Friday, June 1, 2018

Empower Mississippi to Bill Crawford: School Choice not an Entitlement but Pre-K is.

Empower Mississippi's Grant Callen submitted this column in response to Bill Crawford's column last Sunday about Empower Mississippi's promotion of school choice.

Earlier this week, columnist Bill Crawford penned a piece arguing that school choice proposals authored in recent legislative sessions are not conservative because they represent a “new entitlement.” Instead, Crawford favors publicly funded Pre-K as the best fix for Mississippi’s public education woes.

Here’s why he’s wrong.

 To be a new entitlement the Legislature would have to appropriate more money for school choice than it already does for K-12 education. Yet school choice does not require more money – it simply proposes that taxpayers get more bang for their buck with existing funds.

Choice proposals transfer decision-making power to parents and subscribe to the conservative principle that people closest to a problem are the best people to fix it.

Many happily choose traditional public schools, but that choice is largely reserved for those who can afford it. Low-income families who lack the resources to move to neighborhoods with better schools or pay for private school tuition are often trapped in a school someone else chose for them.

School choice levels the playing field, promoting equality of opportunity for all.

What could be more appealing to political conservatives…or liberals…than that?

School choice also introduces a healthy dose of competition into a system with all the problems of a monopoly, namely that overwhelmed operators can get away with offering a mediocre, poor, or even abysmal education because many of their customers can’t go elsewhere.

Crawford argues that increased funding won’t fix public education. On this point we agree. This debate is all about who can spend tax dollars already earmarked for your child’s education more thoughtfully – you or someone tasked with serving every child? About who deserves the freedom to pivot and make a different choice when necessary – you or someone who doesn’t know your child at all?

The idea that public school students will lose in a competitive environment is not only ludicrous but handily disproven by the evidence. An expansive body of gold standard empirical research demonstrates that school choice programs not only benefit the students who opt out of public school, but also those students who stay.

School choice programs across the nation and here in Mississippi are producing more satisfied parents, more successful students, and higher expectations for all schools, both private and public. Yes, students perform better academically, but they also persist and graduate at higher rates, find good jobs, and stay out of prison.
For them, the American dream looks attainable. Why not give all students the same hope, regardless of socioeconomic status or their zip code?

Furthermore, in a choice-friendly environment, everyone – students, parents, administrators, teachers, and innovators – benefits from the increased interest in quality and focus on true accountability.

Now, what about Crawford’s preference for public Pre-K? Whether or not you agree with his claims about its advantages, one fact remains: Creating a public Pre-K program in Mississippi would cost millions and millions of new tax dollars while ignoring altogether the issues plaguing K-12 public education. And if that’s not a new entitlement, I don’t know what is.

School choice is not a silver bullet, but it offers the most promise for the least money and the least amount of effort. It relies on the money, decisionmakers, entrepreneurial spirit, and market forces already in place and has the potential to make a difference in the lives of young Americans from day one.
Grant Callen is the Founder and President of Empower Mississippi, an independent, nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to changing laws that limit opportunity so Mississippians can flourish.


Anonymous said...

Well he is certainly right that universal pre-k is a big ol liberal entitlement program that will cost a boatload of money.

Anonymous said...

But who are his constituents and how will they benefit from his position? Claiming to support the "greatest good for the greatest number" makes great political rhetoric but with a 'wink and nod' to his constituents they will recognize who will really benefit.

Anonymous said...

The wealthy benefit from "school choice" already since they can afford to pay taxes for public school and extra out of pocket for a private education. Lower- and middle-income people stand to benefit the most from school choice proposals.

Anonymous said...

This will lead to averaging. Lowest common denominator kind of thing. While possibly bringing some students up, you will more than likely bring more students down.

Anonymous said...

9:50 a.m., In what way? Are you asserting that lower income children are less intelligent and that having them learn alongside higher income children will somehow dumb down or negatively affect the higher income children?

Anonymous said...

Pre-K is a taxpayer funded babysitting service.
K is a taxpayer funded babysitting service.

These were created by vote pandering politicians under the guise "it's for the children."

It's all waste, fraud, and abuse, just like Head-Start.

Anonymous said...

Who’s going to cover the difference in my home value after a school choice bill? You pay more for a house to be in a better school district and with school choice that extra expense is no longer needed.

Anonymous said...

@10:51 Absolutely correct.

Anonymous said...

