After quite a bit of bad news on school vouchers on the state level of late, we can finally report a positive development thanks to a U.S. Senate Committee: A federal voucher ploy has been defeated!
Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was considering amendments to S. 1094, the “Strengthening America’s Schools Act,” which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C) introduced an amendment that would have allowed states to turn their Title I funds into giant voucher programs. It would have permitted any child whose income threshold qualifies his or her public school to receive Title I funds to take the allotment and use it toward tuition at religious and other private schools.
In 2009-2010, 56,000 public schools received Title I funds on behalf of 21 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It is not known exactly how much taxpayer money the Paul/Scott amendment would have cost, but the entire program received over $14 billion in fiscal 2012, according to the Washington, D.C.-based New America Foundation.
Passage of this amendment, which was backed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking HELP Committee Republican, could have dealt a serious blow to public education given the amount of money and students involved.
Billions of public dollars could have been diverted to religious schools that are allowed to indoctrinate and discriminate, all while being free of the standards to which public schools are accountable.
Fortunately HELP Committee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) saw through the voucher scheme, as did all the other Democrats on the committee. Two Republicans, Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), also voted against the ploy, which failed 8-14.
Unfortunately this is probably not the end for federal voucher proposals, given that Alexander told The New York Times last week that he and Paul would introduce a similar amendment to the one that failed once S. 1094 comes up for a Senate floor vote.
As many courts and cases have demonstrated, school children don’t have full rights to free speech while attending school. The argument and subsequent arrest demonstrate that the student was being disruptive.
An eighth-grade student was suspended and arrested after getting into an argument with his teacher about a National Rifle Association t-shirt he was wearing.
CBS affiliate WOWK-TV reports that Jared Marcum wore an NRA t-shirt that displayed a gun to Logan Middle School. A teacher questioned Marcum about the shirt, which ultimately led to his arrest and suspension.
“I don’t see how anybody would have an issue with a hunting rifle and NRA put on a T-shirt, especially when policy doesn’t forbid it,” Allen Lardieri, Jared’s father, told WOWK.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price issued an order this morning blocking a controversial school choice bill from being sent to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature today.
Legislative staff would have sent the bill to Bentley shortly after lawmakers convened at 1 p.m. Bentley planned to sign the bill this afternoon. Price issued his order shortly before 11 a.m.
The Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit Monday night seeking to stop the legislation that would give parents zoned for “failing” schools an estimated $3,500 income tax credit to help pay for tuition at a private school or another public school.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a taxpayer and claims that the Republican majority violated the Open Meetings Act when the tax credit program was added to a bill in conference committee with little discussion.
“When the conference committee goes off and takes a break and comes back and they’ve got a 27-page bill. We’re saying they met and had an illegal meeting,” said lawyer James Anderson.
A problem with the NCPL position might be that they are challenging a practice (a hands-over-head stretch) that isn’t religious in and of itself. The hands-over-head stretch only becomes religious in the context of a larger tradition. In this sense, stopping kids from yoga stretching because it is religious in some contexts makes about as much sense as banning kids from shaving their heads simply because it reminds you of Buddhism.
However, the organizational test raises more serious concerns in this case. Encinitas’ yoga program is partially funded by a grant from the Jois Foundation, which is contributing to teachers’ salaries, curriculum development, and even yoga mats. The Foundation is associated with the family of the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, a yoga teacher who popularized a form of yoga called Ashtanga. Mary Eady and the ADF claim that the Jois Foundation is a religious organization. The director of the Jois Foundation, Eugene Ruffin, says it is not.
“Our organization is made up primarily of people who are members of the Abrahamic faiths,” Ruffin told me. But consider the Jois Foundation’s relationship to the K. P. Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, an organization whose web page asserts that yoga practice helps to burn away the “six poisons” that surround the “spiritual heart.” Talk of “spiritual elevation” and “sacred beads” does not help the case that this is a non-religious group.
