Friday, December 30, 2005


A rationing plan for enrolling students in more than 120 schools in Milwaukee's private school voucher program will be imposed for the 2006-'07 school year, the state Department of Public Instruction said Tuesday in a letter to administrators of those schools. Key advocates for the voucher program said if the rationing is imposed, hundreds, if not thousands, of students in voucher schools would be unable to continue in or to enroll in schools in the program, and substantial damage would be done to some of the schools.

The department's action will turn up the heat sharply on Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and Republican legislative leaders to come to an agreement on the future of the voucher program and, perhaps, other Milwaukee school issues. All sides appear to agree that a decision on the number of voucher seats for next school year needs to come early in 2006 so families and schools, including many Milwaukee Public Schools, can make plans for the next school year. The main enrollment period for MPS begins Jan. 9. Private schools that want to be part of the voucher program have a Feb. 1 deadline to inform DPI of their plans.

The department's letter, even as it outlines a rationing plan, says the best resolution of the voucher cap issue is an agreement between the governor and the legislature. Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of schools, said in an interview: "We're hoping people of goodwill will come together." Evers said DPI had to announce a plan at this point: "There's no question the clock is ticking. We have a cap, we have no legislative solution for it, and we have an obligation to implement the law as written."

Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and a strong supporter of the voucher program, said: "I'm hopeful that this will awaken people to the fact that a cap on the choice program will be disastrous for broad education reform in Milwaukee. . . . I think this will affect the delivery of education to every kid in the city of Milwaukee, not just to those in the choice program."

But even with people on both sides of the deep divide on Milwaukee education policies saying the voucher cap should be lifted, prospects for a compromise are uncertain. Some key figures on both sides said they doubted whether the other side was willing to take a constructive approach - just as other leaders on both sides said they thought a compromise would be reached. Under the law, enrollment in the voucher program cannot exceed 15% of the enrollment in MPS. The voucher total has gone up every year but one since the program began in 1990-'91. DPI officials have not announced a final figure for this year but say enrollment is basically at the current cap of 14,751 and is sure to go over the cap of about 14,500 for next year unless rationing is imposed.

The voucher program - the oldest and arguably the most comprehensive such program in the country - allows students from low-income homes in Milwaukee to attend private schools, including religious schools. This year, state-funded vouchers pay up to $6,351 a student, and the voucher payments are expected to total $96 million.

In a nutshell, the rationing plan proposed by DPI would divide the cap figure for next school year (14,500) by the total of all the voucher seats schools say, as of Feb. 1, they have available. In the past, schools have submitted figures that were much above their enrollment in the end. For example, the number of potential seats for the current school year claimed by schools was almost 30,000. Dividing this year's cap into that total would leave a fraction to be used in a rationing of voucher seats so that schools could fill only that fraction with potential students. Under the DPI plan, if figures were about the same next school year, each school would be told it could enroll about 50% of its voucher capacity.

Voucher advocates say the plan could cause some schools to cut existing voucher seats, among other effects. "It really is one of the most draconian options that they could have taken," said Brother Bob Smith, president of Messmer Catholic Schools. "Which of the kids are we supposed to tell they can't come back to their schools next year, and what options are they presenting for those students and their families?"....

More here


Though Christopher Flickinger calls himself "dean" and poses in parodistic photos waving a small American flag and looking stern, he says he's never been more serious about eliminating what he claims is pervasive anti-conservatism on college campuses today. "When I was on campus, I had no help," the recent Ohio State University graduate told "I was harassed, intimidated, shouted down." Flickinger, schooled in broadcast journalism, said he wants to provide the support he never had as a lonely conservative in college. That's why in November he launched the Network of College Conservatives to act in part as "a link for these conservative students, to let them know they are not alone."

Running the Web site solo from his Pittsburgh, Pa., home, Flickinger said he wants the network to be much more than a shoulder to cry on. Conservative students are still easy targets of liberal intimidation, he claims, but more than ever, they have a growing body of legal and activist support groups to turn to — and he wants his organization to be top among those resources. Flickinger added that his group plans on "exposing and letting people know what is going on" on campuses by creating a clearinghouse on the Web site for students to pass along information about individual schools and professors. "By exposing left-wing educators, providing information on liberal and conservative activities on campus and educating students on conservative thoughts, views and opinions, the NCC will counter the liberal bias throughout America's institutions of higher learning," reads the network's mission statement.

But not everyone believes that conservative students are as harassed or marginalized as they say they are or might have been in the past. Megan Fitzgerald is director of the Center for Campus Free Speech , described on its Web site as an organization "dedicated to preserving the marketplace of ideas on college campuses across the country." Fitzgerald said her center defends speech by liberals and conservatives alike, and her own experience at the University of Wisconsin found that conservatives were vocal, organized and enjoyed the same platform as any other ideological movement on campus. "I would say, my senior year, the student government, probably a majority of the members would have identified themselves as conservative," said the 2003 graduate....

Several conservatives acknowledge that as the country has become more equally divided among conservatives and liberals, today's student bodies are more reflective of those ideological differences. "It used to be that some conservatives would concentrate on putting their heads down and just getting through," said David French, president of the legal group Foundation for Individual Freedom in Education, which recently supported the right of a University of Wisconsin resident assistant to hold Bible study sessions in his dorm. "Now they are more confrontational." French said when he was at Harvard Law School 11 years ago there "wasn't a lot of hope" about doing something to counter the anti-conservative bias on campus, but he has seen some positive signs at Harvard since then. "Now, there is a real sense that the cultural momentum in the [conservative] movement has actually made it to the academy," he said.

Sarah Armstrong, chairwoman of the Connecticut Union of College Republicans and a junior at Connecticut College, said her group has increased membership to 2,000 throughout the state and has even made inroads into Wesleyan University and other schools considered by many to be liberal bastions. "[We're] very aggressive," in terms of organizing, Armstrong said. Still, she said, the anti-conservative bias is alive and well and most of it comes from the professors, "the people who should know better."

Earlier this year, professors Robert Lichter of George Mason University, Stanley Rothman of Smith College and Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto, released a surveywhich showed that 72 percent of college professors polled held liberal views on current topics such as abortion rights, the environment and homosexuality....

Wilson said conservative religious colleges across the country have much stricter policies regarding speech and behavior, and Web sites like NCC seek to work as "spy" sites that smack of fascist tactics to "out" liberal professors. Flickinger said he welcomes the criticism, and since launching NCC has received hate mail along with letters of encouragement. Meanwhile, the site has already registered conservative students from more than 60 colleges and universities in what he says he hopes will offer "camaraderie through numbers." "Hopefully, we'll bring this quiet revolution to a loud, boisterous battle," he said.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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