By Vicki Alger • The Federalist
A new report raises questions about how the U.S. Department of Education monitors the performance of its wide-ranging elementary and secondary education programs.
The department currently receives $38 billion for its major K-12 education programs. Yet the assessment says those programs are plagued by “complex and persistent” challenges, many of which have been identified previously, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the official “congressional watchdog” charged with ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently.
Specifically, the GAO identified four key shortcomings in the department: oversight and monitoring, data quality, capacity, and evaluation methodologies. As the GAO makes clear, it is not the only oversight agency raising concerns about the department’s program management. What’s more, such problems have plagued our federal education departments since the first one took form back in 1867. Continue reading
By Christian Barnard • Reason
“Do School Vouchers Only Benefit the Wealthy?” asks an article this month in Governing. Like too many headlines, the implication is that school choice is a scam that disproportionately benefits wealthy students who already live in high-performing districts. The Governing story suggests that Arizona’s education savings accounts (ESAs)––publicly-funded savings accounts that parents can use to pay for private school tuition or other education services for their children––rarely help out those who authentically need assistance, favoring already-privileged children instead.
The article cites a 2017 report from The Arizona Republic which found that 75 percent of the ESA money went to students leaving districts that had an “A” or “B” ranking, and only 4 percent of the money followed students opting out of districts rated “D” or lower.
But these numbers hardly even hint at the full story. Arizona’s ESA program can only be used by specific groups of disadvantaged students. In fact, Arizona Department of Education data from 2017 reveals that 82 percent of ESA recipients were students with special needs, from military families, or students from D/F rated schools. Continue reading
By Ilya Feoktistov • The Federalist
Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, a group of public school history teachers in the posh Boston suburb of Newton pledged to reject the “call for objectivity” in the classroom, bully conservative students for their beliefs, and serve as “liberal propagandist[s]” for the cause of social justice.
This informal pact was made in an exchange of emails among history teachers at Newton North High School, part of a very rich but academically mediocre public school district with an annual budget of $200 million, a median home price of almost half a million, and a median household income of more than $120,000. Read the entire email exchange here.
I obtained the emails under a Massachusetts public records law after one of those teachers arranged, earlier this year, for an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel organization to show Palestinian propaganda films at Newton North. This stunt earned the Newton Public Schools district a rebuke from the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League and from Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council. But, as the teachers’ emails reveal, Jew-hatred is not the only specter haunting the history department at Newton North.
The Teachers Conspire to Hide Extreme Prejudice Continue reading
By Joy Pullman • The Federalist
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME that people cannot be forced to pay unions they don’t want to join, the country has gone from 28 right-to-work states to 50 right-to-work states overnight. That includes several high-population, heavily Democratic states with strong unions: New York, Illinois, and California.
Over the last century, union membership has gone from a common thing for people in many industries to in recent decades essentially a creature of government employment.
The vast majority of unionized U.S. employees work in government-dominated industries. So, far from the old image of unions representing the working man who needed extra protections because of dangerous conditions, today unions represent mostly white-collar people, largely an army of Continue reading
By William A. Estes • The Federalist
To set foot on an American college campus, as anyone who’s spent a picosecond thereabout lately can tell you, is to step through a left-wing looking glass. But a jaw-dropping new study from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) reveals just how deep the rabbit hole goes: among tenure-track college professors at the nation’s top-ranked liberal arts schools, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 10 to 1.
Rather than culling data from some voluntary survey, the report uncovers the political leanings of 8,688 elite academics by cross-referencing publicly available voter registration information with faculty lists from 51 colleges. At these schools, “78.2 percent of departments do not employ a single Republican.” And that’s just the topline.
The numbers below the fold, broken down by college and field of study, are even more alarming. Over at Wellesley College, perhaps best known for fostering pantsuited diplomats and disdain for the late Barbara Bush, there are 136 Continue reading
By Mona Charen • National Review
When 450 students arrived at Anacostia High School in the District of Columbia’s southeast neighborhood on April 4, they found that few of the sinks or toilets were functioning and the cafeteria was flooded. They were advised by the Department of General Services to use the facilities at a middle school two blocks away until repairs could be completed.
