As of January 31, 2017,
I have listed the Mississippi Assessment Program (MAP) results for the state in Language Arts and Mathematics for grades 3rd – 8th by district and ranked them by percent scoring in the top two levels. Using the percent in the top two levels seems to be the preferred method of determining the percent scoring a “Proficient-type” score, which is the goal score range. I feel pretty confident in the data at this point, but please let me know if you spot any errors.
Simply click the link below to access the ranking report:
*These rankings are for informational purposes only. True growth information is not available due to the fact this was the first time the MAP assessments were given. Growth is far more valuable information on determining whether learning took place and to what degree rather than end-of-year scores only, which only tell us where students in a district “ended up” without knowledge of where they “began.” The state has attempted to equate the 2014-2015 Mississippi PARCC assessment scores with the 2015-2016 MAP assessment scores in order to determine growth for accountability model purposes. However, the accuracy of such a comparison with only one year’s worth of data on either assessment is questionable to say the least.
Excellent point about the dangers of misusing data, especially in pursuit of a sensational headline or to support a particular argument. Correlations are interesting for us to speculate about, but correlation never proves or implies causation.
As I was browsing the net the other night, I came across an article entitled “Mississippi Republican Party’s Law Firm Comes to the Rescue of LIBERAL DEMOCRAT!” (http://mississippiconservativedaily.com/2015/11/09/mississippi-republican-partys-law-firm-comes-to-the-rescue-of-liberal-democrat/). I am definitely not endorsing or opposing the content of the article or the blog where it appeared, which I know little about. However, I did think it was spot on in the way it contrasts “establishment” forces within the Republican Party with truly “conservative” elements (for the purposes of the article it is speaking more of economic conservatives). I certainly do think it is worth a read. The article offers a preview of what our state politics in the near future may resemble as Republicans have now become the dominant party in Mississippi state level government.
I consider myself a “social conservative,” which I contend most Mississippians are naturally inclined to be. Second to that, I do lean conservative economically. Yet, I have discussed in detail how the issues that concern me about the future of our nation are not financial ones as much as moral/social ones. In regards to my personal economic conservative leanings, they are far more concerned with our national debt and operating within our means than anything else. My political concern is whether money is being spent wisely and whether our government is going further into debt. Simply slashing taxes right and left while digging a deeper debt hole is, I believe, absolutely the worst economic policy our government can pursue. However, whether or not one agrees or disagrees with me about any point of my political beliefs, I still respect thinking, principled, individuals who are guided by their beliefs and act accordingly for the best interest of our country and state. This is in contrast to those who blindly follow a political “group” or party line without really considering what the issues actually are. It also is in contrast to those who wear the name of Republican which they try to pass of a synonym for “conservative” while having no real conservative principles (either economic or social). These pretend “conservatives” are Republicans simply to have power for their own interests. They are political animals without true principles other than expanding the power and financial interests of themselves and their allies. For the blind followers and the “false conservatives” in government only for their self interests, I have no respect.
Thus, we find ourselves in 2015 Mississippi where the state Republican Party has successfully secured a supermajority in the House, a supermajority in the Senate, a Republican Lt. Governor, and a Republican Governor. With these supermajorities and a hold on the executive branch, the Mississippi Republican Party can pass ANYTHING they want. If you are conservative (either economically, socially, or a combination of both), just imagine whatever changes you have only dreamed of for Mississippi and would most like to see passed in our state. Well, those conservative dreams can be a reality now. All that has to happen is for the Republicans in charge to introduce them, push them, and have the Republicans in the legislature vote together to pass them. There is no so-called Mississippi “liberal Democrat” wing to point at as blocking any such legislation. The Mississippi Republican Party holds all the cards and can play the hand as they see fit.
However, what I think this change in our state government is very likely to expose and what I believe the article mentioned above demonstrates is that many in the state are Republicans, but the number of “conservatives” is far less. Much like those who suddenly materialize with caps, shirts, and tags for whatever sports team is currently dominating, many of these politicians are Republicans simply because Republicans have been winning. These “bandwagon Republicans” simply see it as beneficial for themselves at present to wear the “Republican” name. For many of these “bandwagon Republicans” their self-interests and the interests of their supporters are the only principle which guides them into the Republican Party. This type of political self-interested motivation is what had these politicians wearing the Democrat name in years past and beliefs, ideology, or principles are the absolute last thing the bandwagon jumpers ever think about before making a political move.
Besides the “bandwagon Republicans,” you also have the “establishment Republicans” who I define as Republicans who are simply out to benefit specific business or industry interests. The “establishment Republican” has been able for several years to convince people they are some form of “conservative,” although they are not. They have no real social conservative convictions and economically they favor a larger spending role for government to favor their supporters. By putting on an economic or social conservative mask, these establishment Republican politicians have been able for several years to direct principled economic or social conservative voters into supporting their candidates and voting their way by painting every vote as a conservative stance (which happens to be whatever candidate or bill they support) vs a liberal stance (which happens to be whatever candidate or bill they oppose). However, if you could see into their mind, they are actually just painting “conservative” on anything which benefits them or those with contribution money who have given to their campaigns. The “establishment Republicans” appear conservative by advocating tax cuts or wanting to cut spending on government programs which benefit individuals. However, the tax cuts they push are mainly geared toward corporations, and the government benefits they cut from individuals are simply replaced with new spending programs offering government financial benefits to businesses. The establishment Republican is against “welfare” only when individual people are the recipients, but it is a different matter entirely when corporations (their donors) are the recipients of “corporate welfare” financial payouts. An odd benefit to these Republican supermajorities in both Mississippi legislative houses is that many of these “establishment Republicans” may now have a hard time keeping their “real faces” completely obscured behind their masks.
Take the situation in the article, the author is attempting to create a narrative that describes this “establishment Republican” branch which he is casting as “false conservatives” taking the side of a “liberal Democrat.” The author presents the motivation of these “establishment Republicans” being the quid pro quo of the Democratic candidate swapping parties after the election win that their lawyers will help to secure. Also, by supporting the Democrat candidate, the “establishment Republicans” and their lawyers get the added benefit of keeping a more ideologically principled Republican out of office. You see the establishment has power and wants more power for its own benefit. Should a Democrat (even a so-called “liberal Democrat”) agree to swap parties and presumably then vote with the party establishment to repay the favor, the outcome would be much more desirable than even gaining a lifelong Republican candidate whose principles might cause him to go his own way, rather than following the herd as directed by the party establishment. Yes, in the post-2015 Mississippi political world, we are sure to see such odd occurrences as principled conservative candidates are seen as enemies of the “establishment” who only wants people who will vote with, listen to, and follow the party establishment’s marching orders. Less desirable to this establishment is anyone with true conservative beliefs and the willingness to follow those beliefs even if they are in conflict with the establishment. “Establishment Republicans” are Republicans first and conservatives a (perhaps very distant) second. “Principled Republicans” are conservatives first (either economic, social, or a combination) and Republicans second.
