School districts, let’s face it, are the giants in K–12 education. Because states traditionally awarded districts “territorial exclusive franchises”—a gentle way of saying monopolies—they enroll the vast majority of Ohio students.
School districts, let’s face it, are the giants in K–12 education. Because states traditionally awarded districts “”—a gentle way of saying monopolies—they enroll the vast majority of Ohio students. In recent weeks, media coverage has been awash with complaints from district officials who feel aggrieved by policies that expand eligibility for EdChoice, a state-funded program that provides scholarships (a.k.a vouchers) enabling students to attend private schools.
At the root of the quarrel is the prospect of increased competition, particularly in districts that have long been sheltered from such a threat. School districts, with their millions in tax support, have enjoyed a major advantage in attracting students over their tuition-based counterparts. To help level the playing field, the EdChoice program has, since 2007, offered state funded vouchers that assist predominately low- to mid-income families who would prefer a private school option. With new state rules in place, students fromare starting to become eligible.
Although EdChoice directly supports families, it does put some budgetary pressure on districts. When they serve fewer students, their state subsidies usually decline. While there is nothat student achievement suffers as a result, administrators are likely concerned about the pain that comes from downsizing. That explains the saber-rattling and their demands that the legislature roll back eligibility.
Whether Ohio should encourage a more, choice-friendly system of K–12 schools, or whether it should retain a largely monolithic system, is a worthwhile conversation. But a reasoned debate about this big-picture policy question doesn’t seem to be the goal of school officials. In their zeal to preserve the status quo, they’ve distorted some of the facts, and a few of their remarks have gone over the top. Consider a few representative statements (my colleague Jeff Murray’s news clippings have more ).
Matt Miller, superintendent for Lakota Schools, Butler County’s largest district, said the new plan overly benefits private schools at the expense of public school systems.
Miller said that “the private schools benefiting from this program are not held to the same accountability measures as our public schools, making this whole fiasco seem like nothing more than a money grab by our state legislators.”
Talawanda Schools Superintendent Ed Theroux echoed those complaints, saying that “the EdChoice voucher system is ill conceived, poorly developed and is an attack against public education.” —
Needless to say, calling EdChoice a “fiasco,” a “money grab,” “ill conceived,” and an “attack against public education” is strong rhetoric. But these allegations ignore the real intention of the program—to offer a wider range of school options to families. Remember: No one is compelling parents to avail themselves of a private-school scholarship. It’s strictly voluntary. Hence, the only channel through which EdChoice would “attack public education” is via the preferences and choices of Ohio families.
Turning to Northeast Ohio, a school official gave these comments to a local news station:
“Our families know that this is a very strong district. We have a graduation rate now exceeding 95%. Our students go to some of the outstanding colleges and universities throughout the country. They excel in music and arts and athletics and other endeavors,” Stephens said. “And that’s what brings people to Shaker Heights. We just feel that we and other districts deserve to be able to keep the funding that local taxpayers have approved for us.”
“We think that when local tax dollars are suddenly funneled to private and religious schools, and the taxpayers have no say in that whatsoever, that’s simply wrong,” Stephens said. “They want their local dollars to go to their local schools.” —
Schools tooting their own horn is about par for the course and perfectly fine. Unfortunately, the statement is misleading in two respects and, in my view, mildly offensive in a third.
First, it’s wrong to say that EdChoice is funded via local school taxes, a common misconception that districts often promote. The scholarships are entirely funded by state appropriations. No local taxes are involved. When a family decides to use a voucher, the local property tax revenue of a district remains unchanged. Why? Districts’ local tax revenue is equal to the tax base times the tax rate. Although student enrollment matters for state funding allocations, it’s not part of the local revenue equation.
Second, it’s wrong to assert that dollars are “suddenly funneled to private and religious schools” as if the state is transferring funds for no apparent reason. Again, the only way state dollars are “funneled” to private schools is through the voluntary choices of Ohio families. The funding transfer merely ensures that the school actually responsible for educating the child receives the money to do so. Meanwhile, it’s a stretch to say that “taxpayers have no say in that whatsoever.” Believe it or not, voucher-receiving families pay taxes as well.
