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The week in school choice: The Florida approach

The court battle over the nation’s largest private school choice program isn’t over.

The statewide teachers union wants to bring the lawsuit challenging Florida’s tax credit scholarships* to the state Supreme Court. The legal fight reflects a national divide over civil rights and the future of public education.

The NAACP has historically supported labor groups like the teachers unions. Florida Branch President Adora Obi Nweze said that because not all children can attend a charter school or obtain a voucher, it is not a policy the group can support, according to Politico Florida.

Some self-described lifelong NAACP members strongly disagree.

“The NAACP is on the wrong side of history on this,” said the Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., a Tallahassee pastor and former president of that city’s NAACP chapter. He describes the nation’s most storied civil rights organization as “a part of who I am.”

This year, the program serves 92,000 low-income children, and more than 1,200 scholarship parents are school district employees. Many of those employees are unionized.


Matthew Ladner looks at a sweeping Houston Chronicle investigation of special education in Texas and concludes:

The Florida approach of setting special needs students free to attend public and private schools with their state funding represents a profoundly more humane approach to special education.

On school choice and Black Lives Matter:

We should support policies that give black children access to amazing schools (policies such as unified enrollment), and we should also support policies that allow educators to open amazing schools for black children (policies such as charter schools).

Supporting these policies will require some sacrifice. White people will have to give up their chokehold on exclusive neighborhood schools. And black people will have to pressure an institution (school districts) that have been a source of historical pride and employment.

Would Martin Luther King, Jr. have supported charter schools? Yes, says his former “field general.” (This should sound familiar to our regular readers). The Washington Post has more background on Wyatt Tee Walker.

How charter schools can help strengthen communities:

The idea of a public school acting as a community pillar isn’t unique to district-run schools. Now more than ever, charter public schools are integrating support services to address issues ranging from health to poverty. Many charters are functioning as local hubs to connect student and families with a host of services beyond education, including social and health services. Any public educational option that contributes to the holistic well-being of its students and their families is worthy of our support.

The future of education reform might involve pushing school systems to become more decentralized and more accountable to parents. Enter political conservatives.

The goal for reformers today should be to build on what’s been working, work on fixing what hasn’t, and replace bureaucratic excess with a spirit of decentralized problem-solving. The Left, with its taste for federal control and grand policy solutions, is ill positioned to do that. Conservative reformers therefore have an enormous opportunity.

PodcastED: How advocates are pushing to build a bipartisan school choice coalition.

Donald Trump’s plan to support homeschooling with Title I portability may stir opposition on both the left and right.

A school choice advocate, caught between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The evidence on Massachusetts charter schools and the cap that limits them:

This research shows that charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes. The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.

In marked contrast, we find that the effects of charters in the suburbs and rural areas of Massachusetts are not positive. Our lottery estimates indicate that students at these charter schools do the same or worse than their peers at traditional public schools. Notably, the charter cap does not currently constrain charter expansion in these areas. The ballot initiative will therefore have no effect on the rate at which these charters expand.

Massachusetts’ charter cap currently prevents expansion in precisely the urban areas where charter schools are doing their best work. Lifting the cap will allow more students to benefit from charter schools that are improving test scores, college preparation, and college attendance.

How private scholarship funds make school choice available to children of New York’s first responders.

The United Negro College Fund, the National Urban League and Education Post look at black perspectives on school reform.

“Super schools” and the limitations of ideas on paper.

Charter schools and discipline disparities, continued.

Colorado plans to launch a business-led apprenticeship program for high school students.

Quote of the Week

We are not the address Gestapo. We are not going to hire someone to go out to a house and see who is sleeping there.

– Pasco County, Fla. school board attorney Dennis Alfonso, on calls to investigate parents who may be lying about their addresses to get into certain schools. We’ve had thoughts on these investigations in other districts.

Tweets of the Week

The Week in School Choice is our weekly compendium of news and notes from around the country. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

*Step Up For Students, my employer and the publisher of this blog, helps administer Florida’s tax credit scholarship program.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at)