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By Jessica Bakeman 8:19 a.m. | Jan. 18, 2016

TALLAHASSEE—Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported tax-credit funded scholarships that allow needy children to attend private schools. At least, his son thinks so.

“I would assume my father would support anything that lifted up and created opportunities for ‘the least of these,’” Martin Luther King III told POLITICO Florida during a recent phone interview, quoting the Bible. “I don’t think he would get caught up in the politics of it.”

The younger King, though, has waded into the complicated racial, religious and partisan politics of the controversial voucher-like program. On Tuesday, a day after the national holiday honoring his father, King will headline a Tallahassee rally promoting the program, putting himself at odds with Florida’s statewide teachers’ union as well as the state’s chapter of the NAACP.

With black and Hispanic religious leaders from around the state, King will call on the Florida Education Association to drop its lawsuit challenging the program, through which corporations get a 100 percent tax credit for donations to organizations that grant scholarships to low-income students.

National black and Hispanic education reform advocacy groups, as well as Florida-based coalitions of minority clergy, have denounced the union’s efforts to halt the scholarships. They argue the program provides opportunities for high-quality education to predominantly minority children who wouldn’t get it otherwise.

Prominent black religious leaders in the state, including those who run schools that benefit from the scholarship program, will also speak at the rally. Rev. R.B. Holmes of Tallahassee and Bishop Victor Curry of Miami, who is also former president of the Miami Dade chapter of the NAACP, will join King and other advocates at the intersection of Duval and Madison streets, near the east side of the Capitol, at 11:30 a.m.

King has been a national advocate for tax-credit scholarships since the late 1990s. But he was compelled to join the fight in Florida because he has worked with religious leaders in the state, he said.

He stressed that the debate shouldn’t be political.

He identifies as a Democrat but sometimes agrees with Republicans on certain issues, he said. While Republicans championed Florida’s voucher programs, Democrats have supported similar policies elsewhere. King specifically referenced a legislative fight over tax-credit scholarships in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has been a proponent.

“It is partisan, but it shouldn’t be. That’s part of the problem,” he said. “According to who brings an issue to the table, people will get up and support it. It shouldn’t be based on that. It should be based on whether the kids are performing or not.

“This is not the way that it works, because politics is in everything, but if we could get the politics out of it and stop looking at the politics of who is this going to hurt or help and look at what is in the best interest of kids and families, I think these issues can be addressed,” King said.

King said he disagrees with the leaders of Florida’s NAACP chapter, who oppose the scholarship program.

Adora Obi Nweze, president of the state’s NAACP chapter, said earlier this month the group objects to the fact that not all of Florida’s students have access to the opportunity.

“All children cannot go to a charter school, or they can’t have a voucher, so you’re picking and choosing,” Nweze said. “And that is a policy we can’t support.”

King said the argument “may have some merit,” but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

“A significant number of those children happen to be children who are of color, meaning blacks, Latinos and Hispanics,” he said. “It is open to all children, but many of them are in poor families and, generally, poor families do not have the same options that others might have in our society. I think sometimes we have to balance out the equation. While this might not be available, historically, to someone who is wealthy, that person doesn’t need this kind of situation because they already have options because of their status in life.”

He said there is a “natural marriage” between the NAACP and unions, and he suspects that’s why the organization has supported FEA’s lawsuit.

The union has argued the program is unconstitutional, contending it creates a parallel and inferior system of public education, siphons resources from the traditional public schools that serve the most disadvantaged students and violates the separation of church and state.

“We’re concerned about making sure that everybody has access to a high-quality free public schools,” FEA president Joanne McCall said during a recent interview. “People can tell me all day to drop the suit, but it’s the hands of the court at this point. If they’re telling me to drop the suit, they might be a little worried about it.”

King said he supports public education and doesn’t believe his advocacy for tax-credit scholarships negates that. He wants “options” for children, he said, adding that he avoids the politicized term, “choice.”

