President-Elect Trump recently appointed Betsy Devos to be his Secretary of Education. Prior to this position she has worked with Michigan GOP, the RNC and has done a lot of work with and has funded the American Federation for Children. AFC is a pro-school choice advocacy group that promotes school voucher programs and is affiliated with the American Federation for Children Action Fund which is a tax-exempt organization that donates to candidates who support school choice.
School vouchers are a possible market solution to public schooling brought to public attention by Nobel laureates Milton Friedman in 1980. He later went on to found EdChoice which provided much of the ground work and research about the program that is provided to policy makers. The theory of school vouchers gives students the option to choose which school to attend and the schools either public or private receive state tax dollars proportional to the number of students in these schools. The students and parents operating with near complete information about the performance of schools will choose the places with the best performance, and thus through competition students will receive the best educational opportunity. In practice, many of the school voucher programs are only available to lower income students or those who are from chronically failing schools.
The PISA is an international test of 15-year-olds, in math science and reading. In this test, the US routinely performs slightly above average in science and reading but performs below average in math. There also has been a growing income achievement gap between the top and bottom of the income distribution. Many of the proponents of school choice believe vouchers are the best solution for this problem. There are 14 states with school voucher programs, with much more offering tax credits or tax-free savings accounts for private education, and these programs have varying levels of enrollment.
Often charter schools competitive performance is hinged on transparency. Without adequate information school performance, parents are unable to make the best decision for their children and instead have to rely on the for-profits schools marketing information. In Michigan the largest market for school choice, many schools claim they are a private institution, and not subject to disclosure laws like public schools. After opening voucher programs Michigan now has the highest number of for-profit charter schools. These for-profit charter schools have similar problems with fraud as for-profit colleges, which draws money away from public schools. These Michigan charter schools on average underperformed their public counterparts. counterparts The D.C. school voucher program has equally lax oversight and very similar problems with performance and school quality. For instance charter schools teachers don’t need to be accredited or offer services for students with disabilities. However the belief is with stronger quality controls, such as requirements for transparency, routine audits, required disclosure of scores for standardized tests, required approval for new schools via a centralized board for accountability that competing schools will provide a better, cheaper form of public education.
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