Ruffin insists the two organizations are legally separate, with distinct board memberships. But the Jois family is affiliated with both, and practitioners who have been affiliated with the Institute have also had a voice in the Foundation and its curriculum development. At least one major funding source for the Foundation (donors Sonia and Paul Tudor Jones) has also been involved with the Institute.
So let’s suppose that we are dealing with a group that is in some way tinged with religion. That in itself is not necessarily a deal-breaker: we wouldn’t turn away soup made for the school cafeteria, for example, just because it was made by Lutherans. In my view, the Organization Test really turns on two questions. First, is the program organized in such a way that it is accountable in a real and meaningful way to the school, and not the religious group? Second, does the partnership involve an entanglement between the school system and the religious group that could foreseeably involve state involvement in or endorsement of religion?
In the yoga case, both of these concerns have merit. In this particular instance, though, the Encinitas school district has an effective response to the first concern. The management and administration of the yoga program, the school insists, is internal. Assistant Superintendent Miyashiro, who has no connection with the Jois Foundation, sets the curriculum, helps choose the teachers, and monitors the results. He has the authority and the resources in place to manage the program and ensure that its content and execution it is answerable to the school. The school district has set up a line of accountability that is largely separate from the organization. Once the curriculum is developed, it will be public, rather than belonging to the Jois Foundation, and will be free for any public school to adopt.
The second line of concern is perhaps more difficult. The Jois Foundation has made it quite clear that it sees the program in Encinitas as a beachhead for the eventual development of a much larger program that would put yoga in schools across the country, potentially giving the Jois Foundation a broader influence on public education as a whole.
“National School Choice Week” treated us to an avalanche of propaganda for vouchers, neo-vouchers and other expressions of so-called “educational choice.”
It’s all a lie, of course. This is not about “choice.” It’s about funding religious and other private schools with taxpayer dollars and ultimately destroying the public school system.
If you think the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos are in this just to help to some poor kid in the inner city, they’ve got a privatized bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you.
Fortunately, Americans United and other advocates of public schools and church-state separation have been spreading an alternative message: School vouchers are a constitutional and public policy disaster.
AU has waged a Twitter campaign this week to expose the voucher forces’ prevarications. And we’ve put up a special webpage to outline the facts about vouchers. (We have a tumblr page you might enjoy as well.)
Others are weighing in, too.
* Journalist Barbara J. Miner says vouchers in Milwaukee have been “an educational policy disaster.”
* The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law says vouchers undercut civil rights and “violate the promise of equality.”
* Anti-creationism crusader Zack Kopplin says vouchers subsidize private religious schools that teach fundamentalist doctrines instead of sound science.
* Patrick Elliott, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says voucher-subsidized private schools in Milwaukee indoctrinate children in religious beliefs but often offer poor academic instruction. Clara Mohammed School, for example, takes children on a “Qu’ran-guided journey” but fails to take them anywhere else. “It is funded,” says Elliott, “almost exclusively through vouchers. In 2011, only 0.8% of its students -1 out of 123 - tested proficient in math and 5.7% tested proficient in reading on state exams.”
By now you have of course heard all the scary predictions coming from the Right about how this country is doomed if Obama is re-elected. About how America will become a socialist dictatorship, will give up its sovereignty to the U.N., all guns will be banned, and Christians locked up as the Muslims take over, etc, etc…
The funny thing is that we have heard all of this before, back when Obama first ran for office back in 2008. The vast majority of these scenarios were promoted by the so called ‘Christian’ Right and were hyped relentlessly by their websites and media channels. Today we see history repeating itself as similar predictions are made, perpetrated by the same groups of people. I wanted to take a look back to see which if any of their predictions actually came true.
When I started thinking back and trying to recall all of the doomsday predictions made about an Obama Presidency I immediately felt overwhelmed. There were just so many of them, made by so many different people and groups, I wasn’t sure I would be able to remember many of them, much less locate them for reference.
