Sunday, December 28, 2014

‘Public Education’ Should Fund Any Education, Not Just Government-Run Schools

“Are you saying public education is just a funding mechanism? … Is all education now public [and parents] can just choose?” asked Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice during oral arguments over the constitutionality of Douglas County’s Choice Scholarship Pilot Program.

The case has brought forth a question that has been at the forefront of state and national debates over school choice: What is the definition of “public education,” anyway?

“It is important to distinguish between ‘schooling’ and ‘education.’ Not all schooling is education nor all education, schooling,” wrote Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. “The proper subject of concern is education. The activities of government are mostly limited to schooling.”

School choice separates financing of education from delivery of services. Educational opportunity through school choice empowers parents with the ability to direct education funding toward a schooling option that best fits their child. Education is publicly funded, but parents can choose from a variety of delivery options.

School choice programs make sense: They operate with the conviction that every child is unique and has unique learning needs, and one-size-fits-all government-run schools have their limits and can’t always meet the needs of every student.

Although education choice is spreading rapidly–more than 300,000 children are now benefitting from private school-choice options–some states and school districts, such as Douglas County, Colo., are facing lawsuits over the constitutionality of school choice.

When the Douglas County Board of Education unanimously voted to create the Choice Scholarship Program in March 2011, it enacted the first district-level school choice program in the nation. Voucher programs are traditionally approved by state legislatures, but in Douglas County, the local district supports the funding and administration of the program. Subject to annual renewal, the program provides 500 tuition vouchers to students who are residents of Douglas County and have been enrolled in a Douglas County public school for at least one year. Eligible students can apply for the scholarships through a lottery system.

But in June 2011, the scholarships were rescinded when the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the National ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and others filed suit, claiming the scholarship program violated the Public School Finance Act and six provisions in the Colorado constitution, including the establishment clause.

The ACLU won a preliminary injunction in district court. But in March 2013, the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, rejecting the plaintiffs’ establishment clause claims. The appellate court applied the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Colorado Christian University v. Weaver, 534 F.3d 1245 (10th Cir. 2008) which held the First Amendment was infringed when financial aid was provided to students attending sectarian institutions but not to students attending “pervasively sectarian” institutions.

According to the decision, “In assessing facially neutral student aid laws, a court may not inquire into the extent to which religious teaching pervades a particular institution’s curriculum.” In other words, asking how “religious” a school is that receives funding is itself a form of anti-religious discrimination.

Now to the Supreme Court of Colorado

The Supreme Court of Colorado has a chance to uphold the first locally established school choice program in the country, but it also has a chance to reaffirm what the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld: that public education is about educating students, not the physical space in which that education takes place. Above all, it’s about parents being empowered to choose options that are right for their children.

Other courts have decided this question already.

In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, holding that a state-sponsored voucher program is not per se unconstitutional when the program is neutral with respect to religion and the “money follows the child.” This is so even where parents themselves choose to use the voucher monies to send their children to religious schools.

And in a landmark state ruling last year, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher program stating that the program did not violate the state’s prohibition against using state funds to benefit religious institutions because the primary beneficiaries of the vouchers were the families who used them.

Hundreds of families in Douglas County, Colo., have waited three years to use their scholarships because of this suit. The Colorado Supreme Court has a chance to give those families the opportunity to direct their child’s education.


The 11 Most Politically Correct Moments on College Campuses in 2014

That thing you thought you liked? It's rape culture

There are almost too many to choose from, but here are eleven of the most politically correct moments on college campuses in 2014:

1. Princeton University students launched a microaggression-reporting service.

In December, Princeton students relaunched “Tiger Microaggressions,” a service that takes other students’ reports of microaggressions and publishes them on its Facebook page. According to the operators, absolutely anything can qualify as a microaggression since “there are no objective definitions to words and phrases.”

2. College students invented a roofie-detecting nail polish — only to be told that that’s actually also rape culture.

In August, college students invented a nail polish that changes color if it comes into contact with date-rape drugs — only to incite rage from feminists who insist that anything that might help women protect themselves actually promotes rape culture by acknowledging that we live in a world where rapes happen. (FYI: We do.) Or, as feminist activist Rebecca Nagle eloquently put it: “I don’t want to f[***]ing test my drink when I’m at the bar. . . . That’s not the world I want to live in.” The fact that fear of whether or not someone could be wearing the polish might deter potential rapists from drugging women’s drinks (whether or not they themselves were actually testing their f***ing drinks or not) was not addressed.

3. Students hosted an anti-rape-culture rally only to be told that’s — yep — actually also rape culture.

In October, an Arizona State University rally against rape culture was slammed for promoting rape culture because it encouraged men to respect women — and respect for women should be “a given” and not have to be encouraged. Come on, you guys!

4. A school campaigned against “offensive” language such as “wuss,” “you guys,” and “derp” because it has an “oppressive impact on culture.”