For example, the “establishment Republican” leadership might decide they want a bill pushed through to help a major business donor by giving a tax break to their particular industry or giving some form of direct subsidy (corporate welfare) which the company would qualify to get. In supporting such a bill, the “establishment” wing is very much going against “economic conservative” principles of limited government involvement in the economy, tight government spending, and preserving an equal playing field for all businesses to compete in the free market without favoritism from the state. This type of situation is where the conservative “mask comes off” of the establishment exposing them as simply another political faction seeking to grant special benefits to its particular constituency. The principled conservative (economic or social) is here a huge liability to the establishment as they look to their principles to decide how to vote instead of just to the establishment leadership’s direction. As stated before, while Democrats were still a force to be reckoned with in the legislature, the establishment Republicans could use them to rally all troops to support any particular bill by pointing to the fact that Democrats=liberals are against this bill and Republicans=conservatives are supporting it, so the bill itself must be conservative and there was no need to scrutinize it too closely. Thus, Democrats served as the boogey man in these cases to unify all Republicans behind particular actions, bills, or causes by giving the impression the cause itself was conservative, even if it was not. In the present political climate, lacking this Democratic boogey man, the Republican establishment had much rather have an ex-Democrat who owes the establishment his political life and is willing to vote with the establishment on most anything rather than the principled conservative Republicans who are not nearly as dependable for such unquestioned support and voting.
As bad as such a situation might seem, I actually look forward to this type of fracturing. I see it as some good which might come out of this election with its monolithic Republican hold upon state government. You see I favor debate of the issues and on the surface a total Republican monopoly on state power would seem to stifle such debate as Republicans act in lock-step on every political action and vote which arises. Yet by achieving such total dominance, I believe it is inevitable that such debate may become more prominent within the Republican Party itself. As a person who supports ideas and individuals over simply following a party line, this would be the best possible situation. I could care less whether Democrats hold 100% of the elected positions in the state. I could also care less if Republicans hold 100% of those elected positions. As long as there is freedom of thought and debate of ideas, I could care little about which party is in power. In my opinion, competition and the free market are necessary to weed out the bad ideas and hopefully bolster the better ones. I am optimistic that by gaining this blanket absolute political dominance in the state, the Republican Party itself will now be forced to allow such debate and competition within its own ranks and the false conservative establishment will be forced to reveal its true nature.
Every year Mississippi writes a “check” to our students. Our state agreed to write this yearly check back in 1997 when it made the Miss. Adequate Education Program (MAEP) one of our laws. The legislature could change the law and make the check amount smaller, but they have not chosen to do so in the years sense. You see the law is only for writing a check just big enough to cover the minimum amount for an “adequate” education, nothing extra. I suppose no one has the nerve to go on record as actually being against writing the check every year for less than this minimum amount.
The bad part is that every year since the checks started being written, except for two election years, the checks are just no good. They are “bad checks” not able to be cashed for the agreed upon amount. Every year there are excuses and for many years people seemed to believe the excuses and the “promise” that next year when the excuse for that year had passed the checks would once again be good and could be cashed by the students. So they waited for 18 years.
But, then people began to notice that hundreds of millions were going out as new tax cuts to different establishments. They also noticed that the state began to put money into its “savings account” or “rainy day fund” as they called it. Yet they still told the students of our state that the checks could not be cashed for the full amount. The state was giving money away on tax cuts, filling up the savings account, and talking about giving away even more of the state’s money in the coming years…all the while not paying its bills so its commitment could be good to its students.
The people who supported the students and schools thought about trying to take the bad check to court to get the courts to make the state pay its bill. But, the court said it had no power because the state constitution did not give it a way to enforce the law and make the state honor its check.
So with a stack of 16 bad checks written to Mississippi students, many in the state said something had to be done. They decided to add a line to the state constitution specifying the state had to fund the amount of the check each year. The change would also have a line in it giving the court the ability to get involved should the state still not honor its commitment. The state could still change the MAEP law anytime it wanted. It could just no longer write big checks that sounded good, but which were worthless when cashed.
That proposed change is known as Initiative 42 and over 200,000 of our citizens signed a petition to get it on the ballot. Tomorrow you can tell the state that it is no longer acceptable to write bad checks to our schools and students by voting YES TO APPROVE a change to the constitution and then YES ON INITIATIVE 42. All that it will do is make our legislature make good on its own laws or to change its own laws, nothing more.
I will be voting YES to approve Initiative 42 because it is the right thing to do for our students and the future of our state. When business as usual means not honoring the commitments made to our students, it is no longer acceptable to me and I hope you will join me in this effort!
I am a teacher. Even though in my present position I very seldom have direct contact with students other than a passing word in the hallway, I believe I will always be a teacher. It is also my belief that God made me in such a way that the only way I can be truly happy is to believe on some level that I am impacting the learning of our young people no matter my present job title or position. In spite of this, it is not my belief that I was a great teacher and to suggest such would be an insult to all of the truly great ones whom I have had the privilege of working with over the years and the many truly gifted ones who taught me as I grew up. However, I like to believe that my students and those around me could always sense the care I had for them and the passion their learning meant to me. This is to me the “calling” that those who should be in public education almost universally refer to when speaking about why they went into teaching, the feeling that educating students is what they were meant to do.
Teaching is not special in this regard. I hope that should I ever need serious medical attention the nurses and doctors who care for me are the type who can think of literally no other career, other than healing, which they could ever truly be satisfied doing. The mechanic who works on my car, I hope is one who is utterly fascinated by the inner workings of machines and truly enjoys his career above all others. Truly, you can always tell these types of people who are in the “right” career as it is not really a job where they simply make money; it is woven into the very fabric of who they are as a person. Whether talking about automobiles, medical problems, spiritual struggles, or any subject of real significance to me and those I care about, the opinion of the people I know who are “called” into their profession is the opinion I seek out and respect.
As many of you know who “follow” me online, I am very supportive of the upcoming Initiative 42 measure. To say that I have tried to put out information about the issue might be very much an understatement. In fact, many will no doubt look forward to the election on Tuesday for the simple reason they will no longer hear about it any longer. However, I am “unique” (perhaps again very much an understatement) in that I felt the issue was important enough to speak out openly and vocally in my support. But, there are many others in the education field who do not have my same personality traits and for whatever reason might not be comfortable sharing their thoughts in the same fashion I have. Many of these same people who you have not necessarily heard from are far better educators and teachers than I could ever hope to be and simply because they have not spoken out on a political topic does not mean that they do not have an opinion.
