April 18, 2017

Economic Integration Versus Choice, Blaine, Bad Tax Policy, Good Interviews & Op-Eds, Charter Authorizing False Positives, More!

By Bellwether

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In The 74, Kate Pennington and I take a look at lousy tax policy and the ad hoc approach to education finance and compensation. It’s based on a California proposal to eliminate income tax for teachers there.

Here’s a preview of the SCOTUS education case this week – big implications for “Blaine” amendments in state constitutions. But, wait, there’s more! It could get tossed because of some policy changes in Missouri – where the case originated –  and there is a similar Colorado case that many anti-Blaine advocates think has a better fact pattern for them moving through the courts. Stay tuned.

Michael Bennet interview. Dan Katzir and Marcia Aaron on putting kids first.

Pushback on the pushback against the Rahm Emanuel – Arne Duncan idea/proposal to have kids have a post-high school plan. My take – in 140 characters! – here.

Keying off a recent Amy Wax essay Checker Finn also asks if “no excuses” schools are more effective than economic integration? They says yes. It’s provocative, but is this even the right question?

First, in case you haven’t been paying attention “no excuses,” which was less a model than a breed of schools with some similarities but also real differences, is now politically out of fashion So the variance of those schools is growing as they respond (and not only to politics but also to things learned through experience) and it’s unclear what the label even means now. A better question might just be school choice versus economic integration.

But I don’t even think that works. Because, second, fundamentally this is a false choice for two reasons. For starters, it’s easier to get people to move schools than move houses so there are some knotty realities to the economic integration issue that its proponents consistently ignore. The track record on expanding access to high-quality options through choice versus through economic integration is pretty one-sided in favor of choice.

More importantly, you can do both. Charters and plans to better integrate schools through various incentives are better understood as fellow-travelers in an effort to improve outcomes for low-income students than as competing options. Where they part ways is around the question of how much to just leave schooling choices to parents and how much to try to coerce those choices. But that ship has basically sailed everywhere except education advocacy circles. Parents like choice and what they really resist is being coerced into choices they don’t like. So it’s mostly an academic question.

Happily, policymakers can scratch both those itches. School districts can continue to try to draw school boundaries that as much as possible maximize economic integration. And in places where housing is more concentrated by income as well as in districts where it’s not, giving parents more choices is just a smart way to buy them into the system more and make them more loyal consumers rather than consumers of last resort.

In other words, other than using economic integration as a foil against choice or vice versa, which is more about politics than kids, I’m not sure why we have to choose here in the first place?

Here’s Fordham with an interesting study on charter authorizing and avoiding false positives. Barnum on it here.


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