kitchen table math, the sequel: good news

Saturday, March 7, 2009

good news

in today's Wall Street Journal:
Regarding William McGurn's Main Street column "Will Obama Stand Up for These Kids?" (March 3): The Opportunity Scholarship program was created in 2003, as a five-year pilot project designed to give District of Columbia students federally paid vouchers to attend private schools. More than 1,700 students are enrolled in a wide range of private institutions, some world class and others with substantial problems.

Reviews of the program by the Department of Education and Government Accountability Office have found "schools" (sometimes consisting of a single room in a church basement) with significant health and safety issues; teachers lacking basic college degrees or teaching credentials; and no demonstrable evidence that students are performing better than their public school counterparts.

I chair the subcommittee which oversees funding for the District of Columbia and have reviewed and funded this program since its creation. But the five-year pilot program expires at the end of this school year and in order for the program to continue, Congress must pass a bill reauthorizing it. That's not a "sneaky maneuver" on my part; that's the language of the law establishing the D.C. voucher program.

However, 1,700 school children shouldn't be forced out of schools because Congress fails to act. That's why I've funded the program for an additional year, allowing it to continue through the end of the 2009-2010 school year. This gives Congress an extra year to act. Sen. Joe Lieberman has promised a timely hearing on the program and an honest evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses.

If the program is reauthorized, and the district approves it, I will continue to see that it's funded.

Dick Durbin (D., Ill.)
Assistant Senate Majority Leader
Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee

Voices of School Choice
A Vote for Ignorance Chicago Tribune
Will Obama Stand Up for These Kids? Wall Street Journal
Voucher Subterfuge Washington Post
School Choice Has Media Mainstreamed CATO

President Bartlett signs on for vouchers
Senate votes down funding for DC vouchers


Anonymous said...

A close relative of mine attended a parochial school with 100 kids per class, one nun (no college classes or degree), no aides, and a solid education for every kid. That included kids who were just learning English and kids who today would be labelled special needs. I am not in the least convinced that a college degree or teaching credentials is in any way necessary in the early grades,even today. A TV and some good videos covers most of the necessary technology; think pyramid building, volcanic eruptions, art and music history etc. Just because an elementary program lives in a church basement and has limited technology doesn't make it bad.

Catherine Johnson said...

100 kids???


There's an interesting passage in Early Reading Instruction by Diane McGuinness about one of the first phonics programs, which was developed by a teacher who I believe had to teach 70 students to read in one classroom.

(I'll check the number.)

Needless to say, a program that can be used by one teacher to teach 70 kids to read blows anything our schools are using out of the water.

Unless they happen to be using a Scientifically Based Reading Research curriculum.

ElizabethB said...

Blend Phonics:

"In my first years at Oscoda a sudden influx of personnel at nearby Wurthsmith Air Force Base
resulted in over-crowding of the schools and we had more than 40 first-graders in a room. This,
together with the fact that I used phonics cautiously in a limited way, resulted in only fair
success. As class sizes were reduced to the low 30s and I felt free to give the children intensive
phonics training, the results were very gratifying. Only “recognition” textbooks were available
(Houghton, Mifflin series), but I spent at least a half hour daily in formal phonics training, which
I implemented in all reading classes.
At first I used the chalkboard for phonics instruction, but when I came across an overhead
projector that was not being used, I found it to be an ideal phonics-teaching tool."