Keeping this in mind, as the work week comes to a close and the weekend approaches; I know that the vast majority of people in Mississippi who plan to vote on Tuesday will pause to make their decisions about what votes they will be casting. The majority of these people have without a doubt been too busy in their own professions and lives to necessarily read up on this education initiative themselves. If you find yourself in this category and you are unsure of how exactly you feel about fully funding public school education in Mississippi and Initiative 42, I would ask that you seek out the counsel of the educator or teacher who you personally know to be caring, effective, and passionate about their life’s work. Let them know that you are asking in an open, non-argumentative way so that you truly get their perspective on it, just as you might ask the best mechanic you know his opinion before buying a car or as you might ask the nurse you respect most which doctor to choose for your medical condition.
It is my belief that if you ask such an educator, whom you believe truly has the heart of a teacher, with a spirit of openness; they will help you to reach the decision that is best for the children of our communities whom have devoted their lives to caring for and educating. For the spiritual questions which affect me and my family, I would go to the minister I felt to be the most God-fearing man I knew. I simply ask that you do the same on this educational issue as well. The information is out there about the vote, and I hope that many of you will read up on it. But still, please do not skip the step of asking the teacher in your life whose opinion you respect the most.
Thank you and I hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22 (ESV)
“One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are.” – Cal Thomas
As one of our Mississippi House members recently pointed out when explaining the necessity of adding the legislative “alternative” 42A to the ballot, the problem was that it was too simple a choice with Initiative 42 being on there alone and this simple choice had to be remedied. Yes, had the ballot been setup as every other initiative had been in the entire history of the Mississippi constitutional initiative process, the choice would have been clear to either vote “Yes” for Initiative 42 and full funding of Mississippi education or to vote “No” to leave things exactly as they currently are. Of course, how things currently are has brought us a law on the books which mandates an “adequate” level of funding and a legislature that except in times of elections does not fund our schools at this adequate level. Virtually no one, not even those who introduced “alternative” 42A, advocates voting for it. 42A was the first of many steps taken to make sure the will of the people had sufficient impediments in place to prevent Initiative 42 from becoming law.
Yes, it should be apparent to everyone in the state that 42A which passed with the support of our legislative leadership, including chief opponents of our public school system Rep. Snowden, Speaker of the House Gunn, and Lt. Gov. Reeves, has no support on election day from these same individuals as far as actually passing. It is purely a decoy. Even the “concerned citizens/attorneys for major insurance companies/heads of political committees funded by out of state billionaires” who came out to supposedly speak on behalf of 42A basically used the opportunity to speak against Initiative 42, instead of in support of 42A. Yes, the same leadership who convinced us years ago that the problem with corruption in our state had simply to do with the other party whom they replaced, began to single-handedly demonstrate that power can corrupt without a (D) or (R) after a name serving as a shield.
My friends do not be mistaken on this, the opposition to Initiative 42 has to do with ONE singular thing and ONE singular thing only and that thing is MONEY! Money is what the entire thing is all about. Our state leadership have bought into a philosophy that public schools, instead of being a resource treasured by the members of the community, are simply leeches sucking money from the state budget which could be destined for other, more important things. They offer tax cuts which far exceed the amount of money needed to fully fund education, they offer tax breaks to “select” individuals which would almost pay the whole amount for fully funding education, and they have taken every opportunity to make sure education spending was shorted for several years before Initiative 42 ever came along.
I could respect these individuals if they had the honesty and integrity to be upfront with their motivations and reasoning behind opposing the full-funding of education. If they simply said, “We oppose public education as a failed system and want the money proposed to be used for public education for other purposes.” Yet, instead of telling us the truth on why they oppose it, they have attempted to cloak this motivation behind an every-changing list of reasons to oppose this full-funding initiative. Think back my friends, how many of these reasons have you heard as the process has developed? Initiative 42 is going to cause people to be fired from other state agencies. Initiative 42 is going to cause taxes to go up. Initiative 42 is a power play by out of state liberals to take over our schools for their liberal teachings. Initiative 42 is going to bring back Common Core. Initiative 42 is going to cause consolidation. Initiative 42 is a ploy to give administrators raises. Initiative 42 is designed for trial lawyers to make millions. Initiative 42 will cause cuts to Medicaid. Initiative 42 is going to allow illegal immigrants to enroll in our schools (which they already can, by the way). Initiative 42 is supported by pro-abortion, “dark money,” Godless out of state organizations to infiltrate our schools. Initiative 42 would allow a “Hinds County judge” to rule our schools with a stroke of his pen and potentially get rid of football. Initiative 42 would allow a “black” judge to move money from a mostly “white” district to some other district in the Delta. Why? Why, would the reasons change literally by the day almost as quickly as the information could be put out to refute them? If the reasons were based on sound logic, why would they need to constantly change? Believe me when I tell you these are all a smokescreen to cover the real reason for the opposition and that is greed! Greed for the money to continue to be spent on other things than education.
As I write, I often refer to you as “my friends” and this is because I truly mean it. The people of Mississippi are by and large good, hard-working people of faith. But, these good people are being misled by dishonest people in power who simply want money. These politicians are feeding the average Mississippian false information to divert them from voting for an initiative with the goal of simply bringing more funds into our schools which are so in need of them for repairs, smaller classes, new textbooks, and many other true needs. These state leaders, who are the same ones who will not release their emails with out of state lobbyists to oppose Initiative 42, will not mention anything about the BILLIONS in tax cuts they proposed this same year which supposedly would not cause any cuts to the budget. These same anti-public school politicians who look upon the money going to educate our children like a dog looks at a steak, will not mention the hundreds of millions which they have diverted to “select” retail store developments owned by apparently other “select” individuals. No, you will not hear them mention those things any more than they will mention “alternative” 42A anymore.
42A has served its purpose, it has been used to create a confusing ballot where people supporting our schools will have to vote twice to simply be counted once for what they support. Some of the various reasons have served their purpose by planting fear in the minds of families who have a member working for another state department. Other reasons have served their purpose by scaring the very people who fill up the church on Sunday morning. In spite of these efforts and dirty, filthy politics used to oppose something to benefit our children, people all over this state will type articles, visit houses, put up signs, type Facebook statuses, and send out their tweets to help support this good effort and to attempt to counter the false information being put out by our state political machine to defeat this initiative. They will continue to work, as they have since signatures were first signed to place the initiagive on the ballot, to stop these millions from being diverted by politicians from their rightful destination in the classroom benefiting all of our children. Yes, we will do these things without seeing one red cent. We will do these things based upon our caring for the children of this state and their future alone.
