Dangerous Chartering Malaise

In 1993, Vice President Al Gore’s “Re-Inventing Government” pointed out that “scandal,” not routine inefficiency drives policy change, and makes/breaks government careers. And I pointed out that the circumstances of chartered public schools were ripe with potential for a school choice movement-imperiling scandal.  That would be devastating, and recently, there have been warning signs that such peril may be imminent. It might nothing more than a particularly eye-popping scandal and an especially effective demagogue messenger to launch a doomsday scenario that could even engulf non-charter forms of school choice; for example, perhaps slowing or even totally stifling the copying of Nevada’s universal education savings account law by other states.

No Bill Left Behind ― Congress Moves Closer to NCLB Revamp

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has been in desperate need of a facelift since 2007. This year, Congress and education groups alike think they may be closer than ever to updating not only NCLB, but higher education as well.

The Student Diversity Issue Addressed by an Elite Thinker, a CEO… and a Boy


By Corey DeAngelis and John Merrifield

In a famous TED Talk from 2013, How to escape education’s death valley, Sir Ken Robinson points out a problem with the comprehensively uniform traditional public schools that dominate our current system.  He points out that human flourishing arises from the fact that “human beings are naturally different and diverse.” He says that this principle of flourishing is “contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labor and most students have to endure.” Dr. Robinson is referring to the fact that we make the teaching profession extremely difficult even for great teachers. The students are only grouped together based on age and attendance zone, yet teachers are expected to effectively teach all students the same things in the same way. The key governance and funding policies of the current system implicitly assume that students and teachers (humans) are 1-dimensional; a truly heroic assumption. One-dimensional means uniform ability; lacking strengths and weaknesses. But we all know that human beings are good and bad at different things and that they learn best in different ways.

Personalized Learning Debate

A debate on the concept of personalized learning: Benjamin Riley founder of Deans for Impact, makes the case for an abundance of caution, while Alex Hernandez a partner at Charter School Growth Fund, supports continued efforts to get personalization right.

Measuring Choice and Competition, Badly

The 2014 Education Choice and Competition Index by Grover Whitehurst and Ellie Klein contains a lot of useful information about the largest U.S. school districts, but the undeserved title amounts to disinformation. First, it is well worth noting that it is not unusual for experts in some aspect of K-12 school systems to assume they adequately understand the nature of genuine competition, and to even extensively comment on its presence/absence, including in writing. Indeed, the fundamentals are uncomplicated; well within the grasp of any educated layperson that remembers their ECO 101, or does some online due diligence or seeks the counsel of a bona fide economist. But, unfortunately, that grasp is still quite rare. Grover Whitehurst’s impressive resume’ proves the Clint Eastwood (as cop “Dirty Harry“) line, “that a man has got to know his limitations,” and supports my repeated points about human multi-dimensionality; that virtually everyone has strengths AND weaknesses. Dr. Whitehurst has headed a University Psychology Department, and served George W. Bush as an Assistant Secretary of Education, among other impressive job titles. Co-Author Klein has a Rhetoric BA, and plus a 2014 Master of Public Administration.

Another Texas School System Reform Failure

In Nevada, Republican control of the legislature and governorship was good enough to achieve legislation that may productively transform the Nevada K-12 system. The nearly identical political control circumstances of Texas were, once again, not good enough to achieve ANY meaningful change in the Texas K-12 school system; no private school choice; no improvement of a charter law that would be a lot better if Texas copied Minnesota, California, or the District of Columbia; ultra-blue states that have very, very little else to teach Texas. Not zero; Texas needs to copy California on part of its Prop 13 property tax reform; the part that prevents homeowners from being taxed out of their long-time homes by skyrocketing appraisals.

Jeb Bush the Education Candidate for President

Yesterday’s long-anticipated announcement for president came from a well-known education reformer. Former governor Jeb Bush joins close to a dozen other candidates for president from the Republican Party. He is walking a very fine line on party principles (the size and role of state and federal government). Will the great education reformer of the state of Florida also run the United States Department of Education in the same way?

Is Nevada an Adequate Ignition Point for the Spread of Universal School Choice?

I hope so. Barring a powerful, hidden “devil-in-the-details” poison pill, or a successful legal challenge, Nevada seems to have done exactly the right thing. I’m optimistic. Yes, one can quibble with the decision to make only state funding portable (traditional public schools retain their monopoly on locally-generated funding for K-12 schooling), and the eligibility requirement that families first try a public school (traditional or charter) for at least 100 days, but I won’t. In Nevada, eligibility for an education savings account (ESA) is universal, and families that opt for the ESA get over $5000 per year per child to spend on private school tuition or tutoring, or other education-related services. Un-spent money from one year rolls over to the next year, including for college tuition if the K-12 years don’t exhaust the ESA deposits.

School Choice: A Democratic Issue

The issue of school choice has already made its way to the forefront of the 2016 presidential elections. While school choice has previously been a mostly Republican issue, new data may force Democratic candidates to take up the school choice flag.

According to Daniel Garza, the executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, 50 percent of the Hispanic community ― a traditionally Democratic demographic ― feel that K-12 education is “on the wrong track.” Garza’s solution? Expanding school choice:

“Our next president must be someone who understands the importance of promoting school choice opportunities in all 50 states. No child should lose out on quality education because of their ZIP code.”