Fortunately for me my search almost immediately led me to a great source of scary Obama predictions all conveniently packaged together. One that even includes citations helpful in locating where many of these fearful scenarios originated from.
In 2008 Focus on the Family published a fictional ‘Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America’ (.pdf) that purports itself as being from a Christian in the future scary world of Oct. 2012. It describes what they thought 2012 would be like under the Obama administration from a Christian Right perspective…
I can hardly sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ any more. When I hear the words,
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, ‘Yes,’ to that question. We are not ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.
The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.
Ominous opening ehh?
The Supreme Court
…The decisive changes on the Supreme Court started in June, when Justice Kennedy resigned – he was 72 and had grown weary of the unrelenting responsibility. His replacement – another young liberal Obama appointment – gave a 5-4 majority to justices who were eager to
create laws from the bench…
…Then in August 2009, two months after Kennedy resigned, Justice Scalia unexpectedly announced his resignation due to health reasons and by October 2009 another Obama appointment took his oath and joined the court…
…Finally the far-Left had the highest prize: complete control of the Supreme Court. And they set about quickly to expedite cases by which they would enact the entire agenda of the far Left in American politics – everything they had hoped for and more took just a few key decisions.
Nope, never happened, instead we got “corporations are people my friend” AKA ‘Citizens United.’ However if it had happened then they claim it would have led to…
The most far-reaching transformation of American society came from the Supreme Court’s stunning affirmation, in early 2010, that homosexual ‘marriage’ was a ‘constitutional’ right that had to be respected by all 50 states because laws barring same-sex ‘marriage’ violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution…
…After that decision, many other policies changed, and several previous Supreme Court cases were reversed rather quickly — raising the question, ‘Is America still the land of the free?’
Now that a proper background has been set for how the following things “could happen” they begin to list their nightmare fantasies for the country under Obama.
(1) Boy Scouts: ‘The land of the free’?
The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with
…It had become increasingly difficult for the Boy Scouts to find meeting places anyway, because in 2009 Congress passed and President Obama signed an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extended federal civil rights protections to people engaging in homosexual behavior. So the Boy Scouts had already been kicked out of all public facilities.
Apparently in the “future” scoutmasters are “hired” (and paid?) but they cannot afford their own tents? Also, since the majority of Scout activities are held in church owned properties I wonder if they are not actually at greater risk of losing their facilities by recognizing homosexual members?
(2) Elementary schools: ‘The land of the free’?
Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to ‘opt out’ their children
from such sessions, but the courts have ruled they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health…
…Tens of thousands of Christian teachers either quit or were fired…
…they quit by the thousands, no matter the personal cost, rather than commit what they believed to be a direct sin against God…
…private Christian schools decided to shut down after the Supreme Court
ruled that anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation extended to private institutions such as schools, and that private schools also had to obey the law and teach that homosexuality and heterosexuality are both morally good choices.
Private schools are currently a hugh growth industry, especially the “Christian faith based” ones, now that federal and state education money is available to them in many cases.
(3) Adoption agencies: ‘The land of the free’?
There are no more Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant adoption agencies in the United States. Following earlier rulings in New York and Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that these agencies had to agree to place children with homosexual couples or lose their licenses…
…Christian parents seeking to adopt have tried going through secular adoption agencies, but they are increasingly excluding parents with ‘narrow’ or dangerous views on religion or homosexuality.
Anyway this assumes that keeping a child out of a loving and affluent home simply because they would be raised by two mommies or two daddies rather than a mom and a dad is the right thing. If that really is more important to these agencies than their license then that would be their own choice and responsibility, wouldn’t it?
(4) Businesses with government contracts: ‘The land of the free’?
All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same-sex couples…
Even if this had happened why would it be wrong? They are already required to show that they do not discriminate based on race, sex, or religion, why would adding sexual orientation be such a great burden?
(5) Public broadcasting: ‘The land of the free’?