I simply ask you one thing, if you still do not believe this is all about simply money, when was the last time you saw all of our top politicians hitting the roads in the final days before an election and buying ads right and left to oppose something which did not involve money? Where were these massive political efforts during the personhood amendment on the ballot a few years ago? Whether you were for or against that amendment, was it not much more significant morally than this? Where were these efforts when the marriage amendment was on the ballot a few years before that? Did you see the kind of effort and political maneuvering to make sure these amendments which dealt with true moral issues went one way or the other? No, you did not and you never will again unless millions of dollars, which could go out in tax cuts and as bestowed gifts to pet individuals and corporations, are ever again at stake. It is my hope and my sincere prayer that you will look with discernment at these individuals’ and the actions taken to impede this initiative. Examine with an open mind, what is really happening and what is at stake when we vote on Initiative 42 next week.
“Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.”
― Blaise Pascal, Pensées
Maybe I am a simpleton in many ways, but then again oftentimes I believe the simple solution is the best. Keeping that in mind, today I came across something which I had often heard quoted or paraphrased in the past known as “Pascal’s Wager.” Basically, Pascal presents a situation where an individual is trying to decide whether there is a higher power or not. As a means to make this decision, Pascal decides to examine the consequences of either position and to follow them to their conclusion to determine if one is preferable versus the other. If divinity exists, the person with faith will have eternal life. If divinity is nonexistent, the person with faith will simply cease to exist (the same as the person without faith). Thus, if one were simply going to wager with a decision about whether God exists, then the consequences of faith are at least equal to and at most infinitely better than not having faith. It is an interesting argument to say the least. Based upon conflicting actions with conflicting positions one is to examine the consequences to determine which action might be best. Naturally, my mind eventually wondered to our current political situation and the uncertainty many individuals may feel as they decide which way to vote on the upcoming Initiative 42 school funding proposal. Based upon our current conflicting advertising and opinions about the proposed Initiative 42, what might be a way to apply this type of logic to decide which way to cast one’s ballot?
In this effort, let us see if we can summarize the consequences many of the opposition point out to Initiative 42’s passage. Most of the consequences center around a loss of total control of the education budget by the Mississippi legislature with a review of adequate funding potentially being given to the judicial branch should the legislature not adequately fund education in accordance with the Mississippi Adequate Education Program law. This failure to follow their own funding formula would result in a potential lawsuit where the state’s courts could examine the situation and potentially make the legislature follow their own formula. Now, I do not believe the most outlandish consequences of such a court case, but we still should list them here. I have heard it suggested that the “one judge” could potentially bring back Common Core, consolidate schools, consolidate school districts, disband local school boards, get rid of football or other sports, or possibly give money from certain districts to “delta” districts. Again, I do not believe this to be the case, but the argument is that the “one judge in Hinds Country” could make all decisions on education and take this power away from our representatives, the legislature. All of which is by virtue of Initiative 42 being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” attempting to take over our state schools and put the power to run them in the hands of the “one judge in Hinds County.” Additionally, according to those opposing it, the money will have to be appropriated to public schools all at once which will result in mass layoffs of workers in the prisons, highway department, colleges, etc. and/or higher taxes.
Now, let us examine the consequences of Initiative 42’s passage according to those supporting it. They propose that Initiative 42 will require the legislature to fully fund public schools based upon the formula passed by the legislature in the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). This money will be used to repair/replace old buses, repair school buildings, hire teachers, lower class sizes, provide new textbooks, and increase technology available to students. The money will not be spent on administrator salaries since administrative pay, according to state law, does not come from MAEP state funds and is set by local school boards. According to proponents, these things will increase opportunities for all Mississippi students to have a successful learning experience in school, help them to reach their full academic potential, and open their eyes to greater opportunities as productive adults. The legislature has proven in the roughly eighteen years since passage of the MAEP funding law that they have no intention of actually following the law without some ability to enforce it. By allowing a case to be brought in courts should the legislature continue to either not follow the MAEP law or change the MAEP law to some other formula, this can insure the law is followed. Initiative 42 gives the legislature some accountability via this system of checks and balances. Such court cases would start out in Chancery Court, but could be appealed to higher courts and ultimately to the Mississippi Supreme Court (which are all elected not appointed) to insure no single judge can go out into left field with some outlandish, radical judicial activism without being overturned by the higher court. There are no need for job cuts to other state agencies since the proposal itself has a “phase in” plan to simply fund it from a percentage of future growth (no growth for a year means no education funding increases that year).
In “Pascal’s Wager” the list would end here, we would examine the potential consequences of Initiative 42’s passage and see which one was the most risky. In truth, it might seem from the list that those opposing Initiative 42’s passage might have the upper hand in this regard with the list of ominous and downright frightening predictions based upon its passage. However, in that situation Pascal was talking about death coming before either outcome could be realized. With the finality of death, there is no opportunity to go back and to relive one’s life by going down the alternative path, instead the consequences of the chosen path are fixed. Would it not be a significantly different argument if at the end of life one had the opportunity to go back and change things? What then might be the effect, if I told you that at any time after the passage of Initiative 42 it could be changed to alter any potential problems, even if they are unforeseen? What might be the effect on our decision, if we knew that we could completely undo Initiative 42’s changes if it did not deliver the promised benefits? Would that not be incredibly significant in regards to our decision on whether to vote for it or not?
Fortunately for us, all Initiative 42 does is change our state constitution, and while this is significant enough to make the legislature actually fund education, it is something that can simply be undone should those who support Initiative 42 be wrong and things turned out badly. Remember the prohibition of alcohol passed by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution? It was passed in 1920 and significant amounts of people decided afterward that they did not like it and wanted to return to legalized alcohol. What happened? As we all know, in 1933 the 21st Amendment was passed repealing the 18th Amendment. Voila! No more 18th amendment and alcohol once more flowed freely. The Mississippi Constitution gives us the exact same recourse should any amendment passed to it ever become a problem.
In fact, the change to Initiative 42 should be something that is familiar to all who are currently in legislative offices and oppose it because it begins with them, the house and the senate. You see Initiative 42 went one route to amend the state constitution where the people themselves (over 200,000 of them) signed a petition to place the proposed amendment on the ballot. However, the preferable way to repeal it, should there really be the scary consequences mentioned by its opponents, would be to simply have a 2/3 vote in the Mississippi House of Representatives and a 2/3 vote in the Mississippi Senate to add the new amendment repealing the old one passed by Initiative 42. On the very next ballot, the people would vote again and if over 50% favored the new amendment doing away with the Initiative 42 amendment, then Initiative 42 is gone and the legislature can go back to the old way of funding education and simply do away with any changes done by the supposed “one judge in Hinds County” in the meantime by passing regular bills into laws. It really is rather simple and all of the power rests in the legislative branch simply voting with 2/3 majority and the people passing it with a simple majority vote. Either option should be easy if Initiative 42’s amendment does all of the scary things they are cautioning about. After all, is not the entire point of the scariness that the people and legislature will be outraged with “one judge in Hinds County” ruling against popular will?
