Category: Educational Choice

In 2010, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who lived with their five children in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, were faced with a choice: abandon their Evangelical Christian religious beliefs or lose custody of their children. The Romeikes had withdrawn their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith. After accruing the equivalent of $10,000 worth of fines and the forcible removal of their children from the home, they chose to flee their homeland and seek asylum in the United States. They believed our government was more respectful of religious liberties.

german-banThey soon discovered that was not the case.

On January 26, 2010, a federal immigration judge granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruling they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. The judge also denounced the German policy, saying it was, “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” However, President Obama’s Justice Department disagreed. They argued that the family should be denied asylum based on their contention that governments may legitimately use its authority to force parents to send their kids to government-sanctioned schools.

To better understand what Attorney-General Holder and his Justice Department are supporting, let’s look at the German policy. The parent-children relationship is defined in Art. 6 § 2 as follows:
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rheeMichelle Rhee isn’t afraid of controversy. In 2007 she took the job of chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools, one of the worst districts in the country. Given a free hand by the city’s mayor, she instituted a number of reforms that, while modest and sensible (accountability, standardized testing), were considered “radical” by many residents of D.C.

Rhee even fired 266 teachers and defended her actions by saying, “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?”

Putting kids before the teachers unions is not always a path to popularity, and following the logic of such convictions can lead an educational reformer to accept some uncomfortable positions. For Rhee, that was accepting the legitimacy of school vouchers:

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JMM_15.2_WebThe newest issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality has been published. The issue is available in digital format online and should be arriving in print in the next few weeks for subscribers. This issue continues to offer academic engagement with the morality of the marketplace and with faith and the free society, including articles on economic engagement with Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate, biblical teaching on wealth and poverty, schools as social enterprises, the Reformed philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd’s economic theory, and much more.

As we have done in the past, Jordan Ballor’s editorial is open access, even to non-subscribers. In “Between Greedy Individualism Editorial and Benevolent Collectivism” he examines the enduring impact of Michael Novak’s The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, writing,

At the time of its publication, Novak’s work must have been like a window thrust wide open in a dank room, introducing a breath of fresh air and the sanitizing rays of sunlight. Against ideologies that posit state power as a neutral or even benevolent force arising of necessity against the rapaciousness of the market, Novak observed instead that it was democratic capitalism that arose first as a system designed to check the invasiveness of state tyranny. The “founders of democratic capitalism,” wrote Novak, “wished to build a center of power to rival the power of the state.” Indeed, “they did not fear unrestrained economic power as much as they feared political tyranny.” Still more would they fear the union of economic and political power that we find all too often today in corrupt and cronyist regimes.

You can read his full editorial here. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, February 1, 2013

In the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Timothy Dolan explains how Catholic Schools can combat falling enrollment while keeping standards high:

I have heard from many leaders in business and finance that when a graduate from Catholic elementary and secondary schools applies for an entry-level position in their companies, the employer can be confident that the applicant will have the necessary skills to do the job. Joseph Viteritti, a professor of public policy at Hunter College in New York who specializes in education policy, recently said, “If you’re serious about education reform, you have to pay attention to what Catholic schools are doing. The fact of the matter is that they’ve been educating urban kids better than they’re being educated elsewhere.”

The evidence is not just anecdotal. Researchers like Helen Marks (in her 2009 essay “Perspectives on Catholic Schools” in Mark Berends’s “Handbook of Research on School Choice”) have found that students learning in a Catholic school, in an environment replete with moral values and the practice of faith, produce test scores and achievements that reliably outstrip their public-school counterparts.

This is why, to the consternation of our critics, we won’t back away from insisting that faith formation be part of our curriculum, even for non-Catholic students.

Read more . . .

Frank Hanna III, CEO of Hanna Capital, LLC, has made Catholic education a special focus. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Hanna spoke of the challenges, changes and reasons to champion religious education:

The more I looked into the issues of society, the more I became convinced that a lot of our societal failings happen much sooner; so much of the foundation of our failure was happening in our educational system. And that’s what actually got me thinking about education. I was thinking, “If you are going to do your own part in turning the world around, education is the place to start.”

I started to examine it in the secular world, and the more I began to study education, the more I became convinced that the very process of educating a child is inherently a religious undertaking.

Hanna goes on to say that parochial schools are in need of financial renewal, and spoke of the role of parish subsidies:

I think it is worth exploring whether parents should receive the subsidy from the parish or the diocese, rather than the school. In other words, parents who are tithing or who are parish members would receive something of a voucher that they can use at any Catholic school, thereby putting more control into the hands of the parents. Rather than subsidizing schools, we would instead be giving financial help to those parents who need it, and reconsidering whether parents who actually don’t need financial help should still be paying tuition that is subsidized. This is one example of the kind of financial modeling that we might reform.

Read “The State of Catholic Education” in the National Catholic Register.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, January 28, 2013

In honor of the third annual National School Choice Week, here are some facts you should know about school choice in America.

