Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Republicans in Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania push school choice

First, education reform in Florida.

Excerpt:

Michelle Rhee, who gained national attention as the chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., called Monday for giving students government-funded vouchers to attend private schools, rating principals based on student achievement and getting rid of teacher tenure.

The release of the blueprint was the first formal action of Ms. Rhee’s new advocacy group, StudentsFirst, which she launched in December, after leaving her job heading D.C. schools in October. Ms. Rhee said she was in discussions with the governors of Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada and Indiana to adopt part, if not all, of the agenda.

[...]The nation’s two largest teachers’ unions criticized Ms. Rhee’s agenda.[...]The detailed plan Ms. Rhee released Monday focuses on overhauling teacher pay and evaluation plans, giving parents more say in their child’s education and spending tax dollars more wisely.

In addition to doing away with tenure, it calls for ending the practice of paying teachers based on years of service and on the master’s degrees they collect. Ms. Rhee said pay should be based on whether teachers boost student achievement.

She also is calling for districts to get parental consent before placing children in the classrooms of low-performing teachers. Ms. Rhee said firing ineffective teachers can be time-consuming and expensive.

“Too many districts hide the fact that they have ineffective teachers and we are saying, ‘If you can’t change the laws, then you have to give parents the information,’ ” she said.

The blueprint also prods states and districts to adopt “parent trigger” laws that let parents force a major overhaul of a school if more than half of them sign a petition. They could vote to turn the school into a charter school or force the district to get rid of most of the teaching staff.A similar policy was used in Compton, Calif., last year.

Ms. Rhee’s document also calls for an end to what she calls ineffective policies that waste taxpayer money, such as class size reduction policies in the higher grade levels. Her plan, she said, wouldn’t increase spending but would ensure taxpayer money was spent more wisely.

StudentsFirst’s initial foray into policy could be in Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who was elected to office in November, appointed Ms. Rhee to his transition team. In a news release, Mr. Scott praised Ms. Rhee’s agenda and said he supported her call to eliminate tenure and expand the number of charter schools, public schools run by independent groups.

And education reform from Indiana. (H/T Heritage Foundation)

Excerpt:

Gov. Mitch Daniels urged the state legislature to finally act on significant reforms to public education and local government in his annual State of the State speech Tuesday, repeating a call for the expansion of charter schools, merit pay for teachers and the elimination of township government.

[...]Now empowered by a Republican majority in both legislative chambers, Daniels said “it’s going to be a session to remember.” He was escorted to the podium by several lawmakers of both parties, including Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary.

He said Indiana should let students finish their high school studies a year early and be given scholarships for college studies. Teachers should be rewarded based on student performance, he said, adding that one in three Hoosier children can pass the national math or reading exam.

Meanwhile, he said 99 percent of Indiana teachers are rated “effective.”

“If that were true 99 percent, not one-third, of our students would be passing those national tests,” Daniels said.

Families who can’t find the right public or charter public school, he said, should be able to apply state dollars toward “the non-government school of their choice.”

And finally, education reform in Pennsylvania. (H/T Heritage Foundation)

Excerpt:

Political momentum is building for taxpayer-funded school tuition vouchers, as hundreds of people clogged the Capitol rotunda Tuesday to support the idea of “school choice.”

[...]During the recent campaign, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley told the boisterous crowd, Gov. Tom Corbett “repeatedly said that things would change in education. Today we start that process of putting children first. State government should be open to and promote charter schools, home schools, private schools and cyber schools” as well as traditional public schools, he said.”I’m more excited and encouraged about the possibility of educational change than I’ve ever been,” said Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, who has been advocating state-funded tuition vouchers for 15 years.

[...]His bill, Senate Bill 1, would create a three-phase program for making state-funded vouchers available to low-income students who now have no choice but to go to public schools that consistently score poorly on state proficiency tests.

[...]The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on the bill in mid-February, and it could get a Senate vote in March. Since Republicans control both the Senate and House, and since Gov. Tom Corbett supports the school choice idea, the bill is likely to be enacted. But opponents could file a court challenge.

Last week was “School Choice Week“, and there were a lot of events promoting school choice. Republicans noticed these events and participated in them. And now Republicans are making a push to sign bills that help poor students to get better educations. Democrats are opposed to school choice because they are supported by teacher unions who want guaranteed jobs for teachers regardless of performance.

I like that the Republicans are making pushes to cut spending, ban taxpayer funding of abortions, and introduce school choice. These are all issues that I strongly agree with, because they are all pro-child. Children shouldn’t have to pay for the debts their parents run up, children shouldn’t be killed in the womb, and children shouldn’t get a crappy education just so that badly performing schools can stay open. These policies make sense to me. Next, they should introduce a federal law for charter marriages, and introduce a federal voucher program for pre-marital counseling.

Must-see videos on education policy

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