Establishment folks in public education have done their best to make charter schools and other parental choice programs look like the Devil. Their story about how such programs drain money from public schools now seems as much a part of American folklore as Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan. How many times did you see the words “siphoning money” in print in the weeks prior to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation?
But there’s a difference between propaganda and reasoned discourse. The truth is that traditional public schools do not need and should not claim public funds that would have come to kids who no longer sit in their classrooms. When they take advantage of new policy opportunities, including the funds they provide, private and charter schools are cheating no one. They are innovators who are fulfilling our nation’s promise to educate its children.
Parental choice programs do indeed transfer funds from some schools to other schools. Usually, they take from schools that can’t give kids what they need and give to ones that can. But it’s not that one school is the white- and the other the black-hatted cowboy; it’s not that one school is “public” and the other is a public enemy. All of the diverse school options supported by public funds comprise the public education system.
There is another financial aspect of public education for us to consider in the debate over school choice: the long-term burden that taxpayers bear when our public schools fail to educate students—for generations.
A recent study from my home state of Wisconsin suggests that, far from swindling taxpayers, Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program (“MPCP”) will save them half a billion dollars in the long term.
As someone who lives in Milwaukee, I know what happened with St. Marcus School Lutheran School. St. Marcus is urban, and close to 100 percent of its kids are poor. But 90 percent of students at St. Marcus graduate.
In 2013, this school wanted to expand. It found an empty public school building with an assessed value of $880,000. But the City of Milwaukee required a $1.3 million fee in addition to the purchase price. Why? Well, to cover the “cost” to the community of students leaving Milwaukee’s traditional schools. The exorbitant price killed any possibility of a deal. And it was based on a myth.
Science to the rescue: the failed St. Marcus deal roused Dr. Will Flanders of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Dr. Corey DeAngelis of the University of Arkansas. The men worked together to investigate potential taxpayer losses due to schools participating in the MPCP. In their study, Flanders and DeAngelis discovered that, far from causing losses, schools like St. Marcus have a major positive tax impact. This is down to what I underlined in the beginning: high graduation rates.
By running the numbers on welfare and tax revenues and the impact of graduation rates on earning potential, the study found that MPCP grads could generate a positive inflow of $473 million to taxpayers by 2035. DeAngelis and Flanders also found that students from schools like St. Marcus will commit fewer crimes, so they’ll save another $26 million in public revenue by reducing the need for police officers and prisons.
Flanders says, “The debate over school choice is almost always focused on the so-called costs. What we want to show is the other side of the ledger, the economic benefits of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, and how higher graduation rates and lower criminality [are] associated with earning a better job and being less reliant on government programs and welfare.”
My experience on the ground bears that out.
A while back, I met a man named Jose. He is father to two students in a private school I was visiting. The tattoos on his face marked him as a former criminal, and indeed he had been in gangs and gone to jail. But his marred face was transformed by a radiant smile. Beaming with pride, Jose told me he personally drives his kids to school every day. Watching them enter the building in the morning, he knows they are on the path to college. They won’t make the mistakes he did.
The DeAngelis-Flanders study merely quantifies what parents like Jose already know: when moms and dads are empowered to choose the best learning environment for their kids, achievement follows. After graduation, these students flourish at work. Individual families win, but so do the city and the country as a whole. That’s good parenting and good economics.
As Americans, we can’t let entrenched interests or old institutions cut off kids’ futures just because it is easier or more comfortable for them in the short term. A dream like our American dream needs planning. It needs work. The wise citizen looks far ahead. The brave and patriotic citizen isn’t afraid to break new ground to get to the city on a hill of which Winthrop spoke. A neighbor who cares about his neighbors—and his neighbors’ kids—will cast off what’s old and broken in the public schools for something new that works.
This article, by our executive director Jason Crye, originally appeared at Flypaper.
La Coalición de los partidarios de Opción Escolar De Wisconsin Felicita a Betsy DeVos por la Confirmación del Senado para ser Secretaria de Educación
School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, el Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty y el American Federation for Children expresan optimismo de que la política nacional de educación se centrará en las oportunidades educativas para las familias de América
7 de Febrero del 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – Una coalición de partidarios de la opción escolar felicitó hoy a Betsy DeVos por su voto de confirmación en el Senado de los Estados Unidos para ser Secretaria de Educación. DeVos fue confirmada por una votación de 51-50, con el vicepresidente Mike Pence ejerciendo el voto decisivo.
El grupo de partidarios—School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, el Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty y el American Federation for Children—tiene la esperanza de que con la votación de hoy, la Sra. DeVos podrá volcar su atención a las apremiantes necesidades del sistema educativo de Estados Unidos y dar a todos nuestros hijos una oportunidad de éxito y un futuro mejor.
“Betsy DeVos trae consigo décadas de experiencia en empoderar padres a una administración que hizo un compromiso político de centrar la educación en el estudiante. Transferir el poder del gobierno federal a los estados requiere de un líder que acepte el cambio.
