Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: voucher program improved odds of poor students graduating by 21 percent

The Daily Signal reports on the study.

Excerpt:

Private school choice initiatives have become increasingly common across the United States. Far from being rare and untested, private school choice policies are an integral part of the fabric of American education policy.

In the United States today, 56 different school choice policies exist in 28 states plus the District of Columbia, and the number of choice policies has approximately doubled every four years from 2000 to 2012.

The District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program remains the nation’s only federally sponsored private school choice initiative. It provides scholarships worth up to $8,000 in grades K-8 and $12,000 in high school to low-income children in D.C. to attend any of more than 50 participating private schools.

When the Opportunity Scholarship Program was launched in 2004, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences selected me to lead the initial government evaluation of this pilot program in parental school choice. Demand for scholarships exceeded supply, so most applicants faced a lottery to determine if they would receive an Opportunity Scholarship, permitting us to use a “gold standard” experimental research design to determine what impact the program had on participants.

Students in our pioneering study graduated from high school at a rate 21 percentage points higher than they otherwise would have as a result of using an Opportunity Scholarship. In scientific terms, we are more than 99 percent confident that access to school choice through the Opportunity Scholarship Program was the reason students in the program graduated at these much higher rates.

But that’s just one program, how about some others?

My research team similarly found the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program significantly increased the rates of high school graduation, college enrollment and persistence in college for the low-income students participating in our nation’s oldest urban private school choice program.

Researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution determined that a privately funded K-12 scholarship program in New York City significantly increased the rate at which black and immigrant students enrolled in college. Increasingly and consistently, researchers are finding that private school choice programs like the Opportunity Scholarship Program enable students to go farther in school.

It is so good for the poor, minority children if we let their parents get money for school tuition directly. We should let parents make the choice about which school is best for their child. But, Democrats oppose school choice, because they want their allies in the teacher unions to be insulated from competition from better-performing private schools.

Look how the Democrats have fought to kill the D.C. voucher program. They talk about helping poor kids, but they don’t really mean it. And note, that article is written by ultra-leftist Democrat Juan Williams, but even he cares more about poor, minority kids getting an education than the Obama administration does.

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After a tough fight to take Ramadi, Obama hands it back to Islamic State

Control of Iraq (click for larger image)

Control of Iraq (click for larger image)

(Source: Political Geography Now)

First, let’s start with and article from Breitbart News about Obama’s retreat from Iraq:

There is no commitment to America’s fighting men and women that President Barack Obama has not broken. When he ran for office in 2008, he promised to leave a residual force in Iraq to secure that country against external meddling and internal collapse. When he took office, President George W. Bush handed over a relatively stable and secure Iraq, thanks to the “surge” Obama opposed, and thanks to the sacrifices made by thousands of Americans, killed and wounded in battle.

Yet in 2011, Obama withdrew all combat troops–which is likely what he intended to do all along–and left Iraq before the job was done, allowing terrorists to regroup and sectarian rivalries to re-emerge. By pulling out troops, he also removed the only remaining strategic threat to the Iranian regime. Today, ISIS is running rampant across the region, and he and his sycophants assure the American people that they are winning the war against the “junior varsity” terrorist caliphate.

[…]“I don’t think we’re losing,” Obama says. That is because he has won, politically. But our troops paid the price.

Now an article from famous war journalist Michael Fumento, in Investors Business Daily.

He writes:

Ramadi is a city of vast importance, both strategic and symbolic. It’s the city that al-Qaida in Iraq chose as its headquarters, and it became the most fiercely contested area in the country. It’s why SEAL Team 3 of “American Sniper” fame was stationed there and became the most decorated SEAL unit since Vietnam.

Many experts consider the Battle of Ramadi and the “Anbar Awakening,” engineered by Capt. Travis Patriquin, the actual turning point of the war. Patriquin — who a few months after briefing me on his brilliant plan was killed in Ramadi — got the Sunni chieftains to join the Americans and Iraqi security forces to defeat al-Qaida.

Yet, bizarrely, the Obama administration wrote off Ramadi last month, declaring that defense of an oil refinery took precedence — as if we couldn’t do both. (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey claimed, “It has no symbolic meaning.” Now Dempsey says Islamic State “gains in Ramadi are a serious setback for its long-suffering inhabitants.”)

In any event, within days the refinery was out of danger. Yet, the administration still refused to defend Ramadi.

