I live in the Wentzville School District, the fastest growing district in the state of Missouri. As is often the case in growing districts, overcrowding is an issue. This is particularly true at Discovery Ridge Elementary, where my two oldest children attend. The school seems to have houses sprouting up around it like dandelions in spring. To fight against overcrowding, the district has proposed Proposition E, a 25 cent per $100 of assessed valuation property tax increase. Voters previously failed to approve a 35 cent increase in November 2014.
Wentzville’s current tax rate of $4.9891 per $100 of assessed valuation is the 66th highest out of 520 districts. A 25 cent increase would move Wentzville into the top 50 highest taxed districts in the state.
Unfortunately, local taxpayers and parents are only presented with lose-lose scenarios – raise taxes or suffer the consequences. There are other options. I highlight one in a Mid Rivers Newsmagazine letter to the editor. Reprinted here:
It’s no secret that the Wentzville School District is growing. Take a drive around the area and chances are you will pass a new subdivision or a house under construction. All this growth is good for our local economy, but it puts a strain on our local school district. New houses bring new students, which means overcrowding in our local schools. Our district leaders have proposed several ideas for how we might deal with this problem. These ideas force taxpayers to decide between busing, redrawing school boundaries, increased class sizes, or raising property taxes. There is, however, an idea that the district has not considered. It is an idea that would alleviate overcrowding and save the district money. Moreover, it’s the only idea that accomplishes those goals while giving parents greater control over their child’s education – private school scholarships.
This idea is not unprecedented. When former United States Secretary of Education Rod Paige was superintendent in Houston, he faced a similar problem with overcrowding. His solution was to provide students in the overcrowded school with support to attend a private school. More recently, the Douglas County, Colorado, school board offered 500 private school scholarships to students. If the Wentzville School District offered 500 students a $4,000 scholarship to attend a private school, it would reduce overcrowding and save the district nearly three-quarters of a million dollars. More importantly, it would expand educational options for Wentzville families. This is an option that should be on the table.
Check out this great video recapping National School Choice Week in St. Louis.
In just six days, the Association for Education Finance and Policy will host its 40th annual conference. This year’s conference will be held in frigid Washington D.C. If you are in the area and need to warm up, I suggest you stop in to the Washington Marriott Wardman Park conference rooms. You can bask in the glow of the AEFP Conference Stars. You should also stick around for session 10.11 – What is in Store for the Common Core: The Politics and Policy of Implementation. The gloves may come off as Morgan Polikoff, Ashley Jochim, Mike McShane, and I square off on this hot topic. Oh, and some guy named Andy Smarick will be serving as the moderator, so it should be a good time.
Now, let’s get to what you’ve all been waiting for. Which universities have the best education policy programs? This is my second ranking of ed policy programs and the criteria remain the same as last year. My simple metric is the number of first authors on papers and posters. I have scoured the program and here is what I found.
|2015 Ranking (2014 Ranking)
||Number of Papers
||Number of Posters
||University of Virginia
||Michigan State University
||University of Arkansas
||University of Southern California
||New York University
||University of Missouri
You’ll notice that 8 of the top 10 education policy programs are repeats from last year with a little jostling in place. Washington and Wisconsin dropped from the list. That may be partly due to counting errors last year. It is possible that I miscounted presenters from those universities by not correctly distinguishing between individuals at different universities, e.g. the University of Washington and those at the University of Washington – Bothel.
Once again, Vanderbilt’s program remains at the top with a combined total of 26 first authorships. The University of Virginia jumped from 8th place to 2nd by increasing their paper total by 8. Number 3 Michigan State University also made a big jump from 7th to 3rd.
Combined, these 10 institutions contribute roughly 39 percent of all papers at the conference.
Congratulations to all the schools on the list and I’ll see you in a week.
In recent weeks, school choice has been on the march. Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence are each pushing to lift caps on their state’s voucher program. In New York, the Senate passed a tax credit scholarship bill, a measure backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Senate in Mississippi and the House of Delegates in Virginia recently passed an Education Savings Account bill. Meanwhile in Missouri, a tax credit scholarship bill sits on the desk of the chair of the Senate Education Committee.
For those who aren’t aware, the Missouri legislature is dominated by Republicans. They control 118 of 163 seats in the House and 25 of 34 seats in the Senate. The Missouri Republican party platform clearly states “the Missouri Republican Party SUPPORTS:
Efforts at the state and federal levels to adopt a fair system that grants parents the ability to help their children escape failing schools and attend schools of their choice—whether private, charter, home schooling, or public.
Yet, so few are carrying the mantle for school choice.
Will Missouri lawmakers hear the tax credit scholarship bill this session? Will they give serious consideration to expanding educational options for students? I sure hope so.
Here is another great video showing how school choice changes lives.