“My view is, there is room for both,” he said. “It’s not an either-or. It should never have been framed that way. The question is, what is the best thing for the kids of our nation?

“We certainly have public schools that some will go to and do well, but we also have other options,” he said. “Some people need a targeted kind of learning. They need a different approach, like charter schools. There are virtual classrooms that some will do well in. The reality is, if there are no options, if there is just one particular standard, then someone is going to fall through the cracks, as we’ve seen.”

At one point, King likened students at traditional public schools to “a herd of cattle, running through on one pathway.”

Without educational innovation, the U.S. will struggle to compete globally, he argued.

“If our education system does not continue to improve and be enhanced and be innovative and almost be revolutionary, then we will continue to lose our place in the world,” he said.

“One of the things my dad and mom worked on throughout their lives was the eradication of poverty,” he said. “Although we have made strides as a nation, the issue is at epidemic levels now. [We need to] address this issue, starting with our children in kindergarten.”

Original Source

By Corbin Carson | January 7, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

PHOENIX — A recent poll found that the topic of education ranks among one of the highest priorities with Arizona Voters, according to the non-profit organization Expect More Arizona.

Expect More Arizona President and CEO Pearl Chang Esau said education ranked higher among the 600 surveyed state voters than the economy or immigration.

“In the past, when we have polled Arizona’s likely voters, education has typically been either No. 2 or No. 3 on the list, ranking below other things like the economy and immigration,” she said.

Education came in at 41 percent with immigration/border security at 12 percent and the economy at 10 percent. Chang Esau said the survey also asked voters about the most important issues within the topic of education.

“We also asked them what they thought were the top two issues within education, and the No. 1 issue was the need for increasing education funding,” she said. “The No. 2 issue, which ranked high across all political parties, was increasing teacher pay.”

Chang Esau said 87 percent of Arizonans strongly believe funding for Career and Technical Education programs is an important priority, she said. Those programs help students receive real-world training while preparing them for the future.

“If you just look at the data for Career and Technical Education programs, they’re graduating students at far greater rates than our state average,” she said. “In fact, in the mid-90 (percent).”

“So what we’re seeing is that voters in Arizona believe that education is important for everybody’s quality of life,” Esau said.

The survey also found 85 percent of voters support efforts to close the achievement gap, 92 percent want to focus on ensuring students have access to “great” education officials and 81 percent thing schools should have additional funding to serve low-income students.

http://ktar.com/story/841773/poll-finds-education-ranks-among-highest-priority-with-arizona-voters/

Goldwater Institute, Foundation for Excellence in Education, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, American Federation for Children File Supporting Brief Asking Supreme Court to Hear Case on Douglas County, Colorado School Voucher Program

Washington—Four non-profit organizations dedicated to ensuring all American children attend a school that challenges them and prepares them for the future have filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case that would overturn “Blaine Amendments” in state constitutions and remove the chief obstacle to school vouchers in all 50 states.

In 2011, the Douglas County, Colorado elected school board created the nation’s first school board-approved school voucher program. The program allowed all students who had been enrolled in a Douglas County public school the previous school year to apply for a tuition scholarship to attend a private school of their choice. The pilot program was capped at 500 students per year and many more families applied than were given scholarships.

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against the program on the basis that it violated the state constitution’s “Blaine Amendment,” which blocks public funds from being given to religious institutions or schools. Even though these scholarships were given directly to parents, not to a religious school, the state Supreme Court ultimately struck the program down as a violation of the Blaine Amendment.

Blaine Amendments were inserted into many state constitutions, sometimes as a pre-condition for admittance into the union, at a time when anti-Catholic bigotry raged throughout the country. The amendments were specifically designed to prevent Catholics from using public resources to educate their children in Catholic schools.

While school vouchers have been upheld as constitutional at the federal level by the Supreme Court (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in 2002), several state courts in addition to Colorado’s have used Blaine Amendments to strike down state-funded school voucher programs.