[…]…[O]n no day previously did the U.S. launch more than a handful of sorties in defense of Ramadi, and on many days it flew none.

Yet, area assets include hundreds of strike aircraft, most of which can fly several sorties a day. These comprise F-16s, F-15s, F-22s, A-10s, B-1 heavy bombers, helicopters, and Reaper and Predator drones among U.S. forces, plus aircraft of 11 other coalition nations.

A single Reaper can carry a mix of 14 bombs and missiles, meaning it’s capable of that many airstrikes. Cruise missiles are also in theater, and the U.S. can hit with heavy B-52 and B-2 bombers from anywhere in the world.

Yet with this massive armada and with assets on the ground to help identify targets, the administration seems unable to find and strike more than a handful of targets daily. A machine gun here, a truck there. By comparison, during the 1968 siege of Khe Sanh, American aircraft dropped roughly 1,300 tons of bombs daily — five tons each day for every North Vietnamese soldier besieging the base.

But it’s not just Ramadi that Obama has neglected. Fact is, the so-called air war against IS is a fraud. Rarely are more than a couple of dozen targets struck in a day throughout both Iraq and Syria.

Obama is simply keeping U.S. air power grounded.

[…]…[G]enerally, Obama seems simply clueless when it comes to prosecuting war, stuck at pre-school level. (Even grade-schoolers know that bombs are worthless unless you actually drop them.)

This is as bewildering as Obama’s trading the top five Taliban in captivity for one American deserter, as I wrote in these pages last June.

It’s time for Congress and the presidential candidates to make this an issue. Alas, for Ramadi it’s too late. IS has scored a huge coup and the slaughter of our allies already has begun.

This is why it’s important when you elect a President that you elect one who understands the value of projecting military force and the threat of military force abroad. The next time we get attacked by terrorists trained in Iraq, maybe then we will realize the cost of abandoning the crossroads of the Middle East to the enemy. You can’t just end a war by unilaterally backing out of it, because it sounds nice. That’s how you lose a war. To win a war, you have to be decisive, use overwhelming force, and stay on until the region is stabilized.

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House Republicans pass ban on abortions after 20 weeks, Hillary tweets against it

Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood

Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood

Life News reports on some great news, and the timing was interesting.

Excerpt:

The House of Representatives today approved a pro-life bill that bans abortions from after 20-weeks of pregnancy up to the day of birth.

The vote for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act broke down on mostly partisan lines with Republicans supporting the ban on late-term abortions and Democrats opposing it. The House approved the bill on a 242-184 vote with four Democrats (Reps. Cuellar, Langevin, Lipinski, and Peterson) voting for the bill and five Republicans voting against it (Reps. Dent, Dold, Hanna, Frelinghuysen) or voting present (Hice).

During the debate today on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, Congressman Sean Duffy gave what may be one of the most passionate defenses of the pro-life position ever seen on the floor of Congress. Duffy took on the claim often made by Democrats who support abortion saying they stand for the defenseless and voiceless.

“I’ve listened to the floor debate day after day .. about how they fight for the forgotten, they fight for the defenseless, they fight for the voiceless. And they pound their chest and stomp their feet. You don’t have anyone in our society that’s more defenseless than these little babies,” he said. “And we are not taking — I believe in conception. I know my colleagues can’t agree with me on that. Can’t we come together and say we are going to stand with little babies that feel pain, that survive outside the womb? Ones that don’t have lobbyists and money? Don’t we stand with those little babies?”

“If you stand with the defenseless, with the voiceless, you have to stand with little babies. Don’t talk to me about cruelty in our bill — when you look at little babies being dismembered, feeling excruciating pain, if we can’t stand to defend these children, what do we stand for in this institution?” he added.

[…]This is the second time the House has voted for the legislation — having approved it in May 2013. The bill was then blocked by pro-abortion Democrats who controlled the U.S. Senate.

The bill also includes protections for babies who are born alive during the abortion. It empowers women who have abortions to sue their abortion providers if they don’t comply with the law. Right now, there are no restrictions on abortions through all nine months of pregnancy at the federal level, and Democrats have even introduced a bill to reverse restrictions on abortion at the state level.

Hillary Clinton is not happy with the bill, because she stands for abortion through all nine months of pregnancy:

No sooner did the House of Representatives pass a bill to protect babies from late-term abortions and ban them after 20 weeks than Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton fired off a statement slamming them for doing so.

