Monday, March 08, 2010

Saving Catholic Schools


RiShawn Biddle (correctly) calls on centrist Dems to support vouchers:
This has Thomas B. Fordham Institute scholar Andy Smarick wishing that "we could give a little attention to preserving the high-performing, high-poverty private schools that are disappearing before our eyes."
Certainly the school reform movement -- especially centrist Democrats -- can claim stunning success in getting policymakers and even parents to embrace their prescriptions of standardized tests, stricter accountability measures, mayoral control of school districts, and expansion of charter schools. Even President Barack Obama has embraced reform through his $4.3 billion Race to the Top effort; the program has helped convince legislators and governors in states such as California to turn their back on their allies and eliminate restrictions on the geographic and demographic growth of charters. But even as they have spurred the creation of new charters, reformers are letting dissipate the other choices for poor urban and rural families to escape the worst traditional public education has to offer.
The number of Catholic schools in the United States -- 42 percent of which are located in big cities -- has declined by 12 percent between the 1998-1999 and 2008-2009 school years, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. But it isn't just diocesan and parish schools shutting down. Eleven hundred sixty-two urban parochial schools shut their doors between 2000 and 2006. The impact of these closures on urban poor and even middle-class families cannot be underestimated, especially given the success of parochial schools in improving student academic achievement, stemming dropouts and even sparking college completion. The average nine-year-old Catholic school student scored 8 percent higher on the 2007 NAEP than his counterpart in a traditional district; that gap remained constant among middle-school and high school students tested.
It is especially problematic given that other school choice options aren't nearly as plentiful. Intra-district choice options such as magnet schools -- long touted by Kahlenberg and others as the best solution over vouchers and charters -- hardly exist. When they do, these options usually end up being used by middle-class households, whose use their strong political connections (and exploit ability tracking systems that serve as the gateways into such schools) to assure seats for their own children.
‚ĶGiven the success of charters, Centrist Democrat school reformers can no longer argue against voucher plans. And if the ultimate goal is to assure that every child, no matter their race or wealth of their parents, has opportunities for high-quality education, then preserving Catholic and other parochial and private schools (and in turn, supporting voucher plans) is no longer just an option.  
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American Spectator article that effectively questions why Democrats who are pro school choice are anti voucher.

Saving Catholic Schools




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