The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such ‘offensive’ doctrines as criticizing homosexual behavior…
Hate speech laws show no sign of having any real popular or judicial support in America, nor does the first amendment allow them. Even hate crime legislation that only penalizes violent acts against homosexuals has faced strong resistance everywhere they have been proposed.
(6) Doctors and lawyers: ‘The land of the free’?
Physicians who refuse to provide artificial insemination for lesbian couples now face significant fines or loss of their license to practice medicine…
…Lawyers who refuse to handle adoption cases for same-sex couples similarly now lose their licenses to practice law.
Nope, this hasn’t happened either. You don’t think that doctors and lawyers can stick up for themselves if need be?
(7) Counselors and social workers: ‘The land of the free’?
All other professionals who are licensed by individual states are also prohibited from discriminating against homosexuals. Social workers and counselors, even counselors in church staff positions, who refuse to provide
‘professional, appropriately nurturing marriage counseling’ for homosexual couples lose their counseling licenses. Thousands of Christians have left these professions as a result.
Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing if it happened, hateful people really should not be counselors in the first place. Regardless, Church staff counselors would be protected via the first amendment, at least as long as their service was provided free, the state would then have no grounds to regulate their activity. Private professional licensing boards are another matter altogether, but again church counselors are not even required to have a license if the service is free.
(8) Homosexual weddings: ‘The land of the free’?
Church buildings are now considered a ‘public accommodation’ by the Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. If they refuse, they lose their tax-exempt status, and they are increasingly becoming subject to fines and antidiscrimination lawsuits.
Not even possible under the first amendment.
(9) Homosexual church staff members: ‘The land of the free’?
While churches are still free to turn down homosexual applicants for the job of senior pastor, churches and parachurch organizations are no longer free to reject homosexual applicants for staff positions such as parttime youth pastor or director of counseling…
Again, not even possible under the first amendment.
(10) Homosexuals in the military: [‘The land of the free’?]
One change regarding the status of homosexuals did not wait for any Supreme Court decision. In the first week after his inauguration, President
Obama invited homosexual rights leaders from around the United States to join him at the White House as he signed an executive order directing all branches of the military to abandon their ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and to start actively recruiting homosexuals. As a result, homosexuals are now given special bonuses for enlisting in military service (to attempt to
compensate for past discrimination)…
Verdict: Partially Right (finally)
It took President Obama almost 3 years to decide to reverse DADT, but there are no special recruitment efforts or bonuses for homosexuals. The other consequences and discrimination against “straight” soldiers predicted later in the paragraph haven’t happened either. Besides which DADT was a nonsensical policy anyway, it was equivalent to saying…”Sure we allow Gays in the Military, we just pretend they don’t exist.”
Religious speech in the public square
(11) High schools: ‘The land of the free’?
High schools are no longer free to allow ‘See You at the Pole’ meetings where students pray together, or any student Bible studies even before
or after school. The Supreme Court ruled this is considered speech that is both ‘proselytizing’ and involves ‘worship”…
The courts have consistently ruled that religious activities are allowed on school grounds when attendance by students is a voluntary choice. At school functions such as sports events, dances, and rallies which all students may want to attend religious convocations are not allowed. This is because those of other religions or the non-religious are thereby having their first amendment right of freedom from state sponsored religion infringed upon. Why is this so very hard for the Christian Right to understand?
(12) Church use of school property: ‘The land of the free’?
Tens of thousands of young churches suddenly had no place to meet when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools in all 50 states had to stop allowing churches to rent their facilities — even on Sundays, when school
was not in session. The court said this was an unconstitutional use of government property for a religious purpose…
The courts have no interest whatsoever in who uses school property when school is out, this is why you find churches, A.A., N.A., Boy Scouts, Book Clubs, and various other social groups using school building for meetings. You have left the realm of plausibility and entered a fantasy world where the courts would do this solely to inflict harm on Christians.
(13) Campus ministries: ‘The land of the free’?
