A LYS Superintendent sends in the following:
1. There are those who want vouchers. The intent is to serve as a tax break to the wealthy. The guise of “parent choice” is their front story.
2. The desire for vouchers as a tax break for the wealthy has been around for decades and was strongly pushed by Milton Friedman in the 1950’s, decades before high stakes testing. 3. School testing and accountability may have begun as honest attempts to improve the quality of education. Some schools are indeed failing, but the idea that school failure is widespread and systemic is questionable. 4. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2002 in the Zelman case that vouchers may be legal if the voucher program met all five components of the Private Choice Test. (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639, 2002) 5. Point one of the Private Choice Test is that in order to be legal, school voucher programs must have a “valid secular purpose”. SCOTUS ruled that “providing educational assistance to poor children in a demonstrably failing public school system” satisfied the “valid secular purpose” provision. 6. The Zelman ruling is a roadmap for those trying to further the agenda of vouchers as tax breaks. It was quickly realized that in order to get voucher tax breaks in Texas, the public school system had to be “demonstrably failing.” 7. It can be argued that high stakes testing and accountability was initially implemented with good intentions, but voucher tax break proponents saw testing and accountability as a way to show that the Texas public school system is “demonstrably failing.” 8. In a parallel path, the business generated by “failing schools” went from cottage businesses to multi-billion dollar global industries. Former TEA Commissioner, Robert Scott, compares this new test building industry to the military industrial complex. 9. This has led to ever increasing test difficulty (TAAS to TAKS to STAAR) and accountability ratings so convoluted and complex that the general public and many professional educators do not understand the system. This was the engine that was used to show the Texas public school system is “demonstrably failing”. 10. In 2009, the Texas Projection Measure (TPM) was introduced. It was a method used to predict the likely success of students. According to TEA, TPM was 92% accurate. It is important to note that under TPM the number of “failing schools” fell by more than half. Also, TPM was implemented during the build up to an election year. Draw your own conclusions. 11. Once state elections were decided, the multi-billion dollar testing industry and the proponents of voucher tax breaks had a vested interest in the return of “failing schools.” TPM had to go. And it did. Quickly. 12. In 2012, the plan is almost complete. Voucher proponents are screaming “school choice” and “vouchers” marching behind the flag of “failing schools.” “Failing schools” that were created by their own design. Voucher proponents have almost satisfied Point One of the SCOTUS Private Choice Test. 13. True commitment to parent choice is questionable and it is more likely the true intention is to achieve voucher tax breaks for the wealthy. Putting the commitment to parent choice to the test is easy. Tomorrow, we will consider that test. Mike Seabolt Think. Work. Achieve.
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