Thursday, October 04, 2007

Congressionial Choice

The Heritage Foundation has updated their report "How Members of Congress Practice Private School Choice".

Based on the survey results, if all of the Members who exercised school choice for their own children had supported school choice in policy, every major legislative effort in recent years to give parents school choice would have passed.
Granted, not everyone responded. Wonder why?

The report says that nationally 11.5% of children attend private schools. However:
Over 37 percent of Representatives and 45 per­cent of Senators responded that they had sent their children to private school;
I have absolutely no problem with them exercising choice. I don't have a problem with Mayor Karl Dean having exercised choice. I do have a problem when legislators who recognize their own children need something different will not provide other parents every opportunity to obtain what their children need. Is the goal to have educated children or protect a system that fails them?

I do wish someone would take the time to query our own state legislature before the session begins in January.

Of course some say that we have choices in Nashville. However, when MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden writes, as she did in the Tennessean right after Karl Dean was elected mayor, "we have programs for everyone" it's dishonest. We have all sorts of programs but your child's chances of actually getting into one are very slim.

In regard to education, there are two worlds. Those that run the systems and those that are stuck with them.


Sean Braisted said...

How are you not able to exercise "choice"? Do you not home school your children? Did the City or State somehow prevent you from sending your kids to private school? Granted, finances may prevent it, but if you are able to pay for the tuition fees like Dean and the many Reps/Senators, than you are more than welcome to send your kids to any school they get accepted to. Unlike you, Dean and others aren't asking for special tax breaks or vouchers to subsidize their choices.

Kay Brooks said...

I, and many other parents, cannot exercise choice because the 'choices' I'm offered by the public system are not sufficient to meet demand. Further, those that have the financial resources and political power to avail themselves of private choices regularly align themselves with those that fight tooth and nail to prevent expansion of choices even already available.

It is not choice to have both beef and chicken on the menu and then be told by the wait staff "I'm sorry. We're out of chicken."

Sean Braisted said...


You don't need political power to send your kid to a private school, you just need some money. If you don't have the money, than the city offers a tax payer funded product that you can use. You may not like the product they offer, in which case you are free to move to another County (or restaurant using your analogy) and find a menu item you like.

Now, lets say the City were to forgo having you pay your property taxes...and lets assume your annual property tax payment is about $1,409...which private school would you send your kids to with that money? Or would you like the Government to subsidize you sending your kids to the religious institution of your choice?

Kay Brooks said...

You don't think political clout is used by those DC legislators to get their children into Sidwell Friends or St. Albans? Have you ever wondered how it is that so many of our movers and shakers with children in the system are so lucky?

I'd be real interested in the reaction if you headed over to CM Pam Murray's district and told those parents there that if they don't like the school choice they have they're free to move to another county.

The point is, parents are being told they have choices, but in reality most don't.

Sean Braisted said...

Well, lets clarify, what do you mean by "choice"? The option to send your kid to any school, private or public, and have the Government pay for it? The ability to send your kid to any school in the County?

Perhaps I misunderstood what you were referring to when you said, "choice"...I just assumed you were talking about the ability to have the Government subsidize your child's private school education.

MS said...

A private school has the right to select students based on academic achievement, parents' salaries, political clout, religious affiliation, or just about anything it wants. They have the "choice." The job of the government is to offer a public alternative, available to all, that hopefully does a reasonable job of educating our children.

The common goal should be improving the existing public schools so that the private school "choice" is less exercised. While I think some versions of school choice can be quite beneficial, what you are proposing is that you be empowered to spend my tax dollars however you see fit for the education of your children. Education is a societal good, and I didn't vote for you.

Kay Brooks said...

For this thread where I specifically mentioned Ms. Warden's assurances that MNPS has 'programs for everyone' I am talking about choices within MNPS.

When talking about those congressmen who opt out of the very system they regulate, I've got in mind programs all over the map from vouchers, to charters, to cyberschools and even some of the NCLB provisions which aren't being reliably relayed to families. It's consistently: no, No, "No choice for YOU!"

I certainly didn't mean, as you put it: "The option to send your kid to any school, private or public, and have the Government pay for it"

But if the government fails to fulfill their promise of educating the children---why should people without means only have the option of moving out of the county?

Kay Brooks said...

MS: Where did I propose that parents: "be empowered to spend [your] tax dollars however you see fit for the education of your children."

Sean Braisted said...

Well Kay, as far as I can tell there are for more "choices" within this public school system than I had growing up. We didn't have Charter or Magnet schools, we had Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. The only choice we got were the electives we picked.

I'm all for giving parents more options within the public school system, especially when it comes to online or computer education.

I suppose I was thrown off because you started off the thread talking about politicians who sent their kids to private school, and then started talking about school choice (I don't think its hard to see how I drew my conclusions about what you were referring to).

But ultimately, there are limits to how much "choice" we can viably offer parents. For instance, Clement wanted to allow parents to pick any school in the system to send their kids to, but unfortunately, there are space and staff limitations to how many kids can be at any one school.

Ultimately, no parent is going to get everything they want...thats life. There will be compromises that have to be made, decisions between the greater of two lesser choices, etc...even if we were to open the system up to pay for private educations, we'd still have the problem with kids having to go to lesser quality religious schools because the secular private schools would be too expensive.