Campus organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Navigators, Baptist Campus Ministry, and Reformed University Fellowship have shrunk to skeleton organizations, and in many states they have ceased to exist…
…a subsequent Supreme Court decision predictably ruled that
universities had to prohibit campus organizations that promote ‘hate speech’ and have discriminatory policies. Therefore these Christian ministries have been prohibited from use of campus buildings, campus bulletin boards, advertising in campus newspapers, and use of dormitory rooms or common rooms for Bible studies…
Once again, there is no such thing as “hate speech” under American law and groups organized for religious purposes are free to practice their religion in any manner they choose within the constraints of criminal law.
(14) Pledge of Allegiance: ‘The land of the free’?
Public school teachers are no longer free to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. The 9th Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals heard a new challenge to the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge, and, as it had in 2002 in Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., it held the wording to be unconstitutional. Now the Supreme Court has upheld this decision.
The possibility does exist that one day the court will hold that “under God” is an unconstitutional addition to the pledge on first amendment grounds. However rather than requiring that the pledge be banned such a ruling would only mean that it would have to revert to its pre-1954 form before those words were added.
(15) Freedom of Choice Act: [‘The land of the free’?]
Congress lost no time in solidifying abortion rights under President Obama. In fact, Obama had promised, ‘The first thing I’ll do as president is sign the
Freedom of Choice Act’ (July 17, 2007, speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund). This federal law immediately nullified hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion. States can no longer require parental involvement for minors who wish to have an abortion, waiting period, informed consent rules, restrictions on tax-payer
funding or restrictions on late-term abortions. The act reversed the Hyde Amendment, so the government now funds Medicaid abortions for any reason. As a result, the number of abortions has increased dramatically…
The Freedom of Choice Act has never even been voted on by either chamber of Congress, much less passed. Instead we have gotten a plethora of new laws passed by state legislatures that further restrict access to abortion services by women.
(16) Nurses and abortions: ‘The land of the free’?
Nurses are no longer free to refuse to participate in abortions for reasons of conscience. If they refuse to participate, they lose their jobs, for they are now failing to comply with federal law. Many Christian nurses have left the health care field rather than violate their consciences…
No such Federal law exists, nor has such a law even been proposed by a member of Congress.
(17) Doctors and abortions: ‘The land of the free’?
The same restrictions apply to doctors: Doctors who refuse to perform abortions can no longer be licensed to deliver babies at hospitals in any state. As a result, many Christian doctors have left family medicine and
obstetrics, and many have retired.
See response to (16) above.
(18) Pornography: ‘The land of the free’?
It’s almost impossible to keep children from
seeing pornography. The Supreme Court in 2011 nullified all Federal Communications Commission restrictions on obscene speech or visual content in radio and television broadcasts. As a result, television programs at all hours of the day contain explicit portrayals of sexual acts…
Now your just being silly, no one (almost) wishes to see pornography on normal television 24/7. Besides, those that do wish to see that type of content around the clock can go to adult cable channels that already carry it.
(19) Guns: ‘The land of the free’?
It is illegal for private citizens to own guns for selfdefense in eight states, and the number is growing with increasing Democratic control of state legislatures and governorships. This was the result of a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in which the court reversed its 5-4 decision that had upheld private gun ownership in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)…
…In this new decision, the court specified that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’ was limited to that purpose specified in the Second Amendment, namely, to those people who were part of a ‘well regulated militia’ in the various states…
The Supreme Court has made no further rulings on gun ownership since the Heller case threw out Washington D.C.’s handgun ban.
END OF PART I
See Part II at littlegreenfootballs.com
Mississippi Schools, With America’s Highest Teen Pregnancy Rate, Largely Adopt Abstinence-Only Sex Ed
reality makes babieshuffingtonpost.com
* State has nation’s highest teen birth rate
* New law allows abstinence plus sex-ed teaching
* Studies show sex-ed works to prevent teen pregnancy
By Emily Le Coz
TUPELO, Miss., Aug 26 (Reuters) - Artasia Bobo, a 16-year-old Mississippi high school sophomore, was only 12 when she got pregnant and doesn’t recall receiving much in the way of sex education.