What does “school choice” mean?

NSCW-Stacked-LogoThe term “school choice” refers to programs that give parents the power and opportunity to choose the schools their children attend, whether public, private, parochial, or homeschool.

Why is school choice necessary?

While there are some excellent public schools in America, many students are trapped in schools with inadequate facilities, substandard curriculum, and incompetent teachers. Most parents, however, cannot afford to pay for education twice—once in taxes and again in private school tuition. School choice programs empower parents by letting them use public funds set aside for education on programs that will best serve their children. As Bill Cosby, a comedian who holds a doctorate in education, says, “We have a moral and societal obligation to give our children the opportunity to succeed in school, at work, and in life. We cannot meet that obligation unless parents are empowered to select the best schools of their children.”

What types of school choice programs exist for students and families?

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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Friday, January 4, 2013

800px-Programming_language_textbooksIn addition to my post in late November about the textbook bubble (spurred by this post from AEI’s Mark Perry), the Atlantic‘s Jordan Weissmann joins the discussion, asking, “Why Are College Textbooks So Absurdly Expensive?” (also the title of his article). It is a good question, and one that highlights the danger of disconnecting the determination of prices from the subjective valuing of consumer demand. There is no competition, no free market, where students are required to buy only certain books for their classes at artificially inflated prices. Weissmann provides a helpful summary of Kevin Carey’s related Slate article as follows:

Academic Publishers will tell you that creating modern textbooks is an expensive, labor-intensive process that demands charging high prices. But as Kevin Carey noted in a recent Slate piece, the industry also shares some of the dysfunctions that help drive up the cost of healthcare spending. Just as doctors prescribe prescription drugs they’ll never have to pay for, college professors often assign titles with little consideration of cost. Students, like patients worried about their health, don’t have much choice to pay up, lest they risk their grades. Meanwhile, Carey illustrates how publishers have done just about everything within their power to prop up their profits, from bundling textbooks with software that forces students to buy new editions instead of cheaper used copies, to suing a low-cost textbook start-ups [sic] over flimsy copyright claims. (more…)

When Christians are tempted to despair over our seeming inability to make significant cultural changes in America, there is one word that should give us reason to be optimistic: homeschooling. As The Economist notes:

Three decades ago home schooling was illegal in 30 states. It was considered a fringe phenomenon, pursued by cranks, and parents who tried it were often persecuted and sometimes jailed. Today it is legal everywhere, and is probably the fastest-growing form of education in America. According to a new book, “Home Schooling in America”, by Joseph Murphy, a professor at Vanderbilt University, in 1975 10,000-15,000 children were taught at home. Today around 2m are—about the same number as attend charter schools.

Although home schooling started on the counter-cultural left, the conservative right has done most to promote it, abandoning public schools for being too secular and providing no moral framework. Today the ranks of home-schoolers are overwhelmingly Christian, and 78% of parents attend church frequently. According to the National Household Education Survey in 2007, the main motivation for home schooling was for religious or moral instruction (36%), followed by school environment (21%) and the quality of instruction available (17%). After this comes concerns about special education, the distance of travel and even nut allergies.

Read more . . .

The video below of a second grade teacher in Providence, RI reading his letter of resignation has recently gone semi-viral with over 200,000 views on YouTube.

What I would like to offer here is an Orthodox Christian critique of the anthropological assumptions that separate this teacher from the “edu-crats,” as he terms them, who in his district so strongly championed standardized testing-oriented education at the exclusion of all other methods and aims. (more…)

Pin not actual size.

I commented last week on the “textbook bubble” (here) and have commented in the past on the “higher-ed bubble” and the character of American education more generally (see here, here, and here). To briefly summarize, over the last few decades the quality of higher education has diminished while the cost and the number of people receiving college degrees has increased. The cost is being paid for, in large part, through government subsidized loans. But with the drop in quality and increase in quantity, a college degree is not as impressive as it used to be; in many cases it no longer signals to employers what it used to. When a critical mass of those loans goes into default, we will have another housing-bubble-esque crisis on our hands. At the same time, government loans, which are largely indiscriminate with regard to the risk of the applicant and guaranteed on the backs of taxpayers, have incentivized colleges and universities to raise the costs to students for the sake of increased expenditures, inflating the bubble even more. Now, Alex Williams of The New Times reports last Friday,

The idea that a college diploma is an all-but-mandatory ticket to a successful career is showing fissures. Feeling squeezed by a sagging job market and mounting student debt, a groundswell of university-age heretics are pledging allegiance to new groups like UnCollege, dedicated to “hacking” higher education. Inspired by billionaire role models, and empowered by online college courses, they consider themselves a D.I.Y. vanguard, committed to changing the perception of dropping out from a personal failure to a sensible option, at least for a certain breed of risk-embracing maverick.

An increasing number of students are realizing that they, to quote Good Will Hunting, do not want to be $150,000 in debt for an education that they could have gotten “for a $1.50 in late charges at the public library.” (more…)