School choice is becoming a very hot topic in education circles with the likely ascendancy of Betsy DeVos to the position of Secretary of Education in the new Trump administration. Because so many are pursuing the noble goal of trying to help poor children escape from failing public schools, they are not or will not see the dangers of these programs to private and even home school autonomy.
Education Liberty Watch has been trying to warn of these dangers for several years and is honored to be working beside tremendous organizations like Eagle Forum and the Cato Institute to raise this alarm.
Eagle Forum just published an article by ELW President Dr. Karen Effrem discussing this work. Here is an excerpt:
In 2012, we published the School Choice Freedom Grading Scale. States like New Hampshire and Georgia that had accountability directly to parents scored A+ grades while states like Indiana and Louisiana that imposed the state standardized tests on entire private schools received failing grades.
The ever brilliant education analyst and conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly instantly understood the dangers of both Common Core and these alleged school choice plans to private school autonomy. Shortly after having the honor of presenting our Grading Scale at her wonderful 2012 Eagle Council meeting, she wrote these insightful words in her weekly column, titled Like ObamaCare, Obama Core Is Another Power Grab:
The Obama Core advocates are even planning to impose their standards on private schools. As the school choice movement grows, the attempt will be made to force any private or charter school that accepts public funds to adopt Common Core standards and have their students take the national tests. (Emphasis added).
President-elect Donald Trump’s appointee to become the next Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is undergoing her confirmation hearings starting on January 17th. Despite protestations to the contrary, the Michigan billionaire has a long history of supporting Common Core and other education debacles like social emotional learning (SEL), data mining, and charter schools that only teach and test the Common Core.
As pointed out in our list of questions that the U.S. Senate should ask DeVos, she is a strong proponent of both voucher programs and Title I portability. The Indiana voucher law that she and her organization, the American Federation for Children (AFC), strongly supported and funded requires voucher recipient schools to administer the public school Common Core-aligned tests and submit to the grading system based on those same Common Core-aligned tests. The tests determine what is taught, which means that this law is imposing Common Core on private schools. Indiana “is the second-worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy” according to the Center for Education Reform because of that and other onerous requirements, and the state received an F grade on our Grading Scale. It is also important that she be asked if as Secretary of Education, if she would require the same public school, Common Core tests and the rest of the federal regulations for private schools under a Title I portability program as her close friend and colleague Jeb Bush recommended for Mitt Romney in 2012 (p. 24).
Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute raised similar concerns in 2014 after Michael Petrilli of the Gates-funded, pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute put out a policy “toolkit” demanding that Common Core tests be imposed on any educational entity receiving tax dollars. Bedrick responded well by saying:
By contrast, there is a significant body of evidence that school choice programs work without Fordham’s sought-after government regulation. Of twelve randomized controlled trials—the gold standard of social science research—eleven found that school choice programs improve outcomes for some or all students while only one found no statistically significant difference and none found a negative impact. None of these school choice programs studied were designed along the lines of the Fordham proposal.
In fact, Fordham’s preferred policy is undermined by a large body of evidence. A 2009 literature review of the within-country studies comparing outcomes among different types of school systems worldwide revealed that the most market-like and least regulated education systems tended to produce student outcomes superior to more heavily regulated systems, including those with a substantial number state-funded and regulated private schools. In short, the best form of accountability is directly to parents, not government bureaucrats and their tests.
Accountability Should Be To Parents
Fordham argues that school choice programs, including both vouchers and scholarship tax credits, should fall under the same accountability regimes as public schools because they utilize public funds. In Fordham’s words, “The taxpayer also needs assurances that schools are producing solid learning results for the children who participate in such programs.” This reasoning should not apply to scholarship tax credits which, as the U.S. Supreme Court held in ACSTOv. Winn, do not involve public funds at all:
Like contributions that lead to charitable tax deductions, contributions yielding [scholarship] tax credits are not owed to the State and, in fact, pass directly from taxpayers to private organizations. Respondents’ contrary position assumes that income should be treated as if it were government property even if it has not come into the tax collector’s hands. That premise finds no basis in standing jurisprudence. Private bank accounts cannot be equated with the … State Treasury.
If private schools are to be maintained as any reasonable alternative to public schools, their already adequate methods of accountability via nationally norm-referenced tests and to parents that pay the tuition should be maintained or no public money should go to private schools at all.
Do not forget to contact the U.S. Senators on the HELP Committee (Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions)! Betsy DeVos’ rescheduled conformation hearing takes place tomorrow, January 17th at 5 PM EST with coverage available on C-SPAN.
