New Jersey, and all states, should support school choice

Earlier today, the Newark Star-Ledger published Pacific Legal Foundation‘s opinion piece supporting the school choice movement in New Jersey. You can read the article at this link.  In the op-ed, my colleague Joshua P. Thompson and I argue that New Jersey should support Governor Christie’s Opportunity Scholarship Act. Why? Because school choice is about freedom for all parents to make decisions for themselves about the best school available for their unique child. Or, as we put it in the piece:

This proposed law, like similar laws in place in Florida, Arizona and New Hampshire, allows private enterprise to provide scholarships to low-income students to attend schools that had previously only been available to the rich kids. Instead of being stuck in chronically under-performing schools – these scholarships would give parents a real choice to select the school that will be the most successful at fulfilling their child’s needs. All kids learn differently, and the one-size-fits-all model is not realistic. Opportunity scholarships fund better school alternatives for families who cannot otherwise afford the best schools. Why should New Jersey’s best schools only be available to the wealthiest in our state? Why should kids be forced into schools that fail at educating them?

Children shouldn’t be forced into schools that fail them.  I encourage you to check out the entire op-ed to read more of our explanation why.

NSCW 2015 — PLF podcast with Andrew Coulson from the Cato Institute

PLF’s podcast this week is with Andrew Coulson, Director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute. Coulson is a leading voice for school choice across the country. In the podcast, Coulson and I discuss a wide range of school choice issues from the problem with teachers’ unions to the differences between vouchers and tax credit programs.  Coulson even talks about some of the more promising school choice programs around the world, and offers his vision for reforming education in America. You can listen to the podcast here.

You can buy Coulson’s book here.  Also, please visit the Cato Institute and its Center for Educational Freedom to learn the latest in school choice research.

NSCW 2015 — Upcoming hearing in California Supreme Court on charter schools

Over a year ago, PLF filed a California Supreme Court brief in California Charter Schools Association v. LAUSD. Right in time for National School Choice Week, the Court issued an order last week setting the case for oral argument on February 4.  After oral argument, the case is “submitted” and the court will have 90 days to issue its decision. That means we should have a final decision sometime in late April or early May.

As I noted when PLF filed its brief, this case is extremely important for the future of charter schools in California.  In a nutshell, the Los Angeles Unified School District has ignored charter school regulations that require it to treat charter schools fairly by giving them facilities and funding that is “reasonably equivalent” to those enjoyed by traditional public schools.  LAUSD basically admits that it failed to follow the regulations, arguing instead that it shouldn’t have to because, well, it doesn’t want to. Needless to say, this is a very strange argument, but even stranger is that the court of appeal agreed. Its brief opinion only states that “anomalous results” would ensue if LAUSD had to follow the law. Fortunately, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

The import of this case is self-evident.  If the state’s largest school district can simply ignore the regulations because it doesn’t like the results, then nothing is stopping every other school district in the state from ignoring the regulations. These regulations, it should be added, were adopted after California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 39 in 2000, requiring school districts to treat charter schools fairly. So not only is LAUSD ignoring the text of the regulations, it’s thumbing its nose at California voters who want kids to have every opportunity to attend charter schools.

PLF attorneys plan on attending the Supreme Court’s hearing next Wednesday, and will be sure to report our thoughts of the argument. You can read more about the case here.

School choice is a boon for taxpayers

People support school choice for many reasons. Most support it because it’s the last best hope for their children to get a decent education. Some hope that it is a means to mitigate the impacts of racial and income segregation. Still others support it as an alternative to the highly-politicized resolution of sensitive religious and philosophical controversies, e.g., the unconstitutionality of school prayer and state control of civics curriculum.

One oft-overlooked reason to support school choice is the bottom line. Public education is frightfully expensive. We spend more than $600 BILLION per year on public schools, which is almost 20% of all government spending. As PLF explained last year in an amicus brief supporting Alabama’s school choice program, school choice may be the key to reversing the trend of ever-increasing education costs with stagnant or declining results. Every rigorous study of the impact of school choice on education spending has found that it offers equal or better results at a substantially lower price. From PLF’s brief:

Six empirical studies have analyzed the fiscal impact of school choice on taxpayers. All have found that school choice saves money for taxpayers. The reason school choice can benefit taxpayers so significantly is that public education is preposterously expensive. A recent study attempted to quantify the total costs of public education per pupil. It found that average, per-pupil spending in the five largest metro areas and D.C. was 44% higher than officially reported, and 93% higher than spending in the median private school.

