During School Choice Week in January, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced two bills that would transform the public education system as we know it. By privatizing a majority of funds for public schools, The Scholarships for Kids Act (S. 1968/H.R. 4000) and The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education Act (S. 1909) (or the “CHOICE Act”) would together turn a significant amount of federal education funds into vouchers.
In the wake of School Choice Week, advocates took to their bully pulpits to rally support for state and federal school voucher programs. Supporters of vouchers in Congress have introduced new legislation that would redirect much-needed funding from public schools to private schools.
The Reform Movement has consistently opposed vouchers for many reasons, such as taxpayer funding for private education is essentially giving up on the public education system, and many of the private schools that receive government money are religious schools, thus violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and breaking down the separation between church and state.
Nothing says the end of January like school choice, right? January 26th kicked off “National School Choice Week,” a week of advocacy focused on different types of educational opportunities for children, from public schools, to charter schools, and above all, vouchers.
The term “school choice” and the language proponents use masks the detrimental effect that voucher programs have. Vouchers are a form of government subsidy given to parents to use towards tuition and other related expenses in private and parochial schools as an alternative to sending their children to underperforming public schools. From an purely education standpoint, vouchers are harmful because they redirect money from public schools to private schools – once the funds have gone to private schools, the general populace no longer has control over how the public money is spent. Ultimately, the “choice” in “school choice” lies with private school administrators, and not with parents. Read more…
In December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared that October 11 would henceforth be known as the International Day of the Girl. For its second year in existence, the theme of this year’s commemoration is education as a form of girls’ empowerment.
Over the past year, the face of girls’ education advocacy has been sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her activism in support of education for girls. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the attack on Malala, who fully recovered from her injuries and has become an important voice on this issue around the world. Her story reminds us of the real and present dangers that young women face when they demand a right that is theirs by birth: an education. Read more…
Education is fundamental to the Jewish soul. As a people we have fought to be able to continue learning even in the most difficult circumstances. In Israel, we are fortunate to have top-quality Jewish and secular education. Learning into adulthood is not feasible for most Israelis, but tens of thousands of men in the ultra-Orthodox community receive state support to continue their studies for their entire lives. This privilege is not available to all Israelis.
When I was a member of the Jerusalem City Council back in the 90s, I met a young woman who changed the way Israelis think about education. Jenny Baruchi was a student at the Hebrew University and, as a result of her mother being employed there as a cleaner, she was able to attend without paying tuition. In spite of this advantage, she was unable to finish in the usual period of three years; as a single mother, Jenny had to work at the same time to support herself and her family. Jenny turned Jerusalem on its head when she decided to sue for the right to receive the same living stipend that haredi men receive for studying in kollel (a religious school for married men).
Now, there are some who will say that the role of clergy should be to take care of the spiritual needs of congregants and not to become involved in politics. However, what has happened in North Carolina in just a few short months is appalling and has really hurt people; especially the most vulnerable in our society, the poor and the children.
To ignore this situation one would have to reject the teachings of the prophet Isaiah who taught (58:6): “No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness and untie the cords of the yoke; To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him and not to ignore your own kin.” Read more…
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act, which is an updated version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act bill (formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act) that outlines all of America’s federal education policies. Unfortunately, the bill’s reception has been almost as muddled as its ever-changing name; it was condemned by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and opposed by advocacy organizations including the National Education Association.