Exasperated teachers organized an impromptu, hour-long walkout to protest, which is why this particular dysfunction made the news. A casual reader might note the plumbing fiasco and chalk it up to neglect of poor students and poor neighborhoods. That is the interpretation urged by D.C. Council member Trayon White, Sr. who attended the walkout and declared that, “The students and teachers need support from the leaders of the city because of the constant neglect happening at Anacostia.”
But it’s far from so simple. The District of Columbia has one of the worst-performing public-school systems in the country. It is also one of the most generously funded. Anacostia High School itself received a $63 million renovation in 2013. According to the Department of General Services website, the project included “Full modernization and renovation of the existing high school using an adaptive re-use approach. Continue reading
By Lindsey Burke • National Review
“Education Savings Accounts will be our most significant step yet in giving parents and children the ability to choose the education path that is best suited for them,” declared New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu in his latest State of the State address.
A new proposal would make New Hampshire the seventh state to enact ESAs, and potentially the first to provide all families the opportunity to use them. With an ESA, parents who need to find a school or education option that is a better fit for their child can access some of the money the state would have spent on their child in the public system. They can then use those funds to pay for private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, private tutoring, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers. Parents can also roll over unused funds from year to year.
Last spring, the state senate passed a proposal to create a nearly universal ESA option that Sununu correctly boasted had the potential to be “a gold standard for the rest of the country to follow.” Under the state senate’s legislation, any student entering kindergarten or first grade or switching out of a public district or charter school would be eligible to receive an ESA.
The New Hampshire House Education Committee, however, took a more cautious approach. After a series of hearings and work sessions, the committee adopted a significantly scaled-down version of the proposal that would make ESAs available only to families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line, as well as Continue reading
By Lewis M. Andrews • National Review
Talk to the people of Illinois about America’s looming public-pension crisis, and they’ll tell you it’s not looming — it’s already here. This month, a statute went into effect giving Comptroller Susana Mendoza the right to make up for any town or county’s delinquent pension payments by seizing its share of sales, excise, and other taxes collected by the state. The result is that municipalities across Illinois have been scrambling to either cut services or raise taxes.
Mattoon officials have announced that ambulance services will be scuttled to pay pension bills a half-million dollars higher than last year’s, while Springfield’s budget director, Bill McCarthy, says he will have to “reduce other services just to meet pension obligations.” Normal will handle the problem through property-tax increases, while Danville has imposed a separate “public safety pension fee,” which will cost residents up to $267 annually. East St. Louis, which depends almost exclusively on its share of tax money from state’s Local Government Distributive Fund, could soon see its entire budget confiscated to satisfy pension obligations.
With a national pension asset shortfall calculated as high as $6 trillion — and with accelerating benefit payouts to retiring Baby Boomers — Illinois is sadly not the only state where voters are being hit with revenue surcharges or deprived of essential services. Florida localities will have to allocate an additional $178.5 million in their upcoming budgets to pension payments; Continue reading
By Joy Pullmann • The Federalist
Through Saturday it’s National School Choice Week, an annual nonpolitical effort to increase visibility and positive feelings about the idea of families having the primary power to control their kids’ education. Beginning in 2011, President Obama recognized the week, and this year President Trump did, too.
The last approximately five years saw a marked increase in states finally opening the doors to voucher and other parent choice programs after more than 50 years of free-marketers’ advocacy. Although it descends from Founding-era school funding arrangements, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman was the most significant modern thinker to develop and advocate the concept, most notably with a seminal 1955 essay.
But it took 56 years of making this case to lawmakers and the public before state legislatures’ successful activity on the matter prompted the Wall Street Journal to dub 2011 “The Year of School Choice.” That year, 13 states passed significant education choice measures. The WSJ, however, may have used the moniker too soon, as in 2012 and 2013 state legislatures followed with a fresh bevy of choice program establishment and expansions, to the point that today the majority of states offer some kind of parent-choice program, and many offer several.