So now let us examine the present situation. We currently leave public education funding in the hands of the legislature. The legislature has passed a law promising to fully fund education using their own formula, but every year almost without fail finds other things to spend the money on. Education in Mississippi is currently at or almost at the very bottom relative to the rest of the country in every measure. So we see that not fully funding education coincides with results in education which are quite less than we would desire as a state. Now since the legislature chooses to not even follow their own law, how might we as a state be able to just experiment by actually fully funding education for even a few years? I mean just a few years to see if fully funding it makes a difference? Well, we can pass Initiative 42. We pass it and we just see what happens. If things go bad, we just repeal it. If things go well, then we all reap the benefits. How else will we ever know if fully funding education will give us positive results unless we try it?
Using this logic, Initiative 42 has the potential to improve education by taking a totally unheard of tactic in relation to Mississippi schools, actually funding them fully. State legislative leaders such as our Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House who oppose Initiative 42 are more aware than anyone that it could be repealed if their doomsday scenarios play out after its passage and it turns out to be some liberal “Trojan horse.” So what exactly is the downside? Knowing it can be repealed quickly if the awful things begin to happen they are saying, why then would they not give it a shot? Could it be that they actually know Initiative 42’s changes will not have the frightening consequences they have been talking so very much about? Could it be that they know getting everyone upset and afraid without cause is the only hope they have to defeat this change to the state constitution because after it passes and we see positive results, they have no hope of ever repealing it? Could it be that all of the scary talk is just that “scary talk” without a real wizard behind the curtain with the real motivation being the continued pile of tax money that those in power can dish out however they choose? My friends, I feel pretty good about taking what I will refer to as the “Initiative 42 Wager” as it has an extreme upside for the children of our state for generations to come and literally no downside which cannot be reversed via a simple vote of the legislature and the people to change it. Are our children’s futures not worth simply seeing what would happen? After all, we all know what will continue to happen if we leave things as they are.
“The power of real debate is in the language and intellectual honesty of the debaters…”
I am not a lawyer. I am not a paralegal or even a law school dropout. In fact, I did not even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. However, there are some things about the law that I believe many of us are able to sort out using logical thinking and looking at legal precedence. Perhaps it is this general love of honest logical thinking that makes me find it irritating when those who might technically have a law degree (although judging from the personal injury commercials on television simply having such a degree may or may not really be that big an accomplishment) attempt to use it to imply that even the most outlandish, untrue assertions somehow have merit simply because a lawyer stated them. While I have tremendous respect for those who have completed the course of study to obtain a law degree, such a degree does not necessitate the person is correct or even being intellectually honest in his or her arguments or opinions. Today, I read an article by an attorney who was attempting to make the case that Initiative 42 was nothing short of being “Pandora’s box” ready to unleash evil upon the great state of Mississippi and its unsuspecting public. I have heard some of the same points from the article being used by some lately as factual and the basis of their issues with Initiative 42. While I in no way mean to cast doubt upon the character of the individual doing the writing, the more I read, the more I found the article so full of faulty logic, half-truths, and fear mongering examples that I thought its “arguments” worthy of a response, even from an untrained legal mind such as my own.
The first terrible consequence the author points out is in the Initiative 42 phrase, “To protect each child’s …” According to those using the article’s logic, this use of the verb protect in the proposed state constitutional amendment would immediately invoke the dreaded 14th Amendment of the US Constitution since it guarantees, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The argument made is that, since the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution gives equal protection to all persons whether citizens or not, Initiative 42 would cause our Mississippi Constitution to give even illegal immigrants the right to a public education! The article first states, “nothing about this amendment would prevent a principal or teacher from reporting undocumented students to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).” Now, I can tell you for a fact that I doubt if anyone is more against illegal immigration than me. I am all for anyone who comes to our country legally to live and work, but have never advocated being here illegally. Additionally, I also respect the fact that many immigrants are here legally and outwork many of our native born citizens. While I am against illegal immigration, I cannot imagine any principal or teacher reporting a child for simply enrolling at school into law enforcement. Thankfully, to keep from anyone being placed in such a position no administrator or teacher is required by law to report any child enrolling in school to such law enforcement. Of course, this is merely a matter of principle and has nothing to do with the main point the author goes on to make. He follows with (as a consequence of Initiative 42 potentially being passed), “if a principal or teacher were to disregard a child’s lack of documentation, that child would be entitled to a free public education just like every other child in Mississippi.” It seems clear from this statement that the author is plainly asserting that passage of Initiative 42 with its dreaded word of “protect” included would result in illegal immigrants being given a public school education (Gasp!).
The reason I am being facetious about the assertion of the author that Initiative 42 would cause the children of illegal immigrants to horrendously be able enroll in public school for an education is that this is now and has been the settled law of the land for the past, oh say, thirty years! In 1982, the United States Supreme Court in the case of Plyler v. Doe held that children of illegal immigrants who themselves were not citizens of the United States could not be excluded from public schools. In fact, in the majority opinion written by Justice Brennan the Court specifically cited (wait for it) the 14th Amendment as the basis of this decision! Quoting the majority opinion:
“Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” (https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/457/202#writing-USSC_CR_0457_0202_ZO)
Wait, I bet the state in question (Texas) must have the dreaded “protect” word in its state constitution in regards to education? No, there is no dreaded “protect” word at all in reference to education in the state constitution of Texas (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.7.htm). My friends, either the author is unaware of this landmark case which establishes that illegal immigrants are entitled to a public school education or there is a deliberate intent to mislead the reader by pushing the hot button issue of illegal immigration in reference to Initiative 42. This would be akin to me saying for you not to vote for Donald Trump or abortion will be legal in every state, when I already know full well that abortion is already legal in every state! Would such an assertion not be an insult to your intelligence, a falsehood on my part, or perhaps both?