Since that hearing was postponed, the national coalition letter’s list of signatures has rapidly grown to include 15 national groups and publications and 61 state level organizations and experts from 28 states.
It has also received national coverage from Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart News which extensively quoted Dr. Effrem’s summary of the letter as follows:
1) From all the evidence we can find, her statement when she was appointed on November 23rd was her very first against Common Core. Her statements and record via organizations that she has founded, funded, chaired, or on whose boards she has served and her political contributions have all been in support of Common Core and pro-Common Core candidates. Her statement and her interview with Donald Trump focused on “higher standards” which is a euphemism for Common Core, even though there is abundant evidence that the Common Core standards are anything but high.
2) Her American Federation for Children group has been strongly in support of state voucher laws in Indiana and Louisiana or federal Title I portability that imposes or would impose Common Core on private schools via the federally mandated state assessments. The education savings accounts that she touts could well place government regulations on home schooling for “accountability” purposes.
3) Although a strong supporter of charter schools, it appears she has never financially supported classical charter schools like the Hillsdale model in her own home state, only charters that require the teaching and testing of Common Core.
4) The Philanthropy Roundtable that she chaired until her appointment put out a report that is strongly in favor of extensive data mining of children without transparency of what data is collected and who receives it or parental consent and never mentions the word “privacy.”
5) We are also concerned about continued expansion of invasive, subjective social emotional learning programs at the federal level and need to know her position on those.
Additionally, Sunshine State News, a major statewide news and political website also discussed the nomination and hearing. Allison Neilsen clearly explained parent groups’ concerns quoting Dr. Effrem as executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition:
Other groups have suggested DeVos’ views and Trump’s campaign promises don’t match up, specifically on the controversial Common Core State Standards.
“Her statements saying that she opposes Common Core are really new [and came out] basically the day she was appointed,” Education Liberty Watch president and Florida Stop Common Core executive director Karen Effrem told Sunshine State News Wednesday. “Her record and the record of the organizations she founded, funded or chaired is strongly pro-Common Core and that’s a real concern given President-elect Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core.”
Effrem told SSN she hoped committee members would pose questions to DeVos, pushing her to lighten the federal footprint in the country’s classrooms.
“I would hope she would vastly scale back federal control over states in education,” Effrem explained.
While DeVos wasn’t Effrem’s first choice for Ed Secretary, she said she hoped DeVos would team up with Trump to make good on his promise to abolish Common Core.
“Compared to some of the other people Trump could have chosen, I’m greatly disappointed, but I have to trust that he will keep an eye on her and make sure that she fulfills the promises that he made on the campaign trail,” Effrem said.
Thank you for your support and work to give us Education for a FREE Nation!
UPDATE: Hearing Delayed! National Parent Coalition Sends Senate Questions About DeVos Record on Standards, Privacy, Etc.
The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was scheduled to vet the nomination of Mrs. Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education on Wednesday, January 11th at 10 AM.
Education Liberty Watch is helping to lead a very large national coalition consisting of nearly 60 parent organizations, education experts and writers, and elected officials that are extremely concerned about Mrs. DeVos’ record and views regarding Common Core, parental and private school autonomy, data privacy, freedom of conscience, and federal education overreach. Also of grave concern is her strong and close association with Jeb Bush and his Excel in Ed. Foundation,
The coalition has written a letter containing questions HELP Committee members are requested to pose to Secretary-designate DeVos. This later came after several more from groups and coalitions from several points on the political spectrum. This letter is one of the few dealing with Common Core, privacy and parental rights. While likely coincidental and not causal, it is extremely interesting to note that within a few hours of receiving this parent letter, the HELP Committee delayed the hearing for a week citing Senate scheduling concerns.
We understand that your website statement right after your appointment that you are “not a supporter – period” of Common Core was meant to reassure activists that you oppose the standards and will honor Mr. Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core. Please list your efforts during your extensive period of education activism and philanthropy to fight the implementation of the standards.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires secretarial approval of state education plans for standards, tests and accountability. Will you support state sovereignty by approving the state plans in line with Mr. Trump’s vision of decreasing the federal role in education, or will you exercise federal control by secretarial veto power over these plans?
Through commissions, programs, federally funded groups, the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act, and other entities, there has been an explosion of effort to expand invasive, subjective social emotional learning (SEL) standards , curricula and assessment. What is your view of SEL and what will you do to protect student psychological privacy and freedom of conscience?
We believe that it is very important for the American people to hear her views on these critical education issues as the Senate prepares to vote on the DeVos confirmation.
