Choice Within Public Schools, An Alternative to Education Savings Accounts - Granite Grok

Choice Within Public Schools, An Alternative to Education Savings Accounts

About School Choice

Every school is accountable to those who fund it.  Private schools are accountable to the parents who fund them.  If they start taking public funding, via Education Savings Accounts, then they must be accountable to the State.

Education Saving Accounts threaten the independence of private education.

The proposed Education Savings Account bill promises no regulation, but without oversight, funding scandals will occur and it will force regulation, possibly including mandatory testing.  Accountability to the public is not only reasonable but inevitable.

Public funding of private education undermines the independence of private education. Look at Sweden: they have publicly funded private schools that use the same curriculum as public schools.

Is the goal of Education Savings Accounts is to centralize control over education at the State level?   Looking down the road, the answer will be “yes”.

Education Savings Accounts under House Bill 20 will increase pressure for a Broad Based Tax.

The NH Department of Education projects savings of $36 to $39 million dollars a year from students taking Education Savings Accounts and leaving public schools. However, any savings will be quickly offset by an increase in funding for up to  22,000 private and homeschooled students, who may take Education Savings Account money. That could require up to $103 million dollars in additional state funding per year.

The unintended consequence may be an outcry for a broad based sales and/or income tax.

Why not offer parents an educational choice within the public school system and prevent problems?

Sure, it’s unreasonable to expect the current school boards to actually listen to parents as many members are beholden to the teachers’ unions. Many school board members take funding from and are endorsed by teachers’ unions. Voters haven’t paid much attention, at least until this year. Look around. Parents are beyond frustrated, trying to obtain an adequate education for their children while teachers refuse to return to the classroom.

Parents have been shocked by educational reforms that have been included in their child’s “remote” instruction. Many have objected, but no one’s listening. These programs have been quietly adopted via state and federal grants, i.e., bribes.

Things have been so bad this year that voters may finally value independent-minded school board members, who will listen to parents and change the direction of our public schools. New board members may be willing to create choice within the public school system.

Parent communities can be organized to design alternative programs for local public schools and work with their school principals to create alternative educational programs. It’s already being done in Canada.

Over the last 25 years, Edmonton public schools have offered students interesting Alternative Programs. The results have been phenomenally good. Check out the list of alternative programs at the Edmonton public schools, (page 18):

PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONS

Academic Alternative programming supports motivated students with above-average performance.

Advanced Placement is an internationally recognized program that allows students to experience college-or university-level courses while enrolled in high school.

amiskwaciy Academy programming immerses students in a learning environment that honours Aboriginal culture, language and traditions.

Arts Core incorporates the visual and performing arts into everyday learning. Students explore their creativity and self-expression through art, music, dance and drama.

Awasis (Cree) programming enables students to increase their knowledge of Aboriginal cultures and traditions, and develop language skills in Cree.

Bilingual Language Programs provide students with an opportunity to acquire or maintain proficiency in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), German, Hebrew, Spanish or Ukrainian. Programming is provided in the target language for up to 50 per cent of the school day.

American Sign Language is also an approved offering.

Caraway programming supports students in a learning environment that includes mixed-age groupings and instills a strong sense of community.

Child Study Centre programming takes an inquiry-and project-based approach to delivering curriculum.

Cogito programming is designed for students who want to achieve a high level of academic excellence in an environment that emphasizes structure and order.

Dance (Ballet) offered in affiliation with the Edmonton School of Ballet Society, balances dance training with classroom study.

Edmonton Christian Schools provide programming based on thematic, faith directed learning which integrates Biblical principles into all areas of study.

French Immersion students are initially taught in French 100 per cent of the time. Instruction offered in French gradually decreases as they progress through the grades. Students have the opportunity to achieve international language certification and recognition upon graduation. Late French Immersion is also available at the Grade 7 level.

International Baccalaureate Programme provides programming that emphasizes the development of the whole person and inter relatedness of knowledge and global awareness.

International Spanish Academy(see Bilingual Language Programs)

Logos provides programming within a non-denominational Christian environment grounded in Christian principles. Teacher-directed instruction, whole-group mastery learning and a knowledge-based curriculum are emphasized.

Meadowlark Christian School provides programming founded on the Christian worldview, and teaches students how to live their faith in the context of their local and broader community.

Millwoods Christian School offers families an opportunity to apply Christian philosophy to the entire learning experience.

Nellie McClung provides junior high programming for girls which emphasizes leadership, initiative, self-reliance and independence.

Pre-Advanced Placement provides junior high students with academically rigorous programming.

Sakinah Circle provides programming within the context of a Qur’anic worldview.

Science Alternative programming supports students in building academic skills through investigation and hands-on learning to understand how science shapes our world.

Sports Alternative programming enables student athletes to participate in rigorous sports training routines while remaining on track with their academic goals.

Talmud Torah offers an integrated program of Judaic and secular studies in a Hebrew Bilingual setting.

Traditional programming focuses on traditional values and goals of education and citizenship. Students receive direct instruction of basic skills in a structured learning environment.

Victoria School of the Arts programming allows students to pursue their academic studies while exploring their creativity and developing a passion for the arts.

Vimy Ridge Academy Alternative programming supports students in building academic skills, with an emphasis on global history and in-depth courses on Canada and its place in the world. An outdoor component promotes physical fitness, self-discipline and leadership.

This is a model for choice within the public school system. We could adjust the Edmonton model to include an elected school board for each alternative school program. These boards would work with local parent communities to design alternative programs, policies, and curriculum and to ensure local representation. A school-based board, working with a principal, would be the natural liaison between an individual school and the SAU / district school boards, which work with the superintendent.

Decentralizing the SAU / district ensures that parents have a stronger voice within their local school. This structural organization operates in much the same manner as the original district system, as it was designed in 1805.  Education in most states at that time was organized around a decentralized district system. With some modifications, the Edmonton alternative learning program provides guidance to restore genuine local control.

According to Horace Mann, who favored centralized education, the district system was the worst law ever. However, centralization isn’t working for many parents and students. Look around. Many parents are frustrated and ready to jump ship with Education Savings Accounts, or any other funding method.

Rather than approving Education Savings Accounts, let’s decentralize public schools. Parents could select from a wide range of educational options within the public schools once true local control is restored. Parents, teachers, and principals could create as many alternative programs as needed. As for access, students could attend the public school of their choice as is done in Edmonton, if there are available seats, or be placed on a wait list for the next opening.

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