The author and those using the same point go on to build upon this faulty foundation by referencing the subsequent text of the initiative referring to a “fundamental right to educational opportunity.” According to the author’s argument, this would potentially result in a stripping away of the autonomy by presumably the dreaded “one judge in Hinds County” to do such things as, according to the article, require a school district to build a “state-of-the-art physics lab” instead of having a “football program.” Again, the author builds this house of cards argument based upon the fact that Initiative 42 would “create” this new right for all Mississippians including illegal aliens as opposed to our present time and situation where presumably there is no such right. I will once again quote the settled law of the land in the Plyler v. Doe decision in reference to the state of Texas simply having a free public school system, “Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” To summarize, the author is stating that presumably football would potentially be taken away as a result of Initiative 42 creating a “new right” to a public education in our state. But, Mississippi is at present exactly like Texas in 1982 and already has a provision for a system of free schools, and the Supreme Court already ruled that in such a state a free public education is ALREADY A RIGHT in regards to 14th Amendment protection. So why have we or Texas not already seen the courts make such decisions? The argument simply does not hold water in light of existing law.
The author goes on to state that the proposed amendment with its language of “an adequate and efficient system” opens the door for the “judge” to potentially disband local school boards and districts all together! Why? Naturally, because it refers to “system” in the singular. I mean, of course, this lack of an “S” on the end of “system” would open the door for any judge to make such a decision! See, there it is, the conspiracy, all in that sneaky little singular word “system” that would allow the court to take this new part of the state constitution and wipe away boards, abolish districts, and by implication who knows what else because it now abolishes local autonomy by referring to our Mississippi schools officially in the constitution as a singular “system.” Hmmmm….well let’s see.
I am quoting the constitution of our neighbor to the east Alabama in reference to education in their state constitution which currently says, “establish, organize, and maintain a SYSTEM of public schools.” Ouch, those liberals in Alabama had better look out, with language like that added to their state constitution there are bound to be such decisions ending football and eradicating local districts. But, wait…. it seems this language was added to Alabama’s constitution over 100 years ago! Yet, amazingly, they somehow do not have state judges eradicating local districts or abolishing local school district’s autonomous decision making. Then of course there is Alaska’s constitution’s wording, “general law establish and maintain a SYSTEM of public schools open to all children of the State.” It seems Arizona is apparently twice as likely to have their whole system eradicated at any moment because for quite some time it has read, “shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a general and uniform public school SYSTEM, which SYSTEM shall include.” Arkansas reads, “the State shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient SYSTEM of free public schools.” California, “provide for a SYSTEM of common schools.” Colorado, “thorough and uniform SYSTEM of free public schools.” Delaware, “a general and efficient SYSTEM.” How about Florida surely with it being the state that apparently everyone in the upper levels of our Mississippi government wishes to emulate in regards to education surely has a simple, concise education section without the dreaded singular “system” or the convoluted language the proposed Initiative 42 would add to our own constitution, right? I mean its constitution had to be worded in such a way not only to prevent some judge from obliterating its local districts and choosing football somehow over a physics lab, correct? After all, Gov. Bush was able to work such magic with his reforms under the Florida Constitution so it surely must not have such wording, right? Let’s see, Florida’s constitution reads, “The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality SYSTEM of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.” My friends, I daresay there is nothing in Initiative 42 that even comes close to Florida in its complicated wording or the guarantees it gives in regards to public education, and Florida does indeed include the ominous singular “system” as well. I could quote many, many more state constitutions that all have the singular “system” (all can be viewed readily at http://pabarcrc.org/pdf/Molly%20Hunter%20Article.pdf) and surprise they all are somehow still able to exercise local autonomy in spite of the apparent “liberal power grab” that has somehow been happening undetected in some of these states since those “liberal” times of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when many of these documents were drafted! Again, is this simply an argument designed to scare us based upon our perceived ignorance and inability to apparently do a Google search in regards to the wording of other states’ constitutions? Do such individuals think that we in Mississippi love football so much that somehow giving a football vs. physics lab analogy would cause us not to research the actual topic at hand and literally run out with pitchforks and torches to find the pro-Initiative 42 supporters like some sort of stereotypical football frenzied mob of rednecks? Or have those who propose such scare tactics and have actually had the brazenness to put them into print honestly not even looked it up? Regardless, the argument is blatantly false.
The final “legal” argument is also built upon the before mentioned faulty assertion that Initiative 42 somehow brings the 14th Amendment into play in education allowing all sorts of evil consequences, in spite of the fact that it is indisputable as demonstrated above that the 14th Amendment already applies to our public schools in Mississippi. The crux of the argument concedes that the Chancery Court decision on any subject can be appealed through various other courts and ultimately to the Mississippi Supreme Court. However, the proposed issue is that the appellate courts “typically do not rehear the cases.” It is further proposed that the only thing the appellate courts and ultimately the Mississippi Supreme Court “usually look at the record to see if the chancellor abused his or her discretion in making the decision.” Apparently, this fact is supposedly something to scare us by, I suppose, suggesting that the “one judge” will not be overturned when he takes over the schools on his mad path to power based upon the supposed singular “system” and the “new” fact that the 14th Amendment actually applies to public education of children. However, the author says absolutely nothing that is inaccurate and at the same time states absolutely nothing that suggests anything out of the ordinary happens in these appeals cases versus any others that our appellate courts engage in and sometimes overturn decisions in every year. Yes, the appeals courts and the Mississippi Supreme Court “usually” do not rehear cases; they “usually” look at the testimony given, evidence presented, and the law to see if they agree with the lower chancery or other lower court decision. Most of the time, they do agree and do nothing. But, sometimes they do not agree and hear or take action on the case. I do not know what exactly is supposed to be scary or ominous about this. Sometimes the higher court might also look at what the lower judge decided and will send the case back down (remand) to the lower court judge to be reheard with some new instructions as to how the judge should proceed. Other times the higher court will disagree with the decision altogether and make a new ruling after a hearing. There are many other ways in which the court might choose to act or not to act in regards to a case that is appealed. Yet, somehow the author is attempting to lead us to believe that without a rehearing of the case the court will not act against some implied dreaded ruling by the “one judge in Hinds County?” Does the author expect us to believe that the United States Supreme Court does not significantly alter lower court decisions while it too does not typically “rehear” the cases? The job of the higher court is to review and then if a problem is found take some action as might be warranted. This process is nothing new, yet has been the process that resulted in all of the famous US Supreme Court cases we know by name. The author presents no real evidence to back up his implied assertion that somehow the higher courts’ “hands will be tied” and they will be incapable of overturning some outlandish decision by the “one judge” presumably getting rid of football or some other radical act of judicial activism.