Since 2013, however, legislative activity on this matter has slowed. Continue reading
By Lewis M. Andrews • The Federalist
In 2011, Arizona became the first state to adopt the most flexible school reform yet, an education savings account (ESA) plan. It provides parents who believe their child is poorly served in the local public school with an annual budget they can spend on a wide variety of accredited alternatives—not just private or parochial schools, but tutoring, online academies, special-needs services, and even computer equipment for home schooling.
More recently, five other states have followed Arizona’s lead: Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and just this year North Carolina. Initially these programs were designed to better serve learning-disabled children, but with the realization that most of its students could be educated independently for a fraction of public-school per pupil spending, Nevada authorized a plan open to any of that state’s children in 2015.
To date, Democrats in the Nevada legislature have held up funding for about 10,000 applicants, but nearly all of Arizona’s K-12 children are now eligible for an ESA worth 90 percent of their district’s per pupil spending. Continue reading
By Jim Geraghty • National Review
Think of these poll results the next time someone laments that voter turnout is low in the United States. A disturbingly high percentage of Americans can’t name the three branches of government and basically don’t know anything about how their government works.
That’s nearly three-quarters of the American population that can’t cough up “legislative, executive, judicial” on demand and fully 60 percent that can’t name *more than one* of those . . . Continue reading
Dear Chairmen Kline and Upton:
We write in strong opposition to H.R.5365, the “Muhammad Ali Expansion Act,” legislation introduced by Rep. Markwayne Mullin to regulate mixed martial arts (MMA), which is one of the most popular sports in the U.S. and fastest growing throughout the world. This misguided legislation is yet another unfortunate and unneeded regulatory power grab that will stifle the dynamic innovation and success of MMA. Continue reading
Want an independent thinker out of your university? Instigate a “passionate emotional reaction” against him.
Brendan O’Neill • Reason.com
“Are you now or have you ever been a climate contrarian?”
How long before this McCarthyite question is asked of everyone who enters into academia, in order to weed out those who refuse to bow and scrape before green orthodoxy?
If you think this sounds like a far-fetched proposition, consider a recent scandalous act of academic censorship at the University of Western Australia (UWA). And consider, more importantly, the lack of outrage it caused in the West’s professorial circles.
It involves Bjorn Lomborg, the blonde-haired, Danish annoyer of environmentalists everywhere.
Famous for his book The Skeptical Environmentalist—in which he argued that, yes, climate change is real, but, no, cutting back on economic growth won’t help—Lomborg has been a brilliant piece of grit in one-eyed green thinking for more than a decade.
The Australian government, headed by the semi-skeptical Prime Minister Tony Abbott, decided to offer a base to Lomborg for his greenish but pro-growth analysis and agitation. Continue reading
‘Safe spaces’ will create graduates unwilling to tolerate differing opinions—a crisis for a free society.
By Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch
During college commencement season, it is traditional for speakers to offer words of advice to the graduating class. But this year the two of us—who don’t see eye to eye on every issue—believe that the most urgent advice we can offer is actually to college presidents, boards, administrators and faculty.
Our advice is this: Stop stifling free speech and coddling intolerance for controversial ideas, which are crucial to a college education—as well as to human happiness and progress.
Across America, college campuses are increasingly sanctioning so-called “safe spaces,” “speech codes,” “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions” and the withdrawal of invitations to controversial speakers. By doing so, colleges are creating a climate of intellectual conformity that discourages open inquiry, debate and true learning. Students and professors who dare challenge this climate, or who accidentally run afoul of it, can face derision, contempt, ostracism—and sometimes even official sanctions. Continue reading
by Nicholas Kristof • New York Times
Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.
O.K., that’s a little harsh. But consider George Yancey, a sociologist who is black and evangelical.
“Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”
I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point. Continue reading