Third, the criticism of religious schools doesn’t seem very respectful to people of faith. While religion and education is a contentious area, why suggest a hostility to religious families who might prefer a school that matches their beliefs?
The cascade of criticism leveled against EdChoice by school districts is certainly predictable. It’s in their self-interest to push back on increased competition and choice. But it’s disappointing to see public leaders take the low road when condemning private school scholarships and the opportunities they afford. Even with expanded choice, school districts are likely to remain the giants of K–12 education. But Goliaths should be wary of treating the lowly with contempt, for we all know how that story ends.
NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.
If recent headlines are to be believed, the educational sky is falling in the state of Ohio. It appears that the Educational Choice (EdChoice) Scholarship Program is fomenting total budgetary and administrative chaos.
Vouchers are “” Ohio’s Schools, according to my Forbes colleague Peter Greene. They are “ ” according to one blogger. “ ,” a representative of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials is quoted as saying.
This all seems a bit over-the-top for a program that just 22,608 of the state’s 1.7 million students used last year, according to the. (That’s 1.3% for those of you keeping score at home.)
It’s time we all cool off. Let’s have some perspective.
First things first, kids move all the time
Schools are funded based on enrollment. If students leave, funding drops. This is the “bite” that voucher detractors say that the program takes out of school budgets.
Now, students leave schools for lots of reasons. Toledo provides a great case in point.
We’ll begin during the six years before 2005, when the EdChoice program was established. (Note: The EdChoice program is not run by or affiliated with EdChoice, which is the national nonprofit that employs me.) Here are the enrollment figures from the state of Ohio:
1999-2000 School Year: 38,023 students
2000-2001 School Year: 37,426 students
2001-2002 School Year: 36,839 students
2002-2003 School Year: 35,742 students
2003-2004 School Year: 34,483 students
2004-2005 School Year: 32,976 students
The change from 1999 to 2005 represents a 13.3% decrease in student enrollment. Clearly, none of these enrollment changes could have been caused by the voucher program, because it didn’t exist yet. So what happened?
Students were simply moving from the district to neighboring districts, or to private schools, or moving out of the area all together. This is normal behavior for school districts. Kids move around.
Was there outrage then about the “bite” that other districts were taking out of Toledo? Were folks talking about those districts “gutting” the Toledo schools? No, they recognized that this is simply the way that the world works, and that the district would have to adjust for its decreasing enrollment.
Fast forward to today. Enrollment in the district has shrunk to. Was this because of vouchers? No. Only 2,019 students in Toledo take advantage of the EdChoice program and less than 1,000 take advantage of the state’s other private school choice programs. Students leaving with vouchers are a tiny sliver of those leaving Toledo’s schools, why so much focus on them?
Fixed and Variable Costs
Traditional public schools have a point when they say that they get lumbered with fixed costs when students leave. A school still needs to have a principal, it has to be heated and cooled, and the rest. Losing a handful of students doesn’t change that.
Be that as it may, public school supporters dramatically overstate their case. Not all costs are fixed. My colleague Marty Luekenthat in Ohio, $8,129 of the $13,452 dollars spent per student were spent on variable costs, costs that could fluctuate with changes in enrollment. So, as long as the voucher awarded is less than the variable costs, districts will not be harmed.
Want to guess the average voucher amount in the program everyone is so up in arms about? That would be $4,762, just over half of those variable costs. In order for districts to truly lose out, a whopping 68% of their costs would have to be fixed. They are not. While districts are seeing less revenue, they are seeing even less cost, so they are coming out ahead on a per-pupil basis.
It should also be noted that these fixed/variable cost arguments are only ever used to call for more spending. Have you ever heard a school district say when enrollment is growing, “Well, we already have a principal, and we’re already heating and cooling the building, so we’ll only need half the funding for those new students.” I didn’t think so. Maybe we should take those pleas with a bit of skepticism.