Perhaps we should look at an example of how our elected Mississippi Supreme Court might overturn an elected Chancery Court on appeal to demonstrate how minute the disagreement with the lower courts might truly be in cases where all or part of a Chancery Court’s decision is overturned. Take the following case of Cuccia v. Cuccia (http://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO77325.pdf), where the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned part of a ruling and affirmed other parts. Here is a quote from the decision with an example of how the court was able to act on a Chancery Court decision which the Court of Appeals has already reviewed, “The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed in part and reversed in part. On remand, the chancery court is instructed to determine the demarcation date for dividing marital property, consider marital debt in that division, consider whether alimony is appropriate after making that division, reevaluate the custody matter, and craft an appropriate custody arrangement with the best interest of the children in mind.” Does this sound like an appeals process in which the higher court has its hands proverbially tied in regards to changing the decision? Did they technically rehear the case or did they simply review the information and remand it back to the lower court? Did this action not have extremely significant changes to the Chancery Court’s decision? Perhaps we should also look at one of the areas in which they reversed the lower court to see if it has to be some sort of unreasonable abuse of power for the higher court to become involved as, I suppose, the author must be implying is the case with appealed Chancery Court decisions. In reversing the Chancery Court ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court states, “we agree with the Court of Appeals that the chancery court erred by not issuing an injunction (i.e. the scary “injunctive relief”) against Julie Anne, restricting the number and size of any dogs she may have in her residence with the children. The chancery court’s order is devoid of any consideration regarding the children being around the dogs that Julie Anne sometimes has in her home through her dog-rescue operation. Accordingly, we agree that the chancery court must revisit this issue and make findings that are in the best interest of the children.” Wow! The Supreme Court certainly seems to have its hands tied unless the Chancery Court judge abused his or her power. My friends, they literally told the lower judge to change the decision because they thought having a lot of dogs in the house due to an animal rescue operation was worthy of injunctive relief. I will simply stop there as I really do not think I can add anything to that example.
In summary, real debate and research is something to be desired and something which is necessary for a democracy to work. While I disagree with those making the arguments mentioned above or even publishing them, I do not know their intent. But, this need for honest debate is especially true when considering a change to the law in regards to an issue of such vital importance as adequate funding for the education of our state’s children. The legislature long ago defined the amount of this funding and there seems to be an all-out effort in place to make sure that this funding continues to be diverted to other pet projects and pet tax cuts instead of educating our children. This is the reasoning behind Initiative 42 and why it was placed on the ballot by the common everyday people of Mississippi (over 200,000 of them). In this effort, honest discussion based upon facts is extremely important. However, it is disappointing when in place of such honest debate we end up with arguments being made which use false information that is at best ill informed and at worst misleading which also conveniently manage to bring in every hot button issue from school consolidation to illegal immigration and even to threatening the existence of high school football! I hope that the information here has cast some light on the way in which the battle is being waged against this initiative, and how, in my opinion, good and honest Mississippians are being manipulated to think that this is an epic struggle against good (continuing to underfund education) and evil (passing an initiative to make the legislature follow its own funding law). When, in fact, it is simply a question of having a lot of money and a group of people wishing to continue to spend hundreds of millions as they please rather than how the law requires it to be spent in the education of our young people in the schools which need it. Again I simply hope that we all might ask ourselves the question, regardless of the individuals’ who make these arguments intent, if these are the type falsehoods and scare tactics being used by those opposed to Initiative 42 instead of facts, what does it really say about the merits of their position?
“The research is overwhelmingly clear: when parents play a positive role in their children’s education, students do better in school. They have better test scores and higher grades, enroll in higher level classes, attend school and pass their classes, develop better social skills, graduate from high school, attend college and find productive work.”
– Betsy Landers, past President, National PTA
Shockingly, in any public school there is always a certain percentage of students who might not want to actually be at school. I suppose, it is simply part of our human nature to desire to engage in things based upon our own choice. Getting up every morning to go to a place where someone has planned for you when you may or may not eat, talk, and work is something which is not naturally appealing. Adults, likewise, had typically rather be doing many other things than being at work for the majority of the day. The main difference between adults and children is that adults have hopefully matured to the point where they see work as a means to obtain personal satisfaction and (perhaps more commonly) to obtain money used to meet the various needs and wants for them and their family. Parents, typically being somewhat mature adults as well, usually see the point of their children going to school and putting forth the proper effort. While the child does not think far enough ahead to envision the long term rewards of education, the parent typically does and is willing to take the steps necessary to insure their children are at school participating in educational activities. But, for every general principle there are certainly exceptions and there has been and will always be a certain percentage of parents who do not encourage their children to give their maximum effort in the classroom.
Parents, as we all know, are simply regular human beings who happen to have children. As such, they reflect the full spectrum of human behavior both positive and negative. Some of these traits inevitably affect how they view the education of their children and the actions they are willing to take to encourage educational participation in their children. Again, most encourage and push their children to attend and participate in school, but a certain segment does not. Some of these parents may have physical diseases occupying much of their mental and physical energies which keep them from helping and pushing their child to participate in school. Others might have mental ailments also occupying their energies and perhaps even clouding the ability to which they are capable of participating in the education of their child. Some parents have very little education themselves with a portion of this number even being virtually illiterate. Some parents may be actively engaged in illegal activities, fraud, stealing, drug abuse, or other types of dysfunctional behavior which occupies a much higher importance to them than the education of their child. Yes, there are many different negative situations, some by choice and some far from voluntary, which can prevent a parent from being any sort of real partner in their children’s education and on rare occasions even resulting in a parent being a full-blown saboteur of the child’s education.
Ideologies, philosophies, politics, and religion can all likewise figure into how much encouragement a parent might give a child into pursuing their education and engaging in positive behaviors at school conducive to learning. Parents sometimes see little use for formal education and think it does not suit their “non-conformist” outlook and/or lifestyle. Philosophically, they may believe childhood is better spent playing and regimented learning or work should be saved for adulthood. Politically, they may not agree with the curriculum being taught or assignments given in modern schools. Sometimes, the parents themselves may view the entire school system as something of little value and coercive for a variety of these reasons mentioned and impress these views onto their children. Religion may even play a part with parents of certain religious ideologies viewing school as unimportant at best and an enemy of everything their faith values at worst. Parents with this lack of motivation and participation in their child’s education are the parents who never come to Open House or Meet the Teacher Night, who repeatedly miss the prearranged parent/teacher conference about the student’s grades, who rarely help their child to study at home, and who the teacher struggles to get a signature from on graded work or any type of form sent home with the student.
Regardless of the variety of reasons or lack thereof which drive the negative behavior, many parents do not motivate their children to participate with maximum effort in school and perhaps might not even encourage them to attend at all. However, you can ask any teacher and they will universally tell you that when a parent values the educational process, learning, and putting forth a strong effort, it is inevitably reflected and sometimes even multiplied in the amount children learn. Ask any school administrator and they will tell you that often the children who are the most significant disciplinary problems and the most disruptive to the learning process are simply a reflection in one degree or another of the attitudes of the parent. Ask any school attendance officer and they will tell you that the vast majority of their repeatedly truant students have parents who either do not care or are oblivious to the child’s school attendance. Some children consistently miss the maximum number of days allowed per year or perhaps even regularly exceed this number resulting in court actions or the threat of court actions. Any educator will tell you that a lack of regular attendance has a profound impact upon educational achievement and learning. The amount of effort put forth by the parent to encourage their children to attend and participate in the educational process at school no doubt correlates with the amount of success the children have educationally.
