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Who’s Puttin’ Who in Chains?

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 4, 2012 9:04 AM |

America recently suffered the indignity of a high profile politician in Washington engaging in race baiting by bellowing to a largely African American audience that a rival political party would “put y’all back in chains.” I have no interest in wasting readers’ time by even dignifying those remarks.

I do have very real interest in drawing attention to two recent releases that address what I believe is the most critical issue of the day in the hope that NOBODY in our nation feels chained.

I will allow readers to draw their own conclusion as to whether one political party or another is engaged in putting people “in chains”. Let’s navigate and review two distinct releases addressing the issue of secondary education.

In an absolute must read Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview, readers are introduced to Gloria Romero, who heads the California chapter of Democrats for Education Reform. Ms. Romero has had enough of the cronyism in Sacramento that keeps far too many of her fellow citizens “in chains” so to speak. All Americans need to hear from this former California legislator and how I wish Ms. Romero had a speaking engagement this week in Charlotte. What does she have to say?

The capitol building in Sacramento, she says, has “the eighth most powerful economy in the world under that dome,” and it operates not unlike other wealthy kleptocracies. “There’s no other way to say it politely. It’s owned.”

Topping the list of proprietors is the California Teachers Association, which she calls the most muscular union and political player in the state. Then there are the unions for nurses, prison guards, firefighters and police. Call them California’s “deep state.”

. . . she discovered the real kings of Sacramento. California Teachers Association officials “walk around like they’re God.” She recalls knocking on Democratic doors trying to line up votes. “They always wanted to know where’s CTA,” because that’s “their sugar daddy.”

“I remember sitting in Democratic caucus” and hearing lawmakers call the unions “our allies, our friends and allies,” she says. “And I thought, the NAACP is never included.” Grass-roots school-reform groups were also “never included. Our ‘allies’ are SEIU, CTA, the California school employees.”

As it happens, Ms. Romero’s downtown Los Angeles office where we meet is located at the vertex of what she calls “the Bermuda Triangle.” On the first floor of the building is a “rubber room” where tenured lemons await reassignment. Next to it is a Service Employees International Union office, and down the street is the L.A. Unified School District office.

Ms. Romero credits the CTA for its savvy and chutzpah. The union has killed or hijacked nearly every reform bill that has popped up in the legislature. In 2010 it even sank a bill to let high school teachers volunteer to be evaluated by students. “Nobody would see [the evaluation] except the teacher, and CTA fought it tooth and nail. They really were of the opinion that ‘we run the place.’ . . . Their basic argument was that it’s the nose underneath the camel’s tent. So you can’t do anything, because once you do something,” the lid on reform is “lifted. So they just kill it.”

This year the unions torpedoed a bill (introduced by Democratic State Sen. Alex Padilla) that would have made it easier for districts to fire teachers who molest students. Same for legislation to strip pensions from teachers who have sexual relationships with students. The unions claimed the bills infringe on due process and First Amendment rights.

You cannot make this stuff up.

While teachers unions and those cowardly politicians beholden to them do very little to truly help the most needy in our nation, let’s review a recently released study produced by the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings and Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance. What do we learn?

Most research on educational interventions, including school vouchers, focuses on impacts on short-term outcomes such as students’ scores on standardized tests. Few studies are able to track longer-term outcomes, and even fewer are able to do so in the context of a randomized experiment.

In the first study using a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment, we examine the college-going behavior through 2011 of students who participated in a voucher experiment as elementary school students in the late 1990s. We find no overall impacts on college enrollments but we do find large, statistically significant positive impacts on the college going of African American students who participated in the study. Our estimates indicate that using a voucher to attend private school increased the overall college enrollment rate among African Americans by 24 percent. (LD’s highlight)

The original data for the analysis come from an experimental evaluation of the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program (SCSF), which in the spring of 1997 offered three-year scholarships worth up to a maximum of $1,400 annually to as many as 1,000 low-income families with children who were either entering first grade or were public school students about to enter grades two through five.

A recipient could attend any one of the hundreds of private schools, religious or secular, within the city of New York. According to the New York Catholic archdiocese, average tuition in the city’s Catholic schools, the city’s largest private provider, was estimated to be $1,728, which was 72 percent of the total per pupil cost of $2,400 at these schools (compared to total costs of more than $5,000 in the public schools).

The impetus for the voucher program was an invitation issued by Cardinal John J. O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, to Rudy Crew, Chancellor of the New York City public school system, to “send the city’s most troubled public school students to Catholic schools” and he would see that they were given an education.

When New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani attempted to raise the funds that would allow Catholic schools to fulfill the offer made by the Cardinal and enroll the “most troubled” students, his proposal encountered strong opposition from those who saw it as a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

A 24% increase in college enrollment for African American students. Talk about having a chance at life. A fabulous review and one I welcome highlighting The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City.

Can anybody in or around Charlotte share these reports with those talking about a better future this week.

Ponder the realities expressed in these two reviews and then ask yourself, “who’s puttin’ who in chains?”

Navigate accordingly.

Larry Doyle

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.


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