In light of this, it’s no surprise that the chief opponents to school choice reforms are public teacher unions—a prime beneficiary of public school largesse.

Shutting down Alaska

“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns.  Imagine if we did something different.”  That wasn’t John Lennon speaking from the grave, it was the President delivering his State of the Union.  And he even continued, “I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.”  Well, at least we know he wasn’t talking about people living in Alaska.  Or people in the lower 48 who drive cars.  It’s not exactly conciliatory to come out swinging with a unilateral proposal to lock up over 12 million energy-rich acres of Alaska.  Alaska is a state where cooperation works:  Democrats and Republicans, union bosses and boss bosses, and blue collar and white collar workers share a belief that the arctic can and should be developed — carefully yes, responsibly yes, but still developed.

Of course, anyone who took solace in the President’s conciliatory language should  first have paid attention  to these two contradictory sentences:  “And that’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.  That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.”  Say what?  How does locking up public lands do anything to combat climate change, or produce energy?

Alaska has 222 million acres of federal lands, almost 60% of the state – a state where less than 1% is privately owned.  222 million acres is larger than 15 Eastern states combined. Since Prudhoe Bay went into production, it has produced 16 billion barrels of oil – nearly a fifth of the nation’s supply.  But that field is now declining.  If it isn’t replaced, the pipeline may cease delivering oil.  The coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is estimated to have 10 billion barrels more.  Drilling for that oil with modern technology would cover about 2000 acres – about the size of Dulles Airport in a refuge of 19 million acres – 42% of which is already permanently sealed off as Wilderness.  The Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are estimated to contain another 27 billion barrels of oil – barrels that might never be drilled if the Department of Interior imposes new restrictions as expected later this week. Continue reading

Montana to consider amending its Competitor’s Veto Law

I’ll be testifying in front of the Montana House of Representatives Transportation Committee this Friday at 3 pm to talk about Competitor’s Veto laws and the right to earn a living.  You can stream that hearing live on Friday here.

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National School Choice Week: School Choice stories in North Carolina

Lawyers love to talk to other lawyers about the law. Non-lawyers are usually more interested in how the law will affect them. Here at Liberty Blog, I’ve discussed the legal arguments in two important school choice cases before the North Carolina Supreme Court. PLF filed a brief in support of school choice in those cases: Hart v. North Carolina and Richardson v. North Carolina. But it’s not just the legal arguments that are important, there are also significant real world implications for North Carolina families.

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Upcoming talks in Alabama, Kentucky, and California

I’ll be speaking at to the Mobile, Ala., lawyer’s chapter of the Federalist Society tomorrow evening about my book The Conscience of The Constitution. Then on Thursday, I’ll be speaking at the law school at the University of Kentucky about our continuing legal challenges to Obamacare. Then on Feb. 18 I’ll be speaking to the Placer County Tea Party and on Feb. 28 at the California Republican Convention.

If you’d like to have a PLF speaker at your event, please let us know!

Welcome to National School Choice Week 2015

For the fourth year in a row, PLF is celebrating National School Choice Week. You can see some of our previous celebrations of National School Choice Week here.  PLF is happy to join with so many scholars, organizations, schools, teachers, students, and parents around the country to get the word out in support of school choice.  School choice is the beautiful idea that parents and students have the right to choose the best education for their needs — that the government doesn’t get to dictate a one-size-fits-all model of public education. School choice can take many forms, and PLF is out there defending educational freedom in courts nationwide.

This year, PLF is going to be doing some very exciting things for National School Choice Week. Check us out on Twitter and Facebook for some fun School Choice Week Activities. In addition, all week the Liberty Blog will be highlighting PLF’s school choice cases, and on Wednesday, we expect to release a podcast with Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.

Celebrate National School Choice Week with Pacific Legal Foundation. Let us know on Facebook why you support school choice.  To get you started, here’s a video of PLF employees telling you why they support school choice. Enjoy!

National School Choice Week: A primer on school choice

Do you know all there is to know about school choice?  As PLF begins its celebration of National School Choice Week, here is a short orientation to explain what school choice encompasses.

Growing up long ago in a low-income family, school choice to me was whether I walked or rode my bike to my local neighborhood public school.  Much to my distress, even that choice was eventually taken away when city officials implemented forced busing and rezoned my neighborhood for a school far away across town.  Parents in my neighborhood could not afford to send their children to private schools, and thus had no choice.

For many parents, things are different today.  The school choice movement today includes things like charter schools, homeschooling, and school vouchers.  PLF celebrates all of those options this week.  Do you know what they are, the legal issues they each involve, and where you stand?

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