“La Señora DeVos ha estado íntimamente involucrada en los esfuerzos de reforma educativa aquí en Wisconsin. Su expediente demuestra un compromiso inequívoco con todos los niños sin importar su código postal o el tipo de escuela. Su enfoque continuo será apoyar a aquellos líderes innovadores que sobresalen.
“Como líderes de educación en Wisconsin, estamos entusiasmados con su compromiso de enviar más poder y flexibilidad a los estados para que podamos tener una mayor voz en la política educativa.
“Los Senadores que votaron para confirmar a la Sra. DeVos deben ser elogiados por actuar en nombre de padres de familia y estudiantes, ya que las fuerzas bien financiadas que protegen el status quo reaccionaron con una hipérbola previsible.”
School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, and American Federation for Children express optimism that national education policy will center on educational opportunities for America’s families
February 7, 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – A coalition of school choice advocates today congratulated Betsy DeVos on her U.S. Senate confirmation vote to be Secretary of Education. DeVos was confirmed on a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote.
The group of advocates – School Choice Wisconsin, Hispanics for School Choice, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, and American Federation for Children – is hopeful that with today’s vote, Mrs. DeVos can now turn her attention to the pressing needs of America’s education system and give all of our children an opportunity for success and a better future.
“Betsy DeVos brings decades of experience of empowering parents into an administration that made a policy commitment to student-centered education. Transferring power from the federal government back to the states requires a leader who welcomes change.
“Mrs. DeVos has been intimately involved in education reform efforts here in Wisconsin. Her record shows an unequivocal commitment to all children regardless of zip code or school type. Her continued focus will be on supporting those innovative leaders who excel.
“As leaders in Wisconsin education, we are excited about her commitment to sending more power and flexibility back to the states so that we can have a greater say in education policy.
“The Senators that voted to confirm Mrs. DeVos should be commended for standing on behalf of parents and students as well-funded forces protecting the status quo reacted with predictable hyperbole.”
If Betsy DeVos were to have a conversation with every Latino in America, a majority of them would support her for U.S. Secretary of Education.
It’s not a far-fetched notion. According to a recent survey from Beck Research, a Democratic polling firm, 75 percent of likely Latino voters support the concept of school choice. Betsy DeVos is school choice, and school choice is the future of education.
School choice is an honest and respectful response to Latino families who have been—and continue to be—trapped in a failing public school system. Over the past 25 years, Mrs. DeVos has expressed jarring, but honest sentiments about the quality of public education. This candor is refreshing to many Latinos.
The Secretary of Education-designate doesn’t pretend to care about our poor children by making excuses on their behalf. She doesn’t promote the soft bigotry of lowered expectations that insults our dignity. Instead, she has personally invested her time and treasure to raise our expectations and the quality of schools in our barrios.
As chairwoman of the American Federation for Children (AFC), Mrs. DeVos financially assisted numerous local organizations such as Hispanics for School Choice in Wisconsin. I founded Hispanics for School Choice in 2009 because even though there were over 5,000 Latino students thriving in the Milwaukee Parental School Choice Program, most Latino leaders didn’t want to upset the teacher’s union with their approval—this is still a problem.
But with the help of AFC, our group was successful in educating families and expanding their educational options. The most effective way to earn the respect of Latinos is to find them where they are and to tell them the truth. Mrs. DeVos has a track record of reaching out with straight talk and real dollars. Our community is worth the investment.
The verdict is still out as to whether the Latino electorate will ever become the political powerhouse most grassroots Latinos have been claiming is inevitable since 2008. According to Pew Research Center, at 44 percent, millennials (ages 18-34) are the largest voting bloc of eligible Latino voters, and the median age of an American born Latino is only nineteen years old (47 percent are under the age of eighteen).
It’s not a matter of if Latinos will ever come of political age but whenLatinos actually come of political age. When that time arrives, Latino voters likely won’t be as concerned with party affiliation and partisan rhetoric as much as they will be about what has been done for their families.
There are some well-intentioned people who think Mrs. DeVos is insensitive to the plight of poor families who they believe are “incapable” of making good educational choices on behalf of their children. They believe that only government run schools can provide the appropriate environment for the most needy. Those folks are free to put their trust in government, but they don’t have the right to force that monopoly on the majority of Latinos who support a school choice agenda.
Should Betsy DeVos be confirmed as Secretary of Education, she will earn the trust of Latino families by making sure parents are in control of their children’s future instead of Washington bureaucrats.
The article, by our founder, Zeus Rodriguez, originally appeared at The Hill.
In October, Tammy Olivas and Jason Crye joined education reform advocates from around the country at EdChoice’s tenth-annual media training conference in Indianapolis.
The program included first-class media training, online communications strategies, tips on press relations, and ways to message effectively.
“Learning from incredible presenters and connecting with other education reform advocates made this program unbelievably helpful,” said Tammy Olivas of Hispanics for School Choice. “The practice and the constructive feedback from experts has been amazing.”
And although the program involved a lot of work, Tammy and Jason reported that they still found time to karaoke with some of the other participants on the last day of the training.