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Friday, August 19, 2011

Vouchers join charter schools and merit pay as failed reforms

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Perhaps I misread Emily Sirota. Her August 2 Huffington Post piece was filled with ed reformer “excuse” taunts and led me to draw the conclusion that she, too, was on the market solutions bandwagon. But anyone who posts such an effective dismissal of vouchers and the motivation of their backers while outing an advocacy group with a cleverly misleading name is worth mentioning.

Sirota’s piece speaks to Denver’s voucher fight and the details she provides mirror facts on the ground in Florida. Writes Sirota:

Make no mistake about it: my longtime opposition to vouchers has always been driven by the cold hard data. In other words, it comes in response to what we know vouchers will do to our community, and what they have already done to other communities.

Today, Colorado ranks near the bottom of the nation in terms of funding its public schools, and our legislature just enacted yet another massive cut to K-12 education. That means a new voucher scheme’s further reductions to public school resources would be catastrophic. Think: even larger class sizes, fewer teaching resources, crumbling school buildings and ultimately, even worse results than the already abominable 51.8 percent graduation rate at DPS.

The most crystal clear example voucher’s inadequacy in from Milwaukee’s voucher system. Sirota provides the data she mentions above:

Additionally, we know that vouchers do not work to improve overall student achievement. Only a few months ago, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that test results from Milwaukee’s voucher system definitively show “voucher students performing ‘similar or worse’” than students in public schools. Meanwhile, the system is now facing calls for a federal investigation into accusations that it is aggressively discriminating against children with learning disabilities.

Like in Colorado, Florida’s republicans plow forward with vouchers. Voices like Sirota’s draw opposition. One such group is Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

…. we should also be concerned that this is only the beginning of the larger effort here in Colorado to destroy public education. I say that because one of the key Manhattan-based groups that has been pushing vouchers, “Democrats for Education Reform,” announcedthis week that it is specifically trying to defeat me in 2011 and instead elect its hand-picked slate of candidates to take over the Denver Public School board.

This front group, which the Washington Post says is financed “largely by hedge fund managers” on Wall Street, celebrates on its website “the revival of the private school voucher movement.” Likewise, one of the group’s founding hedge funders publicly champions vouchers, and the group has explicitly promoted candidates who push vouchers. And perhaps most troubling of all, the group’s Colorado affiliate is advised by an outspoken advocate for vouchers who also runs a local education policy organization my opponent co-chaired.

The group’s board of directors are the unusual suspects in the corporate ed reform movement like Whitney Tilson and Tom Vander Ark. DFER are active in Florida. Its director testified in front in both houses of Florida’s legislature in the run-up to SB736′s passage.

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