Supporters of the Douglas County tuition scholarship program have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and strike down Blaine Amendments in all states. If successful, this would clear the way for school vouchers in all 50 states. Half of all states currently have school voucher programs in place.

Blaine Amendments can be found in 37 state constitutions: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

In their amicus brief, the Goldwater Institute, Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, and American Federation for Children ask the Supreme Court to hear the case and, ultimately, strike down the Blaine Amendments.

“The educational opportunities of millions of American schoolchildren are jeopardized by the Blaine amendments,” says Clint Bolick, the vice president of litigation at the Goldwater Institute and author of the amicus brief. “In states with robust private school choice programs, like Florida, data shows that the racial achievement gap is closing and thousands more disadvantaged students are going to college.”

“The Blaine Amendment is an archaic and ill-designed provision designed to sanction state-sponsored discrimination,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd. “Shamefully, the ACLU and others have embraced this bigoted legacy. It is with great pride that our Foundation joins this effort to preserve the individual rights and liberties of all families, regardless of income, to pursue a brighter future for their children.”

“This case could represent an important breakthrough in securing educational opportunities for children who today are trapped in failing schools,” said Julio Fuentes, the president of Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options.

“Every child deserves the opportunity to access a quality education that suits their needs,” said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children. “This lawsuit challenges an outdated law rooted in bigotry. AFC is honored to work with this coalition to break down barriers to options and choice in education, and empower countless families with the ability to take control of their child’s education and reach their full potential.”

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About the Goldwater Institute

The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona. Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.

About ExcelinEd

The Foundation for Excellence in Education is transforming education for the 21st century economy by working with lawmakers, policymakers, educators and parents to advance education reform across America. ExcelinEd is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Learn more at ExcelinEd.org.

About HCREO

Founded in 2001, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options addresses the crisis in Hispanic education by providing parents with free information and resources to guide them in becoming advocates for their children. Hispanic CREO is the only national public policy Hispanic organization dedicated solely to K-12 education reform to advocate for parents and children. Hispanics are the most undereducated minority group in the United States.

About the American Federation for Children

American Federation for Children is the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization and works in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families.

By: Hank Stephenson October 26, 2015, 4:00 pm

 Details emerge on K-12 settlement deal

According to multiple sources briefed on the matter, the deal that Gov. Doug Ducey, legislative Republican leaders and school groups have reached to end a years-long lawsuit over education funding has five essential components:

-Resetting the K-12 base level funding.

-Modifying how much inflation money is paid each year.

-Implementing economic and budgetary triggers for when the inflation funding would be required.

-Implementing a version of Ducey’s proposal to increase school spending from the state land trust.

-A decade of spending largely focused on increasing teacher pay.

First, the plan would settle the lawsuit by paying out $249 million in the current fiscal year to rest the base level funding to $3,600. A court last year ruled the state owed $336 million to reset the base funding, and the Legislature this year made a partial payment of $74 million.

The deal would absolve lawmakers of the $1.3 billion that were illegally withheld from public schools between 2010 and 2013.

Second, the tentative deal would tweak the voter-approved law that requires annual inflation increases to schools of up to two percent by adding mechanisms to allow lawmakers some wiggle room in future economic downturns.

The triggers would exempt lawmakers from increasing funding for inflation if sales tax growth and employment growth are both less than one percent, and would give them the discretion to suspend increases if sales tax growth and employment growth are less than two percent.

The inflation funding requirement would also be suspended – and lawmakers would be allowed to cut education funding by same amount as the previous year’s inflation increase – if total K-12 general fund appropriations reaches 49 percent of the total general fund revenues. If K-12 appropriations reach 50 percent or more of revenues, lawmakers would be allowed to cut education funding by twice the previous year’s inflation increase.

Third, Ducey’s land trust plan would be modified to a flat 6.9 percent distribution for 10 years, as opposed to the governor’s original proposal of 10 percent for the first five years and 5 percent for the following five years. The plan would still pay out roughly $2.2 billion over the 10-year span.