Hopefully, the money will be in the budget to expand the "options" (a far less ambiguous term than "choice") for public school parents. I talked to one of the School Board members (Steve something I think) during the Dean education forum before the election, and he seemed to think there were many new programs/options currently in the process of being made into policy, but it takes time, and often money to do it.

Kay Brooks said...

Sorry if I took a sudden left turn on you, Sean. Thanks for hanging in this long.

Steve Glover is likely who you were thinking of. He replaced Kathy Nevill on the BOE.

You wrote: "Ultimately, no parent is going to get everything they want...thats life."

Yeah, but life for some is harder than for others and when your family is on the low end of it and you're children aren't likely to get a minimal education and the school system calls someone else's number, and says no more charter is not looking hopeful.

MS said...

I seem to have been confused - discussing Dean's choice to send kids to private school and proposing an expansion of school choice for other parents made me think you were proposing tax funds going to your choice of private school.

If what you propose is simply that there should be a greater diversity of educational opportunities within the public school system, then certainly I agree. However, regardless of how good public schools get (and, for now, I think "barely decent" is a high goal for Nashville), there will always exist private school options that some parents both feel are superior and cannot afford.

Kay Brooks said...

No, I'm not suggesting taxpayers fund a sports car education for every child. But a good reliable sedan to get them through life is what we've pretty much promised. Until we make good on that promise...we shouldn't object to paying for a loaner.

Sean Braisted said...

I object to paying for a loaner when it means A) taking money out of the public school system and B) using tax funds for religious indoctrination.

Most likely, the poor parents you speak of would only be able to send their kids to schools subsidized by religious groups. I personally worry about what our society would look like if some of the more radical elements of society began creating schools which were to become the only viable option for parents living in a future world where the public school system has been largely abandoned.

I look at Saudi Arabia, and their Madrassas, and say, "no thank you."

Kay Brooks said...

I knew you meant A) and B).

I have similar concerns about religious schools.

All the more reason for us all to work together to ensure that the needs of the children are met before it all falls apart and we're left with A) and B).

Do you consider KIPP Academy as falling under A)?

MS said...

The problem with the loaner metaphor is that, if my insurance company loans me a Porsche, I'll instruct my mechanic to take his time fixing my Toyota.

Kay Brooks said...

MS: How often in your life have you had THAT happen?

I can count on one hand the number of times I've even been offered a loaner. And each one hasn't been that far above what I left them.

File that under: Highly improbable.

MS said...

Sorry - I was dreaming of driving a Porsche...

The point is that if someone's kids were destined to go to a good private school, they'd drop their public-school-improvement-activism down a notch. I just don't buy that the "loaner" would be a temporary solution.

Thanks for letting me intrude on the discussion.

Kay Brooks said...

MS wrote: "The point is that if someone's kids were destined to go to a good private school, they'd drop their public-school-improvement-activism down a notch."

They're already doing that and more. Check out the chart at Students attending private school by cluster

You were not intruding at all. I'm glad you participated. Come back when you can.

Sean Braisted said...

KIPP? Its iffy, but no, I don't consider them completely outside of the public school system, because they do not charge tuition, and are generally open to the public. So long as they meet or exceed public education standards, and do not charge tuition, I don't have a big problem with them being outside the MNPS Structure and still being subsidized or paid for by tax long as they are following the guidelines set forth by the Supreme Court in respecting the separation of church and state, and are subject to some form of oversight in ensuring they are properly caring for their students.

Frankly, I don't see a whole heckuva lot of difference between something like KIPP and Hume Fogg.

Nashteach said...

Whoa- huge difference. True they are both "optional" schools. However, Hume-Fogg, aside from entrance requirements and the lottery method, is subject to all MNPS policies and practices...calendars, discipline policies, employee contracts, staffing formulas and other spending/budgetary mandates. KIPP, as I understand it, has to be approved by the board, and must follow the "Charter" it presents to the school board, but aside from that is free from much of the red tape.

On the other hand, due to the state charter law, KIPP is relatively limited in the students it can accept, while magnets are open for the entire Davidson County student population, provided they meet certain academic requirements in the case of the three academic magnets. All optional enrollment schools, including magnets, do have a policy in place to send kids back to zone schools if there are serious academic or discipline problems, but I've found that policy is rarely invoked.

They provide families a choice, yes, but the similarity pretty much ends there.

Kay Brooks said...

My point is KIPP is a type of public school. It's contract is with the MNPS and it's funds are accounted for in the MNPS budget. The students are considered enrolled in MNPS.

As a result I would not consider it as "taking money out of the public school system".

But they are the red-headed step-children of the MNPS system and every dime spent on KIPP or the other charters is, by the opinion of some, a dime withheld from 'real public school students'.

din819go said...

Kay --

Hmmm...First where did you get the chart on the number of private school students by cluster and what is the date of the data. I want to share it with a board member.

Second, KIPP is a public school and they are educating public school kids. Sadly, they should be open to the district.

However, they are educating the students (and doing a good job to boot) with fewer dollars than other schools in the district if I understand the funding right.


Kay Brooks said...

That chart, most of those charts, was given to me while I was on the school board in the Summer of 2006. They came from the 'student assignment services' office.

I don't know who your BOE member is but if they were on the Board then, they should have gotten a copy.