School Choice and Satan

The Americans for Prosperity of the Koch Brothers held their little school choice event last night in Billings, and while it seemed to receive deservedly little press attention, I was struck by this quote from Greg Gianforte in KULR8’s coverage:

"School Choice will improve our public schools. It increases funding, per child, in those public schools, and it gives options to parents where the existing system doesn’t fit their child, and we can do this here in Montana."

Now, I’m not a home school math student, but taking money from the public schools to pay for unsupervised home schools, unaccountable, for-profit private schools, and unproven charter schools might offer choice, but it certainly won’t increase funding for public schools, as those schools are funded on a formula that’s largely dependent on student enrollment.

In addition to wholly unbelievable claims about the educational benefits of school choice, one of the real dangers of the movement is that it will take students from public schools, reducing the efficiency and number of programs those schools can offer.

And that’s before we get into the issue of religious instruction in schools. Over 80% of private school students attend religious schools. Will the school choice advocates unconstitutionally allow the state to decide which religions are worthy of state funding or can we expect to see schools of Santeria receiving state funds?

On a related note, one of the sites that did notice the school choice event aptly demonstrated the danger of home school spelling instruction.


I’m not sure why the former right wing for the Buffalo Sabres is so angry, but he should probably get spell check before going after my freedom.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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    • Assuming your premise is correct (which I don’t know), it would be easy to explain. Sweden doesn’t have the enormous socioeconomic gaps that the US has.

      Giving a $5,000 voucher to a rich family to send their kid to a $20,000 school is hardly going to improve education outcomes for most students.

        • For a republican who thinks that President Obama is turning all America into a european socialist style feudal state…. it never ceases to amaze me when Republicans cite the perfect socialism of other countries as a winning strategy, to make their Point????

          The state must approve private charter schools in Europe and Canada, anyone can enroll their kids, even the very poor, they are publically funded to a great extent, transparent, and under strict regulation to follow core teaching Principals……all that before they are allowed to teach the hidden joys of sect Religion or basket making .

      • In Alberta, where school choice is a hit the rich choose public.

        Alberta’s students regularly outshine those from other Canadian provinces: in 2004 national tests, Alberta’s 13- and 16-year-olds ranked first in mathematics and science, and third in writing. And in international tests they rank alongside the best in the world: in the OECD’s 2003 PISA study, the province’s 15-year-olds scored among the top four of 40 countries in mathematics, reading and science (see table)…

        There is currently a citywide push to ensure that all children in Edmonton can read competently by grade three (88% now can). Far from fearing private-school competition, the city’s public system has embraced it: it has already absorbed three private religious schools (two Christian, one Hebrew). “In Edmonton,” says Angus McBeath, the city’s recently retired schools chief, “the litmus test is that the rich send their kids to the public schools, not the private schools.”

        • I’m not worried about my school–or most of the big schools in Montana, for that matter. We can offer a program that a private school would have a hard time competing with.

          I think proposals like these vague calls for school choice could be devastating in small towns, though, where margins are already very thin.

          • I just saw the Montana results.

            Montana students have fallen short of this year’s benchmarks set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

            The testing goals require that 94.8 percent of students score proficient or above in reading, and 90 percent in math.

            Office of Public Instruction spokeswoman Allyson Hagen said Friday that 84 percent of Montana students tested as proficient in reading and 66 percent in math.

            Superintendent Denise Juneau says No Child Left Behind is a broken system and must be replaced with one that provides meaningful information to educators, parents, students and communities.

            The agency says Montana’s graduation rate increased from 82.2 percent to 83.9 percent during the 2011-2012 school year. The national graduation rate is 78.2 percent.

            The 2013 No Child Left Behind graduation rate goal is 85 percent.

            Moving the goal posts to get a score is not the answer. Comparing Montana with Alberta education school choice results cries out for a new approach. The small community problem has to have been already worked by the neighbors to the North.

            • What measurements are you using to compare Montana and Alberta?

              And I think you’re ignoring the elephant in the room. No child comes to school in Alberta too sick to learn because his parents couldn’t take him to the doctor, no child come in too hungry to learn.

              The social services provided by Canada, Finland, and Sweden are an EXCELLENT place to start.

              You’re absolutely right about moving goal posts. That’s exactly what NCLB does. Every year, more schools fail because the “passing grade” is more challenging.

  • If a school has 100 students, per student expenditures are X/100, where X is the total amount spent on everything, including salaries, admin, heat, light, books, what have you. If 10 students leave, expenditures are X/90 per student: more. More is spent, on a per student basis, on eg lighting. Not that the rooms are any brighter . . .

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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