The concept of trying to rescue poor and minority students from failing public schools is a noble one. However, if the private schools are forced to teach the public school standards, which are at grave risk of becoming nationalized via the Common Core and its accompanying tests in 45-1/2 states and the District of Columbia (Minnesota accepted the English standards but not the math), in order for their students to pass the state tests, private schools will no longer be a meaningful alternative to the public schools.
This danger was detailed in our 2011 alert Imposing a Federal Curriculum on Private Schools – Why Voucher Programs that Require State Tests Are So Dangerous. At that time, we mentioned Minnesota’s proposed law that has not yet passed (that would have received a D grade on our scale) and Indiana’s enacted law (that did receive an F grade) that both require state tests to be given to private school students receiving vouchers or to the entire private school. Since then, I have reviewed the testing accountability requirements for all of the 30 school choice laws that have passed in 18 states and the District of Columbia through 2012 based on the Alliance for School Choice’s annual report and looking at the newest 2012 laws passed since that report was written.
And, since grading scales are becoming de rigeur, I though that Education Liberty Watch should join in on the trend and provide a freedom grading scale based on how well each statute protects private school autonomy. My hope is that you will see where your state falls and contact your policymakers to either improve your own state law if needed, make sure that any school choice bill offered in your state is as strongly pro-freedom as possible, and if nothing else, warn the private schools in your area what may be coming and urge them to speak up as this type of legislation is considered.
Before the table with the grades is presented however, it is important to also mention the education plan of presidential candidate Mitt Romney on this issue. Thankfully his plan is a just a plan right now that was likely mostly written or at least heavily influenced by former Governor Jeb Bush. Mr. Bush, whose organization is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation, is a huge fan of the Common Core to the point of trying to prevent model legislation against the standards from being supported by ALEC. He also seems to be completely tied in with the corporate interests such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the Business Partnership and the Gates Foundation, which has funded his own organization, that seem not at all concerned or even determined to bring about the usurpation of private school curriculum with the national standards. The Romney plan, A Chance for Every Child, speaks of the federal government promoting and paying for both public and private school choice. It says on pages 23-24:
Romney Administration will work with Congress to overhaul Title I and IDEA so that low-income and special-needs students can choose which school to attend and bring their funding with them. The choices offered to students under this policy will include any district or public charter school in the state, as well as private schools if permitted by state law… To ensure accountability, students using federal funds to attend private schools will be required to participate in the state’s testing system. (Emphasis added.)
Aside from the fact that the federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in education, a fact both parties have completely forgotten, this would be an utter disaster for education freedom. It would bring the full force of the federal government to impose the federal curriculum of the Common Core on private and religious schools. It would also negate the laboratories of democracy in the states that have passed good state laws that do not require this public school testing accountability. On Education Liberty Watch’s Freedom Grading Scale, the Romney education plan, as currently written, would receive a D grade for requiring students to participate in the state tests. If the plan is meant to require that all of the students in a private school attended by voucher recipients take the state (Common Core) tests, we would give it a failing grade.
However, the good news is that Governor Romney has recently made some important and very good statements opposing the Common Core and government expansion of preschool, which we will outline in our next alert. It is therefore hoped that the more pro-freedom members of his education team are beginning to hold sway and that Governor Romney can be educated about the perils to private schools in his plan.
EDUCATION LIBERTY WATCH FREEDOM GRADING SCALE FOR PRIVATE SCHOOL CHOICE LAWS:
The chart form of the grading scale with more detail is available here. Here is the scale broken down by grade:
A+= NO testing requirements & accountability is specifically to PARENTS.
A = No testing requirements for corporate or individual scholarships, including scholarships for foster children
B+ = Private schools with voucher or scholarship recipients must administer a nationally norm-referenced test but report only to parents &/or the state in aggregate
B = Requiring private schools with voucher or scholarship recipients to administer a nationally norm-referenced test & reporting results to the state.
C = States that require private schools to offer either the state tests or nationally norm-referenced tests to voucher or scholarship recipients
D+ = States that require the state tests to be administered to voucher or scholarship recipients in private schools & scores are reported to parents or other entity beside the state
D = States that require the state tests to be administered to voucher or scholarship recipients in private schools
F = States require the state tests to be administered to ALL the students in a private school that have any students that receive a voucher