A few short years ago, New Hampshire paved the way for school choice. With the passage of legislation allowing education tax credits for businesses, scholarship organizations like Network for Educational Opportunity came into existence. Since then, many low-income children have had the opportunity to attend the school of their choice.
This is a good thing and something Cornerstone supported from the beginning. However when we looked at the proposed legislation, there were concerns over the strings that could be harmful to the receiving school.
Those questions were answered in a way that satisfied those of us who were concerned that any state money could come with harmful strings attached.
Vouchers for instance, carry the risk of the state attaching strings to the voucher money that could negatively impact private and parochial schools. That is the last thing we want to do in the name of “choice.” If there are strings attached to vouchers, which is what happened in Indiana, we then run the risk of harming private and parochial schools.
Indiana has a school voucher program in place, however all students in private and parochial schools must now succumb to the Common Core tests in order to keep their voucher students.
Indiana parents are angry now because they are seeing their private and parochial schools align their curriculum to the Common Core. The private and parochial schools that have accepted students with vouchers don’t want to lose them.
Not only are Indiana public school children at a disadvantage because they are subjected to Common Core curriculum, now the children in the private and parochial schools are at the same disadvantage.
Under this scheme, there really is no choice when everything is “Common.”
New Hampshire did things differently and better. Children who want a scholarship to attend the school of their choice have to apply to a private scholarship organization. The funding comes directly to them through business and personal donations. These donors in turn have an opportunity to take a tax credit on their state tax return.
This means that NO money comes into the state budget or leaves the state budget as a “voucher.” Because that money never comes into the state, the legislators dying to tie strings to that money, cannot do so. In other words, the bureaucrats and legislators who want to control the private and parochial schools through “choice,” are not able to do that in New Hampshire.
So why am I concerned about Senator Ted Cruz? He is proposing a school choice program that could have a harmful impact on private and parochial schools across the country.
Sen. Cruz and Lee are proposing legislation that allows federal dollars to follow the child. This is dangerous to our private and parochial schools.
If Senator Cruz’s legislation were to pass, that Title 1 money could be used as tool to require students to take the Common Core assessments. If that happens, we are all in trouble.
With federal dollars comes federal control
FEDERAL CHOICE FUNDING UNDER TITLE I WILL ALLOW FEDERAL FUNDS TO ” FOLLOW THE CHILD” RIGHT INTO ANY PRIVATE OR RELIGIOUS SCHOOL. ACCOUNTABILITY AND COMPLIANCE WILL FOLLOW.
We know the problems with the psychometric assessments used now in public schools. They are a way of measuring a child’s attitudes, dispositions, values, etc. They are not achievement tests.
The Common Core assessments are also used to gather personal data and information on your child which has caused many parents to refuse to let their children take them in the public schools.
If Senators Cruz and Lee want to help students attend the school of their choice, there are other ways to accomplish that task. They need to look at what New Hampshire did and propose legislation that gives parents a tax credit for tuition paid. This can even be extended to home-schoolers on materials they purchase.
Senator Cruz’s current proposal that allows Title 1 money to be used in private and parochial schools is exactly what the Common Core proponents want. That is why in the latest ESSA legislation, an Ombudsman was set up to push for federal dollars to be sent to private and parochial schools.
While school choice proponents cheered, many of us who know how this actually works, cringed.
Those of us who support school choice but want that choice to be authentic and not a charade, understand that it’s important to maintain the quality of education in these private and parochial schools. Otherwise, we get the false image of “school choice” and that benefits no children.
Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org