Finally, the plan would commit lawmakers to additional general fund appropriations for education for the next 10 years. Under the settlement, lawmakers would agree to $50 million per year through 2020 and $75 million of additional funding from 2021 through 2026. That money would not be included in the annual calculations for inflation.

In return, plaintiffs in Cave Creek v. DeWit would agree to drop both the back payments and base funding reset portions of the lawsuit.

 

 

PHOENIX – The Arizona Board of Education has voted to reject Common Core, but for the time being leave its standards in place.

The Board voted 6-2 Monday morning.

 

New poll shows strong support for school choice programs in Arizona

Majority expressed that school choice should be an option for every Arizona student

PHOENIX (Oct. 20, 2015) — The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, highlighted the results of a statewide poll conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research group. The results show 63% of likely Arizona voters favor school choice in general, and 64% said all students in Arizona deserve to have access to school choice programs. Results also show strong support for school tuition organizations in the state’s Tuition Tax Credit program. In addition, a majority of people supported the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, which is Arizona’s version of education savings accounts.

“The poll clearly demonstrates the support for both school choice as a concept and the specific programs parents are using so their child can learn in the best environment for their individual needs,” said Kevin Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children. “This is extremely valuable information as lawmakers address high-priority education issues in Arizona, and we believe the results show that school choice should be a major portion of the discussion.”

On Oct. 14 and 15, live interviews were conducted with 501 likely voters across the state. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.

Out of the 63% of people who support school choice, more than half of them say they strongly support school choice.

Poll Question:

School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s K through twelve education to send their child to the public, charter, or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say that you have a favorable or unfavorableimpression of the concept of school choice?
The state’s School Tuition Organizations and Tuition Tax Credit program were supported by 65% of people polled.

Poll Question:
As you may know, Arizona’s School Tuition Organization Scholarship Tax Credit program allows taxpayers a dollar for dollar tax credit for donations to school tuition organizations or STOs. STOs provide scholarships to children to attend the K through twelve private school of their families choosing. Would you say yousupport or oppose the STO Scholarship Tax Credit program?
Additionally, charter schools were favored by 69% of those polled as a good school choice option for students.
As Gov. Ducey and the legislature prepare for a special session to deal with education funding proposals, AFC will be releasing further polling results relevant to that discussion.

Click here for a memo from Matt Gammon, vice president at Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, detailing poll findings in reference to this news release.

The Arizona Federation for Children is the state affiliate of the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice.

Original article

DC: The House of Representatives narrowly passed a bipartisan bill

DC: The House of Representatives narrowly passed a bipartisan bill that would extend the District’s vouchers program. Several local politicians sent a letter to protest the measure, saying they would rather control the money than let families do so. Interesting fact: Almost all voucher students graduate and only 58 percent of district students do.

Patrick Asks Senators to Study School Choice

TEXAS: Every single one of this charter network’s 541 graduates from this spring is attending college this fall (except two who entered the military). Approximately 30,000 children are on a waitlist to attend these schools, which have room for only 7,000 students. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked state lawmakers to study private school choice programs nationwide as preparation for the upcoming legislative session.

Public school vouchers: Where are the campaigns?

OPEN ENROLLMENT: Fifty-five percent of the nation’s 100 largest school districts now let families choose among district schools, more than double that proportion of 15 years ago, finds a new study. The report authors recommend calling this attachment of public dollars to individual kids within the government system “public-school vouchers.”

Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States Ranking and Scorecard 2015

EXCELLENT LINK BELOW!

Of the 16 states that have education tax credit programs, only five earn grades of A or B on the second edition of Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States, Ranking and Scorecard 2015 released September 30, 2015 by The Center for Education Reform (CER).

The report provides analysis and state-by-state comparisons, ranking states not only based on the law itself, but real results of programs. The Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States, Ranking and Scorecard 2015 methodology has been revamped from last year’s analysis, placing greater emphasis on participation and implementation, and taking a deeper look at rules and regulations governing programs.

Click here to read School Choice Today: Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States 2015 Ranking and Scorecard