The House of Representatives today approved a that bans abortions from after 20-weeks of pregnancy up to the day of birth. The vote for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act broke down on mostly partisan lines with Republicans supporting the ban on late-term abortions and Democrats opposing it.

Should the Senate approve the bill, President Barack Obama has issued a veto threat and now Hillary Clinton has joined him in opposing the bill.

“Politicians should not interfere with personal medical decisions, which should be left to a woman, her family and her faith, in consultation with her doctor or health care provider,” Clinton’s senior policy adviser Maya Harris said in a statement on her behalf.

“This bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, which has protected a woman’s constitutional right to privacy for over forty years,” the Clinton campaign said. “The bill puts women’s health and rights at risk, undermines the role doctors play in health care decisions, burdens survivors of sexual assault, and is not based on sound science.”

“It also follows a dangerous trend we are witnessing across the country. In just the first three months of 2015, more than 300 bills have been introduced in state legislatures — on top of the nearly 30 measures introduced in Congress — that restrict access to abortion,” the Clinton spokeswoman added.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton sent out a tweet opposing the late-term abortion ban and supporting Roe v. Wade, which allowed for virtually unlimited abortions up to the day of birth in the United States.

And Barack Obama, has vowed to veto the bill if the Senate approves it.

[T]he White House says Obama would veto the bill.

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 36, which would unacceptably restrict women’s health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman’s right to choose. Women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care, and Government should not inject itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor.

If the President were presented with this legislation, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.

A veto of the bill, which is already state law in 11 states, would put Obama at odds with public opinion on abortion once again.

Look here, if you’re in favor of dismembering a 20-week-old unborn child who can feel you tearing her apart limb from limb, then something is really wrong with you. And yet there he is, our President. How did it happen?

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Obama’s irresponsible student loan policies leave taxpayers with trillion-dollar bubble

President Obama's student loan bubble

President Obama’s student loan bubble

This is from Investors Business Daily.

It says:

In 2010, Obama eliminated the federal guaranteed loan program, which let private lenders offer student loans at low interest rates. Now, the Department of Education is the only place to go for such loans.

Obama sold this government takeover as a way to save money — why bear the costs of guaranteeing private loans, he said, when the government could cut out the middleman and lend the money itself?

The cost savings didn’t happen. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office just increased its 10-year forecast for the loan program’s costs by $27 billion, or 30%.

What did happen was an explosive growth in the amount of federal student loan debt. President Clinton phased in direct federal lending in 1993 as an option, but over the next 15 years the amount of loans was fairly stable. The result of Obama’s action is striking. In each of the past six years, federal direct student loan debt has climbed by more than $100 billion. (See chart.)

And since Obama keeps making it easier and easier to avoid repaying those loans, it’s a problem that taxpayers will eventually have to shoulder.

Through words and actions, Obama has encouraged irresponsibility on the part of student borrowers. He constantly talks as if student debt were an unfair burden they unknowingly had foisted upon them.

At the same time, he’s made it easier and easier to avoid paying back student loans in full. Earlier this year, for example, Obama expanded eligibility for his “pay as you earn” program, which limits loan payments to 10% of income, with any debt left after 20 years forgiven.

Students got the message. The St. Louis Fed reports that 27.3% of student loans in repayment are at least a month behind in payments. That’s a far higher delinquency rate than any other kind of debt, and it’s significantly higher than the delinquency rate 10 years ago.

“This overall level of delinquency is very concerning,” concluded authors Juan Sanchez and Lijin Zhu.

A 2013 Consumer Financial Protection Board report found that less than half of this federal loan money was actually being paid. About 30% was held by borrowers still in school or in a grace period, another chunk in deferment or forbearance, and almost 14% was in default.

The problem here is that whenever the government nationalizes something that the private sector is doing, it always creates a problem. Let me explain. If student loans (or mortgage loans) are run solely by the private sector, then the motivation for lending money out at interest is to make money for the bank’s depositors and investors. In other words, because the bankers are in a free market and have to compete for depositors and investors, they have an interest in making sure that the loans they make get paid back.

But when the government takes over loans, they are not interested in being wise with the money they lend out – it’s not their money. They want to lend out as much as possible today in order to buy votes, and then kick the can down the road on the repayment. So instead of being careful about asking “will this get paid back?” they ask “how can I borrow from the future in order to buy as many votes as I can right now?” And that’s how we got the housing crisis of 2008, as well as this trillion-dollar student loan crisis.

