Posts Tagged ‘education’

Getting the facts straight on Individualized Education Accounts

Getting the facts straight on Individualized Education Accounts

Tennessee lawmakers brought hope to thousands of children with special needs by passing SB27/HB138 and creating Individualized Education Accounts. With an account, the state deposits a child’s portion of the school funding formula into a private bank account that parents use to buy educational products and services for their child. These accounts are already available to students in Arizona, Florida, and Mississippi, and existing research demonstrates that participating families are highly satisfied with the new accounts and children have more access to flexible learning opportunities.

Here are the facts about Tennessee’s new options for children with autism, that may be deaf or blind, or who have other cognitive or physical needs:

1. Quality educational choices. Individualized Education Accounts provide students with special needs the chance to attend a school that specializes in helping children that struggle in a traditional classroom. It also allows their parents to find other services such as personal tutors or educational therapists. While some have labeled these accounts as vouchers, they are different in that they give families access to more educational opportunities than vouchers might.

2. Constitutional. In 2014, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that an account system similar to Tennessee’s was constitutional. The court upheld an opinion from Arizona Appeals Court Judge Jon W. Thompson, in which he wrote, “The specified object of the [accounts] is the beneficiary families, not private or sectarian schools. Parents can use the funds deposited in the [account] to customize an education that meets their children’s unique educational needs.

3. Transparent. The accounts protect against financial fraud and require that parents measure student progress. When families receive an account for their student, the state deposits funds onto the debit card that accompanies the account on a quarterly basis. If the Tennessee Department of Education finds that a parent has intentionally or unintentionally misused the card, the department and state board of education must develop rules to resolve the discrepancy that may include withholding the next quarterly deposit, as is the current practice in Arizona. Parents must also keep receipts proving that their purchases are for qualifying services. Arizona and Florida have developed rules for the accounts in those states. The account handbook for Arizona is available here, and Florida’s handbook is here. In addition, students using an account in Tennessee must take a nationally norm referenced test annually. Parents will have ready access to information about how well their children are learning.

4. Cost savings. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Tennessee taxpayers spend approximately $9,000 per student in traditional schools. However, students using an Individualized Education Account will be funded at $6,500. Beacon Center research finds that each account could save local school districts an average $1,000, even after fixed costs are considered.

Individualized Education Accounts hold tremendous promise for children across Tennessee. Research from Arizona and Florida provides evidence that families take advantage of the option to customize their child’s education and that families are highly satisfied with their accounts. Tennessee families can look forward to the same success for their children.

-Jonathan Butcher

April 23rd, 2015 | Feature, Recent News

Beacon Calls for More Educational Freedom in Tennessee

Beacon Calls for More Educational Freedom in Tennessee

It is time for Tennessee to embrace the hope that school choice offers to families across our state. Parents with children from all walks of life, economic conditions, and ethnicities have banded together in support of greater educational opportunities. Not only do opportunity scholarships provide new pathways to higher achievement, but they also create more resources for children in our public education system. In fact, Tennessee’s opportunity scholarships are a tide that lifts all boats. In a sea of change with innovative methods of learning on the horizon, Tennessee parents deserve the freedom to explore the education frontier and choose the academic path that best suits their child.

Below are the contents of our education reform package, a comprehensive plan for school choice in Tennessee:

Special Report: Allowing Children to Dream Big – In our school choice options bookletBeacon Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher puts school choice success stories, available educational options, and application instructions in the hands of Tennessee families.

Policy Report: Saving Education – Our recent study shows that a voucher program would not just benefit students leaving the public school system, but also students staying in public schools.

Faces of FreedomUnlocking Freedom in Education  Beacon believes every child deserves a good education, and the only way to achieve that goal is through school choice.

Opinion: Stupid Is as Stupid Does: We Need to Save Education – Beacon Director of Policy Lindsay Boyd explains that choice is the real solution to save education.

Infographic: School Choice – These graphics show the broad support for school choice among different demographic groups and how Tennessee stacks up to neighboring states when it comes to school choice options.

Video:  The Uplifting Story of Marshall Shanks and Benefits of School Choice  – Our new video details the inspiring story of Marshall Shanks and the impact educational choice has had on his life.

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February 18th, 2015 | Feature, Policy

The Three New M’s Of Education Reform: Minorities, Millennials And Moderates

The Three New M’s Of Education Reform: Minorities, Millennials And Moderates

During the campaign season, there are plenty of politicians promising to better education by increasing spending. What they don’t tell taxpayers is that the additional funding will come from their wallets—and it is unlikely to improve achievement.

Given this poor track record, candidates should be talking about the future of education in terms of three new “M’s,” and money is not one of them.

Minority Students

Minorities are not the minority in public schools anymore. This school year, minority students will outnumber white students for the first time. One-third of Hispanic students do not finish high school, and achievement gaps persist between Hispanic and black students and their white peers. Just 7 percent of black students scored at the proficient level in math in the latest national comparison, compared to 33 percent of white students.

Today we can document the devastating results of these gaps. Black men without a high school diploma are more likely to be in prison than to have a job. Approximately 75 percent of Hispanic immigrant adults only have a high school degree or less. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with a high school degree or less is double the rate for those with at least some college education.

Every child should have the chance at a great education, not just those who can afford a private school or extra tutoring. Lawmakers must focus on creating better options for all children, especially those that the traditional system has not served well.

Millennials

Adults of the millennial generation are tomorrow’s parents—not to mention taxpayers for at least the next 40 years. The cost of education is going to take on a whole new meaning for this generation, especially because they will also be saddled with paying for the federal debt thanks for the increasing costs of Social Security and Medicare. To make matters worse, these recent college graduates carry an average college loan debt of $30,000.

Finding high-quality, lower-cost education opportunities for their children will be paramount. Flexible alternatives to assigned public schools, like education savings accounts, allow parents to choose from private or online schools, along with personal tutors and individual college classes creating a unique experience for their children without breaking the bank. Also, with this option, public funds are deposited into a dedicated bank account and families use a debit card to make education purchases. Lawmakers in Arizona and Florida have made the accounts available to parents in their states; each is worth approximately 90 percent of what the state typically spends from taxpayer resources on public schools.

A survey of Arizona parents using the accounts finds that 90 percent report being “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their experience so far, even among parents that were “very satisfied” with their previous public school.

Millennials have grown up with more choices about their day-to-day lives. They are used to adapting to new technologies, both at home and in the workplace, so they will expect innovative learning options for their children.

Moderate Voters

Put simply, there are more of them. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans “identified as political independents” (the highest in 25 years). Outside of the bluest or reddest states, these independent voters will be the ones who swing elections. Pew Center data find that legal immigrants who traditionally vote Democrat will account for some 25 percent of the electorate in the next 20 to 30 years—more than double the same figure from the 2012 election. (It should be noted that in 2012, 71 percent of Hispanics voted for President Obama.)

While Democrats, calling themselves “pro-education voters,” have historically supported more education spending and other efforts like smaller class sizes, opinions are changing. A recent nationally representative survey found broad support for giving parents options for their children’s education over their assigned schools. Twice as many respondents said they support public charter schools over those who were opposed. Half of respondents favored school vouchers for all children, compared to 39 percent opposed.

And once respondents were told how much it costs to reduce class sizes, support for class-size reduction dropped from 46 percent to 35 percent. Nearly as many respondents favored buying new books and technology.

Money isn’t the “M” that candidates should be focused on. Education’s future lies in thoughtful consideration of these three other M’s.

Jonathan Butcher is education director at the Goldwater Institute and a senior fellow at the Beacon Center.

*This article originally appeared in Forbes.

October 22nd, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News