Holding her 3-year-old daughter, Annsley, after cheerleading practice recently, the honor-roll student said she’s now an advocate for comprehensive sex education offered as soon as possible.
“What I went through is nothing any girl would want to go through,” she said. “It changed my life. I love my daughter, but if I could go back in time, my life would be a whole lot different.”
Mississippi, the poorest U.S. state, has the nation’s highest teen pregnancy rate. Yet until this year, the state allowed schools to forgo sex education entirely.
That changed with a state law passed last year that mandated school districts adopt either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex education policies. Before the new law, any district that did teach sex education had to teach abstinence-only.
Under the new law, a majority of Mississippi’s public school districts this year adopted abstinence-only policies that avoid or downplay the issue of contraceptives.
A coalition of groups have brought a lawsuit against the Clovis Unified School District in California, claiming their abstinence-only sex education program violates state law.
The lawsuit alleges the textbook used by the district informs high school students that respecting themselves, getting plenty of rest, going out as a group and practicing abstinence can prevent them from catching sexually transmitted diseases. The textbook, however, does not mention that condoms can prevent the spread of STDs.
Other instructional materials compare a woman who is not a virgin to a dirty shoe and suggest that men are unable to stop themselves once they become sexually aroused, according to the lawsuit.
THE PROBLEM OF the place of religion in the American public school—the “school question”—has never had a settled answer. It was a question which the framers of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution had no occasion to address and, together with many other church-state matters, left unresolved. Beginning in 1947, the Supreme Court began to answer the school question for the nation, and the rate and certitude of its answers increased in the 1960s and thereafter. Regrettably, discussion of the legal significance of the school question often begins and ends with these decisions, as if no conversation of substance had preceded them.
In his fine book, Steven Green does his part to rectify this misapprehension by exploring what have long seemed the dark ages of American church-state scholarship: the nineteenth century. In measured tones, Green shows that many of the disagreements about the school question which we believe are contemporary culture-war phenomena had antecedents in nineteenth-century debates and exchanges. Our own controversies about religion and education may not be mere duplications of the past, but they are surely part of the self-same conversation—one which, to the chagrin of some and the delight of others, remains stubbornly unfinished.
Green recounts the rise of “nonsectarian” education in the early nineteenth century, an instructional method that emphasized Bible-reading and reflection not for the inculcation of Protestant doctrine but instead as a font of republican formation—of good citizenship as well as proper moral character. From the innovations of the educator Horace Mann to the legal affirmation of non-sectarianism in several early state court cases, the movement toward non-sectarianism is described by Green as a Pyrrhic victory for supporters of Christian-influenced public education, as the uses to which religion was put grew steadily away from their confessional root until at last our cultural gardeners felt ready to chop them off.
The New Jersey state senate has unanimously passed a bill that empowers public schools to remove ineffective teachers and requires that teachers be evaluated, at least in part, on classroom performance. The bill is expected to clear the state assembly and to be signed by Governor Chris Christie. New Jersey’s hard-won reform is only the most recent example of the growing movement toward a more sensible education system. Connecticut recently passed a similar tenure-reform bill, joining states like Florida, Colorado, and Tennessee. Other states, including New York, have passed laws requiring that teacher evaluations incorporate classroom performance. For years, powerful groups heavily invested in the status quo—above all, the teachers’ unions—blocked commonsense teacher-quality reforms. The reforms of the last few years have weakened their once-suffocating grip over education policy. It will take a continued bipartisan effort to maintain this momentum.
Today’s education-reform movement gains its force from hard empirical evidence. Two decades of research demonstrated that credentials and time served—the two factors that determine a teacher’s salary—were unrelated to a teacher’s classroom effectiveness. Data also revealed that the quality of public school teachers varies widely, contradicting the positive performance ratings almost universally awarded to teachers under today’s system