When you take the profit motive out of the lending decision, then money gets lend to people who will never be able to pay it back. No private bank that has to answer to shareholders hands out money to students who want to study underwater basket-weaving. But the government does. They want to buy as many votes as possible. And besides, this is not their money. They are borrowing it from the future earnings of the very students they are giving it to! That’s what happens when you let big government decide everything.

Whenever big government politicians want to buy votes with taxpayer money, they always sell it to the people with sob stories about some poor, helpless group of people will suffer through no fault of their own. There are a lot of voters who will vote for politicians who cry crocodile tears for them, especially ones who don’t understand economics. There is no free lunch – somebody has to pay. Democrats are basically throwing a party for students, and then mailing them the (unexpected) bill for it, with interest.

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Brookings Institution: a $1.2 billion social program that doesn’t work

This is a surprising article coming from the leftist Brookings Institution.

They write:

Afterschool programs, or out-of-school time programs, burst into view in the late 1990s. The federal government—flush with budget surpluses of hundreds of billions—began spending more on the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program. The program was created by the 1994 Improving America’s Schools Act and had languished as an obscure provision to promote schools as community resources. Initially, the program received no appropriation, until Congress appropriated $40 million for it in 1998.

Spending exploded after the program pivoted to support afterschool programs. By 2002, the program’s appropriation was $1 billion. For a federal program to grow from $40 million to $1 billion in a few years happens rarely. The agency overseeing the program, the U.S. Department of Education, partnered with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to underwrite conferences and technical assistance for program providers, pumping millions more into the program.

In 1999, the Department of Education contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to evaluate the 21st Century program. The evaluation had elements that were both rigorous and representative. The elementary school part of the study was designed as an experiment; the middle school part was designed as a random sampling of programs around the country, with students participating in the program matched with students in neighboring schools (or the same school, in rural areas) that were not participating in the program. The evaluation collected data on a wide range of outcomes including grades, test scores, attendance, and behavior.[1]

Ultimately, the evaluation reported on how the program affected outcomes. In a series of reports released between 2003 and 2005 (here, here, and here), the answers emerged: the program didn’t affect student outcomes. Except for student behavior, which got worse. And small samples were not an issue explaining why findings were insignificant. The national evaluation included about 2,300 elementary school students and 4,400 middle school students. The results were insignificant because the estimates of program effects hovered around zero.

In the face of these results, one course of action would have been to at least reduce program spending, if not eliminate the program altogether. The Bush administration proposed a reduction of $400 million in the program budget, advocates rallied to the cause, Arnold Schwarzenegger got involved, and ultimately Congress left program spending unchanged. To this day, the program spends more than a billion dollars each year.

If the national evaluation was thought to be unreliable or errant, a sensible next step would be to do another, possibly with different focuses or features. That hasn’t happened. Or perhaps the evaluation findings were dismissed because other research has shown that afterschool programs are effective. It hasn’t. Echoing a previous 2006 review by Zief, Lauver, and Maynard, a 2015 review of dozens of studies that were published up to 2014 concluded that “mean effects were small and non-significant for attendance and externalizing behaviors.”[2](This is how researchers say the evidence shows that after school programs do not improve attendance or behavior.)

Two other pieces of evidence add to this picture. First, the U.S. Department of Education continues to collect and summarize the program’s annual performance reports (each state reports on its programs to the Department). Its most recent summary noted that ‘nearly all of the performance targets for the 2009-2010 reporting period were not reached.’ Second, a recent federal study of supplemental services programs found no effects on academic outcomes. The study examined programs that are required to be offered by schools that do not meet target levels of adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. They are tutoring and academic support service programs offered outside the regular school day that have a stronger academic focus than the 21st Century programs (which can offer snacks, recreation, and youth development activities), and yet they still did not improve academic outcomes.

I am linking to this because I want people to understand that not every problem has to be solved by the government. It is possible that when politicians tell us that they want to solve a problem by taxing us and spending our money, it’s possible that what they spend our money on does not work. Normally, when it comes to government spending on children,it’s very hard to cut spending because compassionate people do not want to take money away “from the children”. Most Democrat voters do not even realize that money spent by the government either comes from taxation or borrowing from the next generation does not work, it can be very hard to cut funding for those those programs, because the powerful pro-government party has no interest in cutting government spending in any area. They get contributions from people who are very interested in big government.

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