Playing fast and loose with data
Given these realities, how do we get to claims about the “staggering” impact of the voucher program? Well, as we just saw, detractors can only present raw numbers and not per-pupil figures. If that doesn’t work, they can quote numbers out of context to make them seem bigger than they are.
Here is a quote from Peter Greene’s article I link to above: “Toledo’s voucher costs increased by $5.7 million. In smaller districts, the dollar amount might not seem impressive, but Scioto Valley’s increase amounts to a 965% jump in voucher costs.”
Now, why might one use a nominal figure in the first sentence and a percentage in the last? Well that’s because $5.7 million is only 1.2% of the Toledo’s. Doesn’t sound so staggering now, does it? And that 965% change for Scioto Valley is just over $100,000 for a district with . That is one half of one percent.
Here is another data point for context. Around 93,000 students take advantage of Ohio’s open enrollment law, allowing them to move between public school districts. This is substantially more students than the voucher program enrolls and presents the same costs to districts, and yet, the criticism is much more muted. Curious, that.
The real issue
All of this obfuscation and pettifogging is done to avoid the real conversation. No one wants to answer the question: Why are these students leaving? No child in Ohio is required to use a voucher. They only use them when they are not satisfied with their current school and want to go somewhere else. Want to keep kids, and the funding that comes along with them? Do better and they won’t leave.
Mike McShane is director of national research at. He is also the author, editor, co-author or co-editor of ten books on education policy, and is a former teacher.
This blog originally appeared on the website of Forbes magazine.
According to a recent Hechinger Report, U.S. schools overlook a staggering 3.6 million gifted students, many of whom come from less advantaged backgrounds. By failing to identify these bright youngsters—much less provide them with special services—the nation leaves vast “ ” on the table. New on a Boston acceleration program reveals just how important it is for schools to serve these high-achieving students.
Conducted by Columbia University researcher Sarah Cohodes, this study examines the impacts of Boston Public Schools’(AWC). The program offers qualifying students an opportunity to learn in classrooms dedicated to advanced instruction throughout grades four through six. Program eligibility is based on a third grade normed-referenced test, with approximately 10 to 15 percent of Boston students meeting the test-score cut off. Although AWC participants tend to come from more advantaged backgrounds than their peers districtwide, nearly half of them are black or Hispanic, and two in three are eligible for subsidized meals. Most students who accept the AWC offer in fourth grade stay in the program through sixth grade—on average, students participate for 2.7 years.
To estimate the effects of AWC participation, Cohodes uses a “regression discontinuity” statistical method that in general compares students just above and below the eligibility cut-off. The basic idea is that these students are essentially identical, and by almost random draw, they either qualify for the program or not. In terms of outcomes, she examines state exam results, AP test-taking, SAT participation and scores, high school graduation, and college enrollment. Because the longer-run outcomes require a wider time frame, the analysis focuses on cohorts whose students were in third grade between 2001 and 2005.
Interesting findings emerge, especially for students of color. On state tests scores, black and Hispanic participants perform at slightly higher levels than the control group, though their gains are not quite statistically significant. The results for AP test-taking are likewise positive, though again not significant. More impressive results surface when examining SAT participation and high-school graduation. Among black and Hispanic AWC participants, 86 percent take the SAT compared to 74 percent of their peers (though their test scores are just marginally higher). Meanwhile, students of color post an 87 percent on-time graduation rate versus 67 percent for the control group, a large and statistically significant gain. The program’s impact is more muted, however, for Asian and white students, with largely null findings for those groups.
Perhaps the most important finding is that AWC boosts college enrollment among students of color. Of AWC’s black and Hispanic participants, 66 percent enroll in college right after high school, while just 40 percent of the control group do so. The study also finds that AWC leads to attendance at higher-quality colleges (as measured by graduates’ earnings), and the increase in college enrollment is being driven largely by matriculation at four-year universities. Yet akin to the K–12 outcomes, the impacts of AWC on college-going among Asian and white students are insignificant. The advantages in college enrollment for black and Hispanic participants are somewhat predictable, given that they’re more likely to graduate high school on-time. These effects “do not occur in isolation,” Cohodes writes. “Instead they rely on sequential increases in meeting milestones along the way.”
