EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Privatizing education at public schools' expense

2013-04-14T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Privatizing education at public schools' expenseBy Peggy Buffington nwitimes.com
April 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Are Indiana’s public schools broken and in need of great reform, or did lawmakers use the claim of needed improvement to privatize education through school vouchers?

Public school are peforming. Claims that Indiana’s public school performance is declining are simply untrue.

Steady improvement over the past 20 years has been clearly documented. Indiana’s public schools stand at or near their highest marks in history on attendance rate, SAT math, ACT, National Assessment of Educational Progress, ISTEP+, and percentage earning academic honors diplomas and Core 40 diplomas.

Indiana outperforms Florida on 4th and 8th grade math, 8th grade reading, and 4th and 8th grade science on the NAEP. Of course, more improvement is needed to meet global economic competition, but outsourcing students to private schools will undercut financial support and hamper further improvement in public schools.

If Indiana schools are performing, why are vouchers needed? Claims that vouchers are being directed to low-income families ring hollow; the private school tax credit enacted in 2009 provided scholarships to families earning up to $81,586 for a family of four. Few would consider this to be “low-income.”

Public schools serve all income levels. Public schools proudly take every student who comes to enroll. Private schools can pick and choose among applicants. The inclusiveness of public schools requires support and resources. 

Public schools need stable support to maintain and improve programs. The incentives created by the General Assembly to use public funds to attract students to private schools will mean less money for the public schools since the money follows the child. This dollar drain undercuts the stability of public school programs.

Public schools are centers of the community. Using taxpayer money to support an unneeded voucher program promoted by outside forces intent on privatizing education hurts public schools.

If resources are limited, demands are increasingly more complex, and needs are greater in meeting the expectations for high performing schools serving students, why should the education budget include private institutions? Support for public schools should be the priority!

Here's a synopsis of "A 22-Year Review: Improvement in Indiana's Schools," by Victor A. Smith.

Attendance rate: The latest 2010-11 rate of 95.9 percent is near the highest level of 96.1 percent reached in 2008-09.

Graduation rate: A new cohort method shows 85.7 percent graduated in four years or less in the class of 2011, up from 84.1 percent, 81.5 percent, 77.8 percent, 76.4 percent, and 76.1 percent in the last five graduating classes.

SAT verbal scores: Verbal scores rose from 490 in ’88-’89 to an historic high of 504 in 2004-05. Since then, a revised SAT shows reading and writing scores separately. 

SAT math: Math scores on the old SAT went up from 487 in ’88-’89 to 508 in 2004-05, another top performance in state history.

ACT composite: Indiana’s composite score on the ACT remained at 22.3 in 2010-11, the highest mark in state history.

NAEP: On National Assessment of Educational Progress basic scores, Indiana outperformed the nation on all 41 NAEP assessments since 1990.

ISTEP English/language arts: In 61 valid year-to-year comparisons over 13 years and 8 grades, 30 (49 percent) went up, 17 (28 percent) went down, and 14 (23 percent) were stable. More went up than down by a clear margin.

ISTEP math: In 61 valid year-to-year comparisons, 38 (62 percent) went up, 12 (20 percent) remained stable, and 11 (18 percent) went down, showing a clear trend of improvement.

Going to college: The percent of graduates aspiring to college went up 20 of the 21 years to reach 77.0 percent in 2009-10, the highest level in state history. IDOE no longer has this percent on its website.

Academic honors or Core 40: For all 22 years of the study, more students every year earned either the 47-credit academic honors diploma or the Core 40 diploma, reaching a record total of 80.0 percent in 2010.

Peggy Buffington is superintendent of School City of Hobart. The opinions are the writer's.

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