Oops. I guess I accidentally oppressed some people with the way I ended No. 3 — at least according to the “More Than Words: Inclusive Language Campaign” launched at Macalester College this past summer. It included videos featuring student explanations and posters covering the campus walls that dispensed politically correct instructions — such as telling students to stop using words such as “crazy” or “derp” and replace them with “person with a mental health condition” or “person with a learning or cognitive disability” (even though those arguably kind of maybe sound even more offensive.)

5. Students opposed a female-to-male transgender candidate for class diversity officer because he’s a white man.

“I thought he’d do a perfectly fine job, but it just felt inappropriate to have a white man there,” the anonymous student behind the so-called “Campaign to Abstain” at the all-women’s Wellesley College said.

6. A school told its orientation officers not to use the word “freshman” because it promotes rape.

In November, Elon University instructed its orientation officers to use the term “first-year” instead of “freshman” because the term “freshman” is sexist and actually suggests that women might make good rape victims.

7. A liberal group demanded the school teach a mandatory transgender-sensitivity class to right the wrongs of colonial America.

In June, more than 700 students, professors, and faculty at the University of Minnesota ordered the school to admit it’s just a product of the evil actions of colonial Americans and must fundamentally alter its structure to make it up to marginalized communities — starting with forcing all students to take a transgender-sensitivity class.

8. A student newspaper’s editorial board wrote a whole piece about how racist bras are.

In September, the student editorial board at the University of Oklahoma wrote an article all about how bras are racist because they come in colors named “nude” and not everyone is that color when they’re nude. They also said that Band Aids were an example of white privilege.

9. The War on Tacos.

A sorority at California State University, Fullerton, got in serious trouble in September for hosting a Taco Tuesday event because some attendees wore “culturally insensitive attire” (read: sombreros and mustaches.). A similar thing happened in April at Dartmouth University, where backlash forced a fraternity to cancel a fundraiser — yes, fundraiser — for cardiac patients because one student complained that the “fiesta” theme was offensive. Although the fraternity was careful to warn students to definitely not wear sombreros to the event, they did plan to serve virgin frozen drinks, salsa, guacamole, and — gasp! — burritos, so apparently Mexican food is offensive in itself.

10. The War on Coconut Bras.

In May, the student government at the University of California, Irvine, demanded that the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity be punished because they hosted a fundraiser — yes, again, fundraiser — where students wore grass skirts and coconut bras. That’s apparently racist against Pacific Islanders. A group of students even released a statement that said stuff like “tell members of your organization to stop wearing our traditional/cultural attires, they don’t know jack s[***] about its cultural significance.”

11. Harvard University was about to stop buying water machines from the Israeli company SodaStream because they might be a microaggression.

The school’s dining services also planned to remove the labels from all of the existing machines just to make sure no student has to see one and be traumatized. But to end the year on a good note: At the request of the university president, the school is reconsidering its decision.


Traditional haircut forbidden in British school

I wear such a haircut to this day -- JR

A 13-year-old schoolboy has been told he must stay in isolation until his short back and sides haircut grows out, which could take months.

Kyle Gibbs was separated from his classmates and told he would not be allowed to socialise with his friends after teachers ruled that his traditional style flouted the school's strict hair length rules.

The Year 9 pupil at Churchdown Academy, Gloucestershire, must now work on his own in a classroom from 8am until 5pm until his hair grows to an 'acceptable length'.

His father Colin, from lmbridge, Gloucester, said the school's decision was 'madness' and insisted the young footballer's haircut is 'neat and tidy and totally unremarkable'.

'The school called and I asked what he had done wrong and when they said it was his haircut I thought they were joking,' he said.

'I was shocked. I cut his hair and he has a neat short back and sides. It is grade 0.5 at the back and longer on top, in an old fashioned style like every boy used to get at the barbers. I couldn't believe it.

'The school said he would have to stay in isolation, on his own in a classroom from 8am until 5pm until his hair grows back. It is not his hair that is doing his reading and writing for him. This is madness.

'It is not like he has a Mohican or strips shaved into the sides. I could understand that might be a distraction to other pupils in class, but his haircut is neat and tidy and totally unremarkable.'

Kyle has been told school policy states his hair can't be any shorter than a grade two.

There is no legislation relating to pupils' uniform or appearance, which is left up to school's governing bodies to decide.

But schools often impose bans on 'extreme' haircuts or colours as part of their broader uniform policy.

The Department of Education does advise that pupils who don't comply to uniform rules can be disciplined in accordance with the school’s published behaviour policy.

'I have been into the school to speak with the head teacher,' said Mr Gibbs.  'He said it was school policy and he was backed by the governors. Kyle doesn't feel comfortable in school and I'm not going to let the teachers dictate my son's hairstyle.'

Head teacher Christopher Belli took over at the school in September and said in a welcome address that there would be a 'relentless focus on high standards'.

The uniform policy states hair should be: 'Natural colour and words or emblems should not be shaved in hair'.

Churchdown School Academy has declined to comment.

Schools across the country have been enforcing strict uniform policies in the past few years in an attempt to raise standards.


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