Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Idiocy of the ACLU’s Lawsuit Against a New School Choice Option

Another school year is underway, and more parents than ever are using school choice to ensure the best education for their children. Or should I say trying to use it? Some groups, after all, are trying to thwart them.

Who, you ask? Just ask parents in Nevada. The Silver State is one of five nationwide (along with Arizona, Mississippi, Florida, and Tennessee) to have Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that enable families to deposit their children’s state per-pupil funding in an account that can be used for a variety of education options.

No longer will students there have to put up with one-size-fits-all education. If the neighborhood public school provides the best fit for a child, fine. But if parents want to use the money that would’ve been spent at their child’s “assigned” school for a different education option, they can do that instead.

Unless the American Civil Liberties Union gets its way. The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit to stop Nevada’s ESAs from taking effect.

This despite the fact that Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the program into law this spring and that it began accepting applications a few weeks ago. More than 2,200 parents have applied, and who can blame them? They know they’ll be able to use ESAs to pay for a host of education-related services, including private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, textbooks, and curricula.

“As the name implies,” writes education expert Lindsey Burke, “parents can also save unused funds, rolling dollars over from year-to-year to pay for future education costs.”

In short, they have high hopes for their children. They want the best possible future for them, and they know that a good education is key to that. ESAs can help them get there.

So why does the ALCU object? Its lawsuit alleges that Nevada’s ESA program “violates the Nevada Constitution’s prohibition against the use of public money for sectarian (religious) purposes.” Yet the ESA funds go from the state to parents, not from the state to religious schools. The parents are the ones who can then use the funds to choose the right education option for their children, which may or may not include a religious school.

As the Foundation for Excellence in Education told the Arizona Court of Appeals in a similar case in 2013:

    "The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or non-religious schools or programs."

That’s been a godsend to students such as Max Ashton. Max is legally blind and used an ESA prior to finishing high school. According to Max’s father, Marc, a blind student in Arizona gets about $21,000 a year, which represents what the state spends to educate a student such as Max in the public school system.

“We took our 90 percent of that, paid for Max to get the best education in Arizona, plus all of his Braille, all of his technology, and then there was still money left over to put toward his college education,” Marc explains. “So he is going to be able to go on to Loyola Marymount University, because we were able to save money, even while sending him to the best school in Arizona, out of what the state would normally pay for him.”

So on top of everything else, ESAs save taxpayer money, even as they expand opportunity for children. And opponents of school choice want to stop this?

That completely defies logic. Somebody is truly blind here, all right, and it’s not Max Ashton. We need more school choice, not less. You don’t need a diploma to see that.


American kids Are Tossing Out the Government’s Healthy Lunch Program

The government’s push to mandate kids to eat healthier is finding its efforts at the bottom of a waste bin.

A study published last week in Public Health Reports found that while kids may be piling more fruits and vegetables onto their plates as federal guidelines require, most are just tossing the healthy additions into the trash.

Researcher Sarah Amin found waste more common after the Department of Agriculture implemented guidelines—championed by first lady Michelle Obama—that require children participating in the federal school lunch program to accompany their meals with either a fruit or veggie.

“We saw this as a great opportunity to access the policy change and ask a really important question, which was, ‘Does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable under the updated national school lunch program guidelines that came into effect in 2012 correspond with increased fruit and vegetable consumption?’” Amin, who led the study, told CBS. “The answer was clearly no.”

Researchers from the University of Vermont visited two elementary schools and took photographs of students’ lunch trays before and after they ate. They repeated the experiment twice: once in the spring of 2012 before the USDA requirement was in place and then again the following year when it was in full effect.

Unsurprisingly, they found that when mandated to do so, students put 29 percent more fruits and vegetables on their plates. But kids were not actually eating the healthy adornments: consumption dropped 13 percent and food waste increased by 56 percent after the USDA requirement.

The findings come one month before Congress is set to vote on whether to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which in part provides funding for federal school lunches.

Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation, said while the study is limited in scope, it confirms reports from school officials and students that “there’s tons of plate waste.”

“Congress only needs to pay attention to what school officials and students are saying to know that the new standards are a disaster,” he said. “This is really an issue of whether the federal government and its prescriptive one size fits all approach is better than respecting local government and parents.”

Despite the study’s findings, Amin said she believes the guidelines will ultimately improve children’s nutrition.

“Change takes time. This really rocks the school nutrition world. We have to have patience with this and not give up hope yet,” she said.


Federal Government Looking to Feed Public School Students 3 Meals Per Day Year Round

Is this to ensure that black kids get fed? -- JR

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday that his agency is looking for “creative ways” to give public school students access to more meals, including a way to provide them breakfast, lunch and dinner year round.

“We have focused on efforts to try to figure out ways in which we can expand in those time periods when youngsters may not have access to school meals,” Vilsack said in remarks at the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. That includes giving students access to meals “across the school day, across the school year and across the calendar year,” he said.

“We’ve looked for creative ways to potentially here in the D.C. area and the state of Virginia an opportunity to take a look at what would happen if all three meals were available for young people,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack spoke ahead of the Sept. 30 expiration date for federally funding the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010, which pays for USDA’s school meal and child nutrition programs —including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

The programs are generally reauthorized for five-year periods, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

In April, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced that the number of summer meals provided to children increased by millions between 2012 and 2014.

“In 2013, FNS targeted efforts in five States to improve access to summer meals and, as a result, FNS served seven million more meals than in summer 2012,” the announcement stated. “An additional six States were targeted in summer 2014 and FNS met its goal of serving an additional 10 million meals over summer 2013.”


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