All for school choice, but how would the busing logistics work? If you choose to send your kids out of your local public school (say living in south Jackson and redeeming voucher at Germantown) would you then be responsible for their transportation as well? I don't see any other way. Low income families with two working parents or single parent households would still have some challenges to overcome JPS, albeit much better than the status quo.

Anonymous said...

A good Pre-K program is an absolute great deal. And this is spoken from a true conservative. Note - I did not say that such program had to be funded by the government; that's another discussion.

But to assume that Pre-K is nothing but babysitting depends on what Pre-K program you are evaluating. When done properly and with quality teachers (not babysitters) the advantage of the kids coming out of such a program is immeasurable compared to those that dont.

Don't just demean the concept because there are examples that fail in their delivery. Same is true for K-12, CC, and Sr. Colleges. If you want to question the expenditure issues do that just as you would the other levels of school.

Where Bill's column was off base was in promoting Pre-K while opposing choice. Why not allow the use of choice to select your Pre-K provider, Bill?

Anonymous said...

@10:24 yeah pretty much.

Maybe not based upon income but those who don’t take education as serious as other groups of people. You may not like it but it’s the truth. Different classes of people put more importance on different things. Too bad but it’s the truth. Yes there are exceptions in all cases but if you think having a bunch of kinds from low income schools start coming to brandon or Madison or other schools without bringing the problems they encounter in those schools with them, then ignorance truest is bliss. Call me anything you want to, but I’m right and everyone here knows it. When has bringing in lower performing anything and integrating it with higher performing something ever worked without dumbing down the higher performing thing? I’ll patiently await your answer.

Anonymous said...

10:24 do you believe that someone has to pick up garbage and pave roads(sorry not funny because #JXN), or should veryone be a doctor or college grad?

Anonymous said...


That’s exactly correct. My child is ahead of the curve because I take the time to read to him every night, My wife reads to him during the day, we feed him healthy meals that are good for brain development, and we closely monitor what he is exposed to on tv. Most, not all but most, poor families just don’t care, and the result is they have stupid kids. Sending the stupid kids to school with children from more involved families will dumb down all of the children.

Anonymous said...

Surely the State isn’t dumb enough to send the Jackson kids to the schools in Madison. That would be the last straw for most people. More private schools would pop up, and more people would leave the state.

bill said...

10:24/11:51, remember, the kids who will be choosing to change schools are the ones with parents who care and want them to get a better education. They're a lot less likely to bring the type of baggage you're talking about than a randomly chosen child from a failing school.

Anonymous said...

For this to have a chance to work, you would need to start with first grade the first year, and slowly add a grade so they would start from the beginning at a higher performing school.

Anonymous said...

@2:17(Bill). What or who's to say that's the case? Are their checks and balances to make certain that those from other districts advance themselves like maintain a certain GPA? What is to say that these kids go to say Madison Central "Just Because".

Anonymous said...

“school choice programs across the nation and here in Mississippi are producing more satisfied parents, more successful students, and higher expectations for all schools, both private and public.” This is Betsy DeVos BS. How ‘bout some evidence to support this statement, not anecdotes but research.

Anonymous said...

The demographics of Mississippi mean you can not compare it to any other State. Keep Jackson kids out of Madison schools.

Anonymous said...

NOTHING forces a Madison or Rankin county school to accept, for instance, a JPS student with a voucher. Anyone who tells you otherwise is fear mongering.

Anonymous said...

Wow at the elitist here that think their precious, so smart offspring will be polluted by children from families with less, hope you can keep that perfect bubble intact always.

My question and concern as a teacher in a crowded A district, is how can our districts take on masses of new students when we are already dealing with space and building issues?

Anonymous said...

10:51 You should consider that the children without good parents or access to " babysitters" will grow up one day and could become the citizens you love to hate.

10:24 your child's brain is like a computer...garbage in, garbage out.

Poor kids can excel , rich kids can fail, and kids with high IQs can be fed enough garbage by their parents to believe in really stupid things like that all whites or people with wealth are genetically superior in baseless conspiracy theories.

All of you should read the Wall Street Journal article on The Overprotected American Child.

And all Americans should believe that our children should not be hampered in succeeding based on their merits. Equal is equal opportunity not being born with equal abilities.

bill said...

3:33, common sense. Why on earth would a child want to go to the trouble of moving to another school "just because"? School choice programs are designed to help the students who want to be helped, and it's not likely that someone will go to the trouble to utilize school choice "just because".

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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