Perhaps at one time in history, the actions and outlook of such parents would result in the child not attending school at all or quitting at a very early age. However, our government years ago took away the option from parents as to whether or not children could opt out of childhood education. For a variety of reasons, including educational motivations and even competition from children not attending school for adult jobs, compulsory school attendance laws were passed. Thus, children who are school age must attend some sort of educational program. Typically, this results in a child attending the public school which serves his or her geographic area of residence. The school bus from the local school comes by and picks the child up every morning and drops them off every afternoon regardless of whether the parent is one who encourages learning in the child, whether they simply want them out of the house during the day, or whether they simply desire the attendance officer along with the threat of criminal charges for truancy to stay off their back. Regardless of the participation or motivation of the parent, if any child of school age does not end up at the school assigned to that child’s area of residence the parent will be forced sooner or later by the judicial system to rectify this lack of attendance or prove that an alternative education is being provided. They may not be motivated parents and perhaps they are questionably conscious parents, but they are the parents of a certain percentage of the students who attend public schools across our state and nation. Thanks to our laws and judicial system, children of school age will more than likely end up in their local public school as the most reasonable and readily available course of satisfying the legal obligation of the parent to educate their own child, regardless of the parents’ degree of motivation.
Now, let me pose a question. If these parents with all of their various reasons for non-participation or limited participation in the education of their children were not required to send them to school, would the students still come with any regularity? If the answer is “No,” this leads to another question. If there were two schools in the local community serving the geographic area where these non-engaged parents and their children live, with one school requiring no steps for the child to attend and another requiring a two page form to be printed, filled out, and mailed to a certain address for the child to attend, which one would more of the parents’ children described above end up attending? Personally, I cannot imagine what might motivate any of the non-engaged parents mentioned above to take these extra steps involved in such an application process. Some might even be physically or mentally challenged making the simple process of filling out and sending in these forms more of a daunting task. If you philosophically or religiously care little for school in general, why would you be motivated to take additional steps to attend yet another school? The path of least resistance will almost always be taken unless someone has a reason and the motivation to expend energy and effort to follow a different path. For the parents described above, the path of least resistance is certainly going to be the public school versus the charter school.
Imagine how much quicker and more advanced the teaching would be for a public school teacher if the only students in her room were those whose parents were highly motivated for them to be in her class with all others conveniently gone to another room down the hall. Do you think his or her class’s average scores at the end of the year will have increased? Would it be fair to compare the two rooms’ scores head to head? I believe we can all agree that on average the children of the non-engaged parents will inevitably achieve less academically than their peers from homes with educationally motivated parents. If you were to take the local public school and move every single one of these children with non-engaged parents immediately out to another school leaving only the other students whose parents were more engaged, would that school not do better than before in regards to test scores and the number of students who progress on to obtain a diploma? I cannot imagine a scenario where the honest answer to this would not be “Yes, the overall scores for the school will inevitably increase.” Children who grow up in this type of home environment will stand a much greater chance of struggling with academic coursework, failing one or more grade levels, and ultimately dropping out of school.
If you have followed the reasoning up until this point and agree that such students going to another school would inevitably lead to higher achievement for the school they departed from as a whole, then you have answered the question of why a charter school with all things being equal should almost always average out better scores and graduation rates than its public school counterpart in a community. The charter school can technically be honest when it says that it is “open to any and all students who live in the geographic area being served.” The charter school truthfully is not forbidding anyone to come. However, the charter school requires additional effort on the part of the parent in order for the child to attend. The drug addict looking to obtain his next fix of methamphetamine will probably not go to the website of the charter school to print off the form, fill it out, and turn it in for their child to be accepted and enrolled at the new charter school. The same can be said for the numerous other examples given above.
Do not misunderstand me, the public schools are more than willing and have always been willing to serve any and all students to help them reach their full potential academically regardless of the participation or lack thereof on the part of the child’s parents. Hopefully, the charter school is just as willing, but as long as public schools are the “default” for all students who live in an area and the new charter school established down the road only takes the students whose parents are willing and able to apply to attend, any comparison between the two institutions is comparing apples and oranges. The application itself is merely the first level of this self-selection of students involving charter schools which are technically “open to all.” How many parents of children with significant special needs affecting learning or cognitive function would apply to a school which has officially been chartered to “provide a college preparatory curriculum with strong emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) coursework?” The examples are too numerous to list of the various criteria which serve to “filter out” certain students with various educational risk factors from ever attending the charter school and remaining in their local public school.
The only way to remedy this “self selection” among parents who are willing to take these additional steps or who are even able to understand these additional steps would be to simply randomly assign students to charter schools in the communities they have been approved instead of requiring applications or requests to be made by the parent for attendance. After the students are randomly assigned with some to the charter and some to the public school, then a parent could fill out a form and mail it in to request that the child go to a different school, if they wished. This switch would now give both the charter and the public school a true sampling of the children in a geographic area while still allowing no one to be “forced” to attend one versus the other. However, now the parental effort must be made for the student not to attend the charter, if assigned there, versus the parental effort being required to attend the charter in the typical scenario. Such a very simple step, but one which I have yet to hear or read about being enacted. As things currently function, charters only end up with students whose parents are willing to invest some extra effort and extra time for their child to attend the different school. But, this same slight bit of effort, engagement, or motivation on the part of such a parent is often the main determinant as to whether the child would be successful in his or her schooling in the first place.
***I feel it is important to note that in spite of the self-selection and filtering taking place in who charter schools actually end up serving in a community, the data does not seem to show a clear pattern of superior achievement on the part of charter schools versus traditional public schools ( http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9433/index1.html ). In spite of this lack of conclusive data demonstrating any real advantage to charter schools, I am not opposed to the concept of a such a school whose charter from the state allows it to function free from much of the bureaucracy and restrictions of traditional public schools. In fact the idea sounds so very appealing, I simply cannot understand why the pro-charter lawmakers on the state level do not follow the suggestion put forth by at least one former district superintendent to convert all public schools to charter schools by placing them under the same, supposedly superior, operational regulations and rules as the new charter schools. However, it seems to me the vision of how charters work their expected magic is curiously dependent upon another functioning public school still existing nearby for some of the students in the area to attend.