What mechanisms explain these results? Supplemental analyses explore whether exposure to higher-performing teachers and classmates are behind the gains for black and Hispanics. Her analyses rule out both as the primary drivers of these gains. Overall, the study concludes: “It appears that AWC is the beginning of a chain of events that causes participants to stay on-track for college throughout high school…. These small gains may build upon each other, with AWC providing the crucial ‘foot-in-the-door’ that begins a chain of positively reinforcing events.” Indeed, schools should strive to ensure that high flyers are identified and offered challenging coursework that enable them to “.” Taking a look at the successful Boston model would be a good first step.
Source: Sarah R. Cohodes, “” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy (forthcoming). An open-access version is available .
A new study aims to describe the effects zealous parents can have on their children—behaviors popularly known as “helicoptering” or “snowplowing.” While some potentially troubling associations are manifested by the analysis, specific constraints of the study design keep it from proving causation.
Researchers Kristin Moilanen and Mary Lynn Manuel of West Virginia University (WVU) surveyed 302 young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four via an online survey. Most of the sample was white (79.4 percent), and two-thirds was female. Respondents were recruited via the internet and from the community around WVU. Respondents completed multiple batteries of questions, most of which appeared to be constructed so as to assess current experience (sample item: “My parent makes important decisions for me such as where I live, where I work, what classes I take, etc.,” rated on a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree) rather than experience over time. Along with an assessment of the type and level of zealous parenting respondents experienced (or, more likely, were currently experiencing), other batteries administered included the Children’s Reports of Parental Behavior Inventory, which measures parental acceptance and psychological and firm control; the Pearlin Mastery Scale, which measures a person’s sense of control over their life outcomes; and assessments of self-regulatory ability, interpersonal competence, tendency toward feelings of depression, alcohol and substance use, and history of criminal activity.
Moilanen and Manuel had three stated goals: to determine the effect of zealous parenting in a variety of areas including peer social competence, prosocial behavior, depression, substance use, and lifetime criminality; to see if other parenting practices, such as parental acceptance, psychological control, and behavioral/firm control, mitigate those effects; and to test whether students’ mastery and self-regulation skills mediated the effects of zealous parenting.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of data over time they were only able to determine linkages between zealous parenting and children’s psycho-social states, not effects. To wit: They found that highly zealous parenting was associated with low mastery, self-regulation, and social competence in the young adults surveyed, as well as with high depression. Only associations with depression were mitigated by the presence of other parenting practices. The connections between zealous parenting and the children’s current mental and social states were pervasive. Respondents with strong self-regulation and/or mastery skills showed lessened association with helicoptering and snowplowing, but only in the areas of depression and social competence.
But the big caveat here is the issue of directionality: Were respondents reporting low self-regulation and high depression as a result of their parents’ zealous efforts on their behalf, or were parents exhibiting helicopter or snowplow behavior because their children had low self-regulation skills and high depression to begin with? This research design, unfortunately, did not allow for such directional conclusions to be made. The correlations described are interesting and potentially important, but do not allow for solid conclusions as to cause and effect.
One positive aspect of this study is that the recruitment of survey participants via the internet allowed for a wide cross-section of respondents. Wider, the authors say, than is typical for similar studies. These included young adults who had achieved desirable outcomes already (college graduation, financial stability, etc.) and those who had failed to do so in their lives thus far. The associations between zealous parenting and children’s psycho-social states were the same regardless of which of these outcomes the respondents had experienced. Future research should endeavor to include such outcome-based data but must include a directional component first and foremost.
SOURCE: Kristin L. Moilanen and Mary Lynn Manuel, “Helicopter Parenting and Adjustment Outcomes in Young Adulthood: A Consideration of the Mediating Roles of Mastery and Self-Regulation,” Journal of Child and Family Studies (August 2019).
Since 2005, Ohio’s, or EdChoice, has allowed tens of thousands of students to attend private schools via a state-funded scholarship in the form of a voucher. From the program’s inception, students could qualify for a scholarship because they were assigned to attend a low-performing school. Ohio also launched an income-based voucher in 2013, and has added a new grade level of eligibility each year. By 2020, low-income students in grades K–7—regardless of their assigned school—would have been eligible for a voucher.
