Sunday, March 30, 2014

Heartland Institutes, School Choice Weekly #31


Arizona’s supreme court allowed education savings accounts to flourish in the state last Friday by refusing to review a lower court’s decision in the matter. Four bills now in the legislature to expand the program have just gotten a push, and so have efforts to expand the idea everywhere.

Education savings accounts (ESAs) add extra juicy goodness to the voucher concept by giving parents even more control over their children’s education tax dollars. Instead of letting parents sign a state check over to one school, the state deposits a child’s education money into an audited savings account parents can use for more than just tuition. They can spend on tuition, but also augment school with education therapies for special needs, sports or enrichment classes, tutoring, and more. This expands the incentive for parents to control education costs and gives them the freedom to mix and match their child’s education rather than purchasing school as a bulk product from only one supplier. Think of it as homeschooling with wings.

Although the ESA concept is slowly spreading through legislatures, it can multiply within existing choice schools, as well. If charter or voucher schools wanted to adopt the concept, they could become a sort of Genius Bar for education, consulting with families to build education packages for each child that consist of different selections of classes and experiences from a variety of providers, not all or even any of which are from the school itself or even a school at all. They could be instead community organizations like libraries and colleges or the local ballet troupe, symphony, or engineering firm. How many parents do you know who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to custom design their child’s education like that?

Just think of the possibilities!



School Choice Roundup

SCIENCE: After Politico publishes a hit piece claiming vouchers send taxpayer money to promote teaching creation instead of evolution, several analysts debunk it. Mike McShane demonstrates that many public schools already teach creationism and vouchers let parents choose which version of human origins their kids will learn. Private school students perform better on science tests than public school students, so ending vouchers reduces science instruction, notes Matthew Ladner.

KANSAS: Lawmakers are endeavoring to pass a bill that would provide up to $8,000 for private-school tuition from scholarship funds established with donations from businesses. If passed, it would be Kansas’s first private school choice program.

FLORIDA: A proposed expansion of Florida’s popular K-12 tax-credit scholarships has failed, but that may not be so bad since the bill included regulations that would have hurt school choice.

WISCONSIN: Lawmakers can’t agree on what mandates to place on choice schools and so decide to consider the matter in non-lawmaking committees this fall.

Common Core Watch

INDIANA: Gov. Mike Pence signs a bill requiring the state to jettison Common Core, making Indiana the first state to do so. The current replacement draft looks very similar to Common Core, largely because Pence staffers favor the Core and are running the rewrite.

TESTS: Four million kids will be unpaid, non-volunteer test subjects for Common Core’s pilot tests, starting this week.

THE MOVIE: A free documentary about Common Core will be live online this coming Monday. It interviews dozens of leaders on both sides of the issue.

TENNESSEE: The governor and advocacy groups scramble to keep Common Core in the state after a 82–11 House vote to delay it.

NEW YORK: A federal official says New York will lose federal money if it slows Common Core. So much for voluntary.

Education Today

TEXAS: School districts in Houston compete to get the best teachers, offering $50,000 starting salaries and what they hope are attractive work environments.

TESTING: High-stakes, annual exams are headed for the dustbin, says Reihan Salam, to be replaced by hardly noticed, frequent assessment embedded in computer programs.

CALIFORNIA: Asians emerge as a force counteracting affirmative action in higher education. Affirmative action typically hurts whites and Asians.

MICHIGAN: A reporter finds a clause in a teachers union contract granting special preferences to basically every job applicant except men, white people, and Christians.

NEVADA: Teachers unions seek to raise taxes on larger businesses to shovel more money at schools. Nevadans pay an average of $8,400 per public-school student already.

Thank you for reading! If you need a quicker fix of news about school choice, you can find daily updates online under the Ed News Roundup at And if you'd like to encourage Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann to ‘keep up the good work’ on education issues, please consider making a contribution today. You can earmark your gift by selecting education at the bottom of the online form, under optional questions.

Joy writes this e-newsletter, is managing editor of School Reform News, and is available for speaking engagements on Common Core and other education topics. For more information, contact Heartland Events Manager Nikki Comerford at 312/377-4000, email

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