Posts Tagged ‘school choice’

Analyzing the NFL’s new “zoned” draft proposal

Analyzing the NFL’s new “zoned” draft proposal

With football season in full swing, there’s one National Football League proposal that will likely have fans crying foul. To level the playing field for teams, the NFL has proposed eliminating the draft and creating zones from which teams will receive college talent.

It would work like this. The Tennessee Titans’ zone would represent all of Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as a small sliver of northern Alabama. Players from college teams within those zones—such as the University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, and UAB—would automatically be drafted to the Titans. There would be one exception. Those players willing to pay a $100,000 fee could waive this rule and apply to be drafted by any team in the country. Presumably, this would make it more difficult for any one team to “buy” the best draft picks, making the entire league more uniform, even with the above caveat.

Of course, this proposal is a hoax. The NFL would never suggest such an arbitrary approach to drafting players from college. But it does pose an interesting question: why on earth is this exactly how we structure our public school system? A child’s school, from pre-Kindergarten through high school, is determined by a ZIP Code, an imaginary boundary dictating their educational fate. It doesn’t matter which schools want to accept that student or where that child and her parents want to send her, the rules are the rules. Only those wealthy enough to afford private school tuition can “buy” their way out of this box.

This is as unacceptable for our children as it would be for the NFL. Students should have a wide array of options at their fingertips, ensuring that they have every possible chance to succeed, whether it’s in their zoned public school, a private school, a charter school, or even an online learning environment. School choice provides such a path. With choice, parents, not ZIP Codes, can determine the educational fate of our children. And that’s exactly where the decision should lie.

If you would get up in arms about the spoof NFL policy, it’s time to consider why so many people are agnostic to treating our kids this same way. It’s time for all Tennesseans, young and old, wealthy and not, to stand together in support of School Choice NOW.

-Justin Owen

September 12th, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

Hispanic Success and School Choice

Hispanic Success and School Choice

Angela Ramirez, a stay-at-home-mom living in Arizona, is trying to find a great education for her children — and herself. She sends her two adopted sons to a private school using an education savings account, a flexible debit card that allows her to pay for private-school tuition and other educational services like tutoring. At the same time, Angela studies health-care administration at Northern Arizona University.

“At their old school, if they had extra time, everyone wanted to play,” Ramirez says of her kids. “Here, the other students want to study.”

Yet as Hispanic students account for more and more of public-school enrollment, parents, teachers, and policymakers must be aware of another sobering fact: Hispanic students have high dropout rates. A third of Hispanics who start as freshmen in public schools don’t graduate in four years, roughly double the white rate.

For some states, the relationship between a growing Hispanic population and dropout rates is even starker. Colorado, for example, has one of the nation’s ten largest Hispanic populations at 1.1 million – and also one of the lowest graduation rates for Latino students at 57 percent.

The statistics are worse for Hispanic males around the country. An annual survey of graduation rates and high-school dropouts notes that in states with large Hispanic populations, the trend is consistent: “For Hispanics in seven of the 13 states where the overwhelming majority of Hispanics attend high school, on-time graduation rates for males are likely in the low 60s” (that is, around 60 percent).

Every child is unique and has different learning needs. Dropout rates and the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students are troubling. Even more troubling is the fact that the national achievement gap has not closed over the last decade in math or reading for these students. As Hispanics continue to believe education is key to achieving the American Dream, many are seeking new alternatives and more options when it comes to their children’s’ education.

Angela’s story is an example of the ways in which many Hispanic families are responding to these challenges.

First, they are taking ownership of their children’s future. Since 2000, the percentage of charter-school students who are Hispanic has increased about eight points, to 28 percent. Parents select these schools when their neighborhood traditional schools are not meeting their children’s needs.

Charter-school results are strong across the country. Recent studies using charter school lotteries are able to account for factors that otherwise weaken studies of student achievement, giving parents and researchers solid evidence on charter schools’ performance. For example, in New York, charter schools helped students in grades K-8 close the “Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap” in math and English. In Boston, researchers found “large one-year gains in student proficiency” among charter-school students on the state exam, and the “gains [were] particularly large for English language learners.”

Polling data indicates that 68 percent of Hispanic respondents favor charter schools, a higher percentage than found among white or black individuals.

Likewise, Hispanic families also want the opportunity to send their child to a private school or challenge them with unique learning opportunities through education savings accounts. Sixty-eight percent of Hispanics support education savings accounts, 72 percent are in favor of private school vouchers, and 80 percent support private-school scholarships funded by charitable organizations.

In Arizona, home to the nation’s longest-running education savings accounts, the Goldwater Institute found that Hispanic students are overwhelmingly eligible for the accounts. Students attending Arizona’s failing schools are eligible to apply, and among the 20 largest failing public schools in the state, nearly 71 percent of the students are Hispanic (students with special needs are also eligible, along with adopted children and children in military families).

Angela is excited for her adopted sons’ opportunity, but she regrets not knowing about education savings accounts and other scholarship opportunities for her biological children, who are now grown.

“I didn’t know there were any scholarships. If I would have known that a long time ago, I would have sent all my kids to private school,” Angela says. “I’m looking out for their education, for their future.”

Jonathan Butcher is education director at the Goldwater Institute and senior fellow with the Beacon Center. Jorge Lima is the policy director at The LIBRE Institute.

*This article originally appeared September 8th on Real Clear Policy.

September 8th, 2014 | Beacon Blog, Feature, Recent News

Tennessee Education Stories: Marshall Shanks

Tennessee Education Stories: Marshall Shanks

Marshall Shanks

Marshall Shanks is a a young student in Memphis attending St. George’s Independent School, and he is a perfect example of the positive impact that occurs when we empower families with school choice. Marshall has attended St. George’s since pre-K, has participated in golf, lacrosse, basketball, and band, all while maintaining a 3.4 GPA. He takes a rigorous course-load that has included pre-algebra, French, and Latin. Marshall’s education comes courtesy of the Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (MOST), a privately funded scholarship organization designed to help low-income families in Memphis attend private elementary and secondary schools.

Marshall’s mom, Marilyn, is a prime example of a hardworking mother left to raise her son after his father passed away when Marshall was barely a year old. She is grateful to MOST for Marshall’s opportunity to receive a quality education that she could otherwise not afford. “Our private school experience has been a blessing. We are fortunate to have a choice,” she says.

Sadly, many of Marshall’s peers are not so fortunate. Marshall and Marilyn live in a neighborhood rife with challenges. The hopes of many youth are slipping away, as young people fall prey to drugs and other illicit activities. Without the same opportunities as Marshall to benefit from a quality education, they are being left behind.

To learn more about Beacon’s efforts to advance school choice, click here.

August 29th, 2014 | Feature, Tennessee Stories

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