Every year, the Ohio Department Education releases a list of which public schools are designated as EdChoice (i.e., low performing) schools. Thefor how a school is placed on the list are outlined by and require the use of three years of school report grades. These criteria are supposed to be cut and dry, but over the last few years, things have gotten more complicated. That’s because, back in 2016, state lawmakers introduced a safe harbor policy intended to protect students, teachers, and schools from accountability sanctions during Ohio’s transition to new and more rigorous state assessments.
State report cards for the 2018–19 school year were released this fall, and aof EdChoice-designated schools was published not long after. Because of the safe harbor policy, the schools were identified based on data from the 2013–14, 2017–18, and 2018–19 school years.
Compared to, the new list is…well, huge. In 2018, there were around 500 EdChoice-designated schools. Now over 1,200 of the state’s are designated. In one year, the list has more than doubled in size. But its length isn’t the only thing that’s generating attention. It’s also who’s on it. For years, EdChoice largely identified schools in higher-poverty communities. But for the first time, some suburban districts have schools on the list too. This is largely because of modifications in state law as to what constitutes a struggling school. Recent changes have gone from looking primarily at a school’s overall grade to other important data points like student growth and the school’s ability to help struggling readers.
Unsurprisingly, there’s already pushback coming from these areas. There are concerns about a massof voucher-wielding students headed for private schools, and a resultant on . There are arguments that schools don’t deserve to be on the list because the report card that put them there are . And, of course, there are anti-choice folks gearing up to argue that the list is just another example of how the state uses accountability policies to “ ” traditional .
But amidst all this controversy, there are a few important things to remember.
First, it’s highly unlikely that the EdChoice designated school list is going to lead to a mass exodus of public school students. Just because students are eligible for a voucher doesn’t mean they’re going to actually use one. Parents aren’t going to pull their students out of schools that they feel are serving them well. For example, an elementary school in Shaker Heights found itself on the list last year for the first time but. In places like Solon, Shaker Heights, and Upper Arlington, where housing prices are high, the likelihood of a significant number of families suddenly opting for private schools is slim. Many of these residents pay high mortgages and property taxes because they want to send their children to the local public schools.
Second, we shouldn’t be rushing to change report cards just because of a larger-than-normal EdChoice designation list. Such a move would be a great example of the tail wagging the dog. Does Ohio’s accountability system need some adjustments? Certainly. Here at Fordham, we’ve made. But it would be irresponsible of state lawmakers to make drastic changes purely because a few districts are unhappy that their poor grades gave students more school options.
Finally, it’s important to realize that as long as educational opportunities are afforded based on academic performance measures, there will continue to be tension and pushback. The best path forward isn’t to ignore this controversy, but to resolve it by empowering more families who can’t afford to enroll their children in their school of choice the opportunity to do so based on their incomes instead of their schools’ report cards.
At Fordham,for income-based eligibility for a while. Income-based vouchers are vital because they help the students most in need of options. Low- and middle-income families are seldom able to just pick up and move to a new district. Charter schools also aren’t an option for many families because limit . That leaves private schools as the only alternative, but paying tuition without assistance would be a serious financial burden. So families often end up stuck, not just in poorly performing schools, but in schools that, regardless of their overall academics, don’t meet their student’s needs.
The good news is that, thanks to the recently passed, more children will soon be eligible for EdChoice scholarships. Starting in 2020–21, for example, the program will be to include low-income students in all grades. And the state is adding a new, year-round application window, as well as an automatic increase in the number of available scholarships if the number of applications exceeds 90 percent of the current cap.
But the work isn’t finished yet. If lawmakers want to escape the annual debate about what schools should be on the EdChoice-eligibility list, they should seriously contemplate how they can open the door of educational choice to more families. Rather than limiting families to a school that meets the state’s frequently changing definition of underperforming, we should commit to making it easier for parents to find a school that helps their child thrive.