Voucher Schools Finally Being Asked for Some Proof That They’re High Quality

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It appears that Howard Fuller’€™s transformation from wanting limited regulation of voucher schools to wanting, you know, voucher schools programs to be of high quality, is continuing, albeit at a slow march.

Here’€™s Fuller in 2004 about his support of Bush’s No Child Left Behind bill’€™s testing provisions (even though he opposed similar provisions for private schools that accepted taxpayer dollars): ‘€œWe do think that it is important that we finally have the light kind of shine on schools that are supposed to be great schools, but they’€™re not serving certain populations very well. So, from our standpoint’€¦ we think the fact that people are now being told what it is that’€™s happening to black and Latino and poor children in some of these schools is a very important thing.

Here’€™s Fuller in 2007 about whether vouchers were actually helping to improve the Milwaukee Public School system like he claimed it would: “I’m one of those people who believes that we may have oversold that point…I think that any honest assessment would have to say that there hasn’t been the deep, wholesale improvement in MPS that we would have thought.”

Howard Fuller in 2009: “No matter how difficult it is and no matter how much disagreement it brings, we must focus on quality,” Fuller said.

Fuller’€™s most recent action to improve the quality of the private schools that take public taxpayer money was to only accept three new schools into the voucher program. That’€™s the fewest number of schools to have been accepted in years, according to the MJS.

MJS: ‘€œHe said previous state regulation that was built largely around requiring new schools to show they were prepared to operate in a financially sound manner had not proved to be enough to assure quality. The new process requires demonstrating that a school is ready to launch a well-developed education plan and has other qualities of a successful school, including a strong governing board.’€

Well, duh. This is so common sensical that I just can’€™t believe it’€™s taken nearly two decades to get here. Of course a school should be required to show it has a ‘€œwell-developed education plan’€ and ‘€œother qualities of a successful school’€ before it can take public tax dollars. How else can we know what we’€™re getting for our money? This is what every parent would demand to know before forking over thousands of dollars in private school tuition ‘€“ yet to date taxpayers have been denied that same right?

But while Fuller’s transformation is underway, it isn’€™t yet complete: When Doyle proposed requiring voucher schools to become accredited before they open, Fuller claimed it wasn’€™t doable. And, for some reason the Legislature negotiated a compromise with Fuller that the institute he runs would set up a process ‘€œsimilar to what charter schools have to go through before being given contracts to operate.’€

MJS:  ‘€œAsked if a similar process aimed at assuring quality should be applied to existing voucher schools, Fuller said, “Quite frankly, I think that we may want to have a discussion about that’€¦What we have to do in this city, no matter what history we’ve established, no matter what personal relationships that have been established, in every part of our educational ecosystem, we have to focus on quality and excellence.”

Next step: finally requiring the testing of voucher school kids, just like NCLB requires in regular public schools, so we can actually see if these private schools are providing ‘€œquality’€ and ‘€œexcellence’€ for our voucher kids or not.

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