Foundation. The parent foundation’s governing board has “familial ties” to the education management organization American Preparatory Schools, which it disclosed to the Nevada charter school authority in 2017. In their disclosure, the foundation wrote the family members were not parties to the proposed transaction.

That isn’t the end of the familial ties. ALA LV Executive Director Rachelle Hulet is the niece of American Preparatory Schools Executive Director Carolyn Sharette, as noted by the Review-Journal in a story about the groundbreaking of the second campus. According to the lawsuit filed by American Preparatory Schools, Hulet approached Sharette about creating her own education management organization to replace American Preparatory Schools — something Sharette did not entertain.

In addition to severing ties with American Preparatory Schools, the APA LV board also voted to end its relationship with American Preparatory Education Foundation.

APA LV representatives told the charter authority board the school’s board of directors are meeting weekly to discuss the transition away from American Preparatory Schools, which they hope to have completed by the end of July. The school will have to change its name and adjust their reopening plans in light of both the pandemic and the delayed construction schedule of their second campus.

The school is expected to go before the charter authority board again in July.

Hooray for pilfering CMOs. 

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Ms. DeVos finally decided to say something.......   





Betsy DeVos blasted education leaders who won’t accept risk and “gave up and didn’t try” to launch summer instruction.

But the result was intensifying tensions with teachers unions and leading school groups, including the PTA, who charged that the Trump administration in a "vacuum of leadership" has "zero credibility in the minds of educators and parents when it comes to this major decision." The dispute leaves the White House deeply at odds with many involved in making major decisions in the next few weeks about reopening schools.



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On 7/5/2020 at 9:11 PM, DanteEstonia said:

There is significant corruption wherever taxpayer dollars are spent.   Nobody ever said private charter schools were immune.

Try googling "Frank Tassone".


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What If Public Schools Were Abolished?



In American culture, public schools are praised in public and criticized in private, which is roughly the opposite of how we tend to treat large-scale enterprises like Walmart. In public, everyone says that Walmart is awful, filled with shoddy foreign products and exploiting workers. But in private, we buy the well-priced, quality goods, and long lines of people hope to be hired.

Why is this? It has something to do with the fact that public schools are part of our civic religion, the primary evidence that people cite to show that local government serves us. And there is a psychological element. Most of us turn our kids over to them, so surely they must have our best interest at heart!

But do they? Murray N. Rothbard's Education: Free and Compulsory explains that the true origin and purpose of public education is not so much education as we think of it, but indoctrination in the civic religion. This explains why the civic elite is so suspicious of homeschooling and private schooling: it's not fear of low test scores that is driving this, but the worry that these kids aren't learning the values that the state considers important.

But to blast public schools is not the purpose of this article. There are decent public schools and terrible ones, so there is no use generalizing. Nor is there a need to trot out data on test scores. Let me just deal with economics. All studies have shown that average cost per pupil for public schools is twice that of private schools (here is a sample study).

This runs contrary to intuition, since people think of public schools as free and private schools as expensive. But once you consider the source of funding (tax dollars vs. market tuition or donation), the private alternative is much cheaper. In fact, the public schools cost as much as the most expensive and elite private schools in the country. The difference is that the cost of public schooling is spread out over the entire population, whereas the private school cost is borne only by the families with students who attend them.

In short, if we could abolish public schools and compulsory schooling laws, and replace it all with market-provided education, we would have better schools at half the price, and be freer too. We would also be a more just society, with only the customers of education bearing the costs.

What's not to like? Well, there is the problem of the transition. There are obvious and grave political difficulties. We might say that public education enjoys a political advantage here due to network effects. A significant number of "subscriptions," etc. have been piled up in the status quo, and it is very difficult to change those.

But let's pretend. Let's say that a single town decided that the costs of public schooling are too vast relative to private schooling, and the city council decided to abolish public schools outright. The first thing to notice is that this would be illegal, since every state requires localities to provide education on a public basis. I don't know what would happen to the city council. Would they be jailed? Who knows? Certainly they would be sued.

But let's say we somehow get past that problem, thanks to, say, a special amendment in the state constitution that exempts certain localities if the city council approves. Then there is the problem of federal legislation and regulation. I am purely speculating since I don't know the relevant laws, but we can guess that the Department of Education would take notice, and a national hysteria of some sort would follow. But let's say we miraculously get past that problem too and the federal government lets this locality go its own way.

There will be two stages to the transition. In the first stage, many seemingly bad things will happen. How are the physical buildings handled in our example? They are sold to the highest bidder, whether that be to new school owners, businesses, or housing developers. And the teachers and administrators? All let go. You can imagine the outcry.

With property taxes abolished, people with kids in public schools might move away. There will be no premium for houses in school districts that are considered good. There will be anger about this. For the parents that remain, there is a major problem of what to do with the kids during the day.

With property taxes gone, there is extra money to pay for schools, but the assets have just fallen in market value (even without the Fed), which is a serious problem when it comes to shelling out for school tuition. There will, of course, be widespread hysteria about the poor too, who will find themselves without any schooling choices other than homeschool.

Now, all that sounds pretty catastrophic, doesn't it? Indeed. But it is only phase one. If we can somehow make it to phase two, something completely different will emerge. The existing private schools will be filled to capacity and there will be a crying need for new ones. Entrepreneurs will quickly flood into the area to provide schools on a competitive basis. Churches and other civic institutions will gather the money to provide education.

At first, the new schools will be modeled on the public school idea. Kids will be there from 8 to 4 or 5, and all classes will be covered. But in short order, new alternatives will appear. There will be schools for half-day classes. There will be large, medium, and small schools. Some will have forty kids per class, and others four or one. Private tutoring will boom. Sectarian schools of all kinds will appear. Micro-schools will open to serve niche interests: science, classics, music, theater, computers, agriculture, etc. There will be single-sex schools. Whether sports would be part of school or something completely independent is for the market to decide.

And no longer will the "elementary, middle school, high school" model be the only one. Classes will not necessarily be grouped by age alone. Some will be based on ability and level of advancement too. Tuition would range from free to super expensive. The key thing is that the customer would be in charge.

Transportation services would spring up to replace the old school-bus system. People would be able to make money by buying vans and providing transportation. In all areas related to education, profit opportunities would abound.

In short, the market for education would operate the same as any other market. Groceries, for example. Where there is a demand, and obviously people demand education for their kids, there is supply. There are large grocery stores, small ones, discount ones, premium ones, and stores for groceries on the run. It is the same for other goods, and it would be the same for education. Again, the customer would rule. In the end, what would emerge is not entirely predictable—the market never is—but whatever happened would be in accord with the wishes of the public.

After this phase two, this town would emerge as one of the most desirable in the country. Educational alternatives would be unlimited. It would be the source of enormous progress, and a model for the nation. It could cause the entire country to rethink education. And then those who moved away would move back to enjoy the best schools in the country at half the price of the public schools, and those without children in the house wouldn't have to pay a dime for education. Talk about attractive!

So which town will be the first to try it and show us all the way?


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34 minutes ago, DanteEstonia said:

How about no, because our country already has enough stupid people.

Yeah, a lot of them mindlessly support government education.


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