How do you argue with these school choice supporters?

It is no secret that I’m a big fan of school choice programs. As such, I often try to think of compelling arguments in favor of charter schools and private school choice programs. What I’ve found, is that there really is no topping the personal stories of individuals who have benefitted from school choice. That is why I’m excited about the new ad campaign launched by Philly School Choice.

The concept is simple – let’s get a bunch of parents who love their charter or private school and let them tell their story.

I mean, how do you argue with this mom?

Pension Reform – It’s Not Ideology; It’s Math

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The Washington Post had an excellent piece yesterday on the Democratic candidate for governor in Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, and her fight for public employee pension reform.

This was the best line of the piece:

Although she endured vicious attacks from liberals accusing her of anti-labor apostasy, the real issue, she rightly insisted, is not ideology; it’s math.

Like Rhode Island, Missouri has significant unfunded pension liabilities. Of course, this doesn’t stop defenders of the system from claiming that Missouri’s retirement systems are healthy and do not need reform. Steve Yoakum, executive director of the Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri (PSRS/PEERS), derided my call to reform Missouri’s pension system. He went as far as to say, my “opinions and false premises are straight out of the land of make-believe and clearly not from the world in which we actually live.”

I’m sorry Mr. Yoakum, but this “is not ideology; it’s math.”

In the long run, Missouri cannot support our current defined benefit pension systems for teachers unless we reduce benefits, increase contributions, or alter the systems.

Hopefully, politicians will take heart from Gina Raimondo’s primary victory. As the Washington Post concluded, “Presented with the facts, voters can be persuaded to opt for balance and fiscal sanity.”

 

Charity Is Not Your Strong Suit, Francis Howell

 Annual Performance Report

(This post originally appeared on the Show-Me Daily blog)

On Wednesday, Elisa Crouch and Jessica Bock of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Francis Howell will allow transfer students from the Normandy School District to return. That is, if those students take legal action and force the school district to comply with the law.

The Francis Howell School District will continue to require court orders for students from Normandy who want to transfer, said Jennifer Henry, district spokeswoman. The district sent a letter today to parents to inform them that it was possible 350 students could be returning, but that it was unclear how many would take legal action. 

So far, 17 transfer students have returned to Francis Howell through court orders. 

Henry said district leaders continue to believe that the transfer situation depletes the resources for the larger student population who remain in the school district.

The district claims it is not accepting all of the students, as other school districts have done, because they are concerned about draining resources from the unaccredited Normandy School District. This is simply taking a faux moral high ground.

Francis Howell is a great district. They have great teachers, administrators, resources, and students. Because of the large size of the district, roughly 17,000 students, it easily can accommodate an influx of 350 to 400 students in need of better educational opportunities. And, as we just found out, student achievement in the district was not negatively impacted by the influx of Normandy students.

If Francis Howell really wanted to take the high ground, they would open their doors to students desperate for a quality education and they would lower their tuition rate. Even with a lower tuition rate, the district could still see a financial windfall. If they did that, they would be showing true compassion for the students who want to transfer and the students who do not.

Forcing students to sue in order to obtain their spot that they are promised by state law in order to save Normandy money is not charitable, it is poor form and simply bad policy.

Are Charters the Next Step for Private Schools?

Did you miss the Show-Me Institute’s Friedman Legacy Day event, “Are Charters the Next Step for Private Schools?”  Then you missed a great discussion; but have no fear, the videos are now available.

In the first video, Mike McShane, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, presents findings from a paper he co-authored with Andrew Kelly, “Sector Switchers: Why Catholic Schools Convert to Charters and What Happens Next.

After his presentation, Mike was joined by Corey Quinn, president of De La Salle Middle School, and Matt Hoehner, regional executive director of Educational Enterprises, Inc. for a panel discussion. De La Salle is planning to close as a private school and re-open as a charter school. While Educational Enterprises currently operates a charter school that partners with a non-profit to provide optional religious after school care for students. It was truly a great discussion.

Vindication for New Hampshire’s Scholarship Tax Credit Program

(This post originally appeared on the Show-Me Daily blog)

In February, the Show-Me Institute released “Live Free and Learn: A Case Study of New Hampshire’s Scholarship Tax Credit Program,” written by Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute. Bedrick also discussed this school choice program at an event we hosted at Lindenwood University (see video above [starts at 4:00]). At the time, he noted that the scholarship program was being challenged in the New Hampshire courts. Yesterday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a big win for the families benefiting from the program.

Blogging about the ruling, Bedrick writes:

“The New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s flawed and unprecedented decision, which had forbidden scholarship recipients from using the funds at religiously affiliated private schools. The lower court held that the scholarship funds constituted ‘money raised by taxation’ and therefore violated the state’s historically anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment, which states:

“[No] money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination. (New Hampshire Constitution, Part II, Article 83)

“The New Hampshire Supreme Court did not address the merits of the lower court’s decision because it held the petitioners were unable to demonstrate that ‘their personal rights have been impaired or prejudiced.’ Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court, in rejecting the petitioners’ standing in ACSTO v. Winn, held that the tax-credit funds did not constitute public money because they had not ‘come into the tax collector’s hands.’”

Like New Hampshire, Missouri has a Blaine Amendment that prohibits public dollars going to religious institutions. That is why this ruling is important for private school choice supporters in Missouri to take note of this case. Because the funding in a tax credit scholarship program does not enter into the public treasury, the funds should not be considered public dollars. For this reason, a tax credit scholarship program may have the best chance of passing constitutional muster in the Show-Me State.