This coalition of national organizations like Education Liberty Watch and Eagle Forum and state organizations, experts and officials represents hundreds of thousands, if not millions of American families. The signatories are from 23 state organizations including DeVos’ home state of Michigan and many represented by members of the HELP Committee, such as Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray,and Senators Isakson, Young, Roberts, Paul, Cassidy, Franken, Hatch, and Baldwin.
Please read the questions and contact the US Senate HELP Committee with your concerns about Betsy DeVos! Contact information for each member is available at http://www.help.senate.gov/about/members
Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart covers more in-depth the influence of the DeVos fortune in promoting education news, Common Core, and social emotional learning which we described in our last post about the debate over SEL between Allison Crean Davis whose employer works with a number of DeVos-related entities and whose article was published on T74, the DeVos funded website:
The education reform website founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown is supporting Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos with the disclaimer that DeVos’ family foundation provides funding for the site.
Education Week writer Mark Walsh recently observed DeVos “has a friend” in Brown, who founded education news site The 74. He adds DeVos’ selection puts Brown in “an awkward position” in that The 74 is advertised as an independent education news site. Brown herself, however, advocates for school choice and charter schools – exactly the main causes DeVos espouses.
The disclaimer on Brown’s site reads as follows:
The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation provides funding to The 74, and the site’s Editor-in-Chief, Campbell Brown, sits on the American Federation for Children’s board of directors, which was formerly chaired by Betsy DeVos. Brown played no part in the reporting or editing of this article. The American Federation for Children also sponsored The 74’s 2015 New Hampshire education summit.
In a recent column at The 74, Brown writes:
Social media attacks aren’t famous for accuracy, but it’s a pity that Betsy DeVos has been so misleadingly caricatured since Donald Trump asked her to serve as secretary of education last week.
Not just because she’s a friend. Also because her attackers needlessly reopen late-NCLB fault lines and deepen the clamor that follows Trump everywhere.
Brown adds that DeVos will work hard at “pushing to improve whatever model is working — traditional or charter or voucher or something we haven’t yet imagined.”
Berry also notes that Campbell Brown defended close DeVos friend and major Common Core proponent Jeb Bush. She then goes on to discuss the above-mentioned SEL debate by Common Core defender Davis:
However, in another recent article at The 74, Allison Crean Davis, a senior advisor at Bellwether Education Partners, bemoans, “Promising, well-intended initiatives, like the Common Core Standards, burn and struggle to survive even before there is a shared understanding of their potential, much less evidence of their impact.”
Davis continues in support as well of the integration of social emotional learning (SEL) into schools and criticizes Federalist writers Jane Robbins and Karen Effrem for their warning about the dangers of including psychological learning as part of the curriculum children are exposed to at school.
This article is the journalistic equivalent of yelling “fire” in a theater, designed to have folks crawling across the floor to the nearest exit. It’s as if the authors are saying: Don’t think. There’s danger. Escape! To which I say: Calm down. Harness one of the “subjective” social emotional skills in question, self-management. Instead of panicking, work to understand the rationale behind the push for more social emotional learning in schools and how the still-emerging science presents some limits to the work.
Characterizing the inclusion of SEL into curriculum as another “march of science,” Davis encourages the “exploration of the value of social emotional characteristics in schools.”
Robbins and Effrem, who assert the teaching of social and emotional qualities belongs not to the government, but firmly to parents who may be assisted by faith communities, respond:
Davis is firmly in the “government” camp. (So are the pro-Common Core and pro-SEL organizations working with her employer, Bellwether Education Partners, such as the Philanthropy Roundtable—chaired by Betsy DeVos—the Gates Foundation, and Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd.) Her article mentions parents only once, in connection with paraphrasing and dismissing our arguments. Instead, she emphasizes the need to focus on “science” uber alles.
Berry concludes by quoting Jane Robbins who accurately describes the way elitists like DeVos and Jeb Bush work to have their way in education policy:
“Jeb Bush and his ideological compatriots, including DeVos, advance what could be called a ‘government-foundation cartel’ model of educational policy-making,” she writes. “Private foundations funded by wealthy individuals (who themselves may be dilettantes with no real experience in education) contribute ideas, and frequently personnel, to the government to achieve their policy goals.”
While Robbins notes Congress or state lawmakers may rely on “research” funded by such foundations to make policy decisions, she also observes that often the actual decisions are made by the administrative state, i.e., unelected federal and state executive agencies. This state of affairs explains why so many parents and citizens want to see the U.S. Department of Education eliminated.
Please read the whole article – Former CNN Anchor’s Education Site Funded by Betsy DeVos Family Foundation and share!
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