Luedtke’s Intellectually Dishonest Attack on School Choice

Long time readers know that Delegate Eric Luedtke is the poster child for inconsistent left-wing activism. And Luedtke’s recent attack on his colleague Delegate Trent Kittleman over at Maryland Reporter would be laughable if it weren’t such an intellectually dishonest case of projection.

It’s a typical progressive line of attack.  Labeling his opponent an ideologue while presenting himself as the disinterested arbiter of “facts.”

However, when you scratch the thin veneer of his argument, it is readily apparent that Luedtke is just as much a partisan ideologue, one desperately seeking to protect the teacher’s union’s political hegemony.

This won’t be a surprise to those of us who understand that Luedtke is a sellout, and that he stays bought.

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Ludetke wrapping himself in “facts” to dismiss school choice alternatives is like Ron Burgundy claiming “Science” to defend his chauvinism.

Luedtke states that “vouchers don’t work,” citing studies he alleges show vouchers “hurt student achievement.”  It’s a clever trick, if you assume your audience won’t check the citations.

The study of Louisiana’s voucher programs, Luedtke holds up, as definitive proof they are an unmitigated evil, isn’t as definitive as he would have you believe.  The findings are a more nuanced.

Yes, the Louisiana study showed the students attending private schools on vouchers did not perform as well on assessments as their traditional public school peers.

However, standardized test scores are only one way to judge the success of vouchers.  Indeed, voucher users have shown higher attainment in graduation rates and enrollment in post-secondary education.

In the Louisiana context, the researchers also found more nuanced results when they posed a number of other questions.

When researchers examined, for example, whether competition from private schools pressed nearby public schools to improve performance, they found that the test scores of students in these competing schools did indeed increase, albeit modestly.

When they asked whether the declines in voucher users’ tests scores were present in noncognitive student outcomes (such as grit, self-esteem, and political tolerance), they found both public and private school students had similar levels on those indicators.

Each of these questions provides a different way of assessing the overall impact of the voucher program both on students who use them and on students in the surrounding communities as well.

Furthermore, similar studies in CharlotteMilwaukeeWashington, D.C. and New York City, found that voucher students outperformed their public school peers on standardized tests.

The National Conference of State Legislatures cautions that when compared to similar public school students voucher students performed about the same on reading and math assessments.  The NCSL goes on to say that “though some gains have been found among low income and minority students who receive vouchers.”

But Leudtke doesn’t share these nuances with you—because he’s an ideologue and those facts would belie his hack act.

Luedtke’s take on charter schools is no less duplicitous.   Of course he thinks Maryland’s current charter school framework is “fabulous.”  His puppeteers at the Maryland State Education Association don’t want true competition in education.

The teacher’s union is a monopoly, no different from Ma Bell and Standard Oil.  Like all monopolies, the teacher’s union uses government (and taxpayer dollars) to saddle its competitors with stifling rules and regulations.   And like monocle wearing fat cats of the Gilded Age, they use their cronies in the legislature like Luedtke to pass laws that hinder charter schools’ ability to flourish.

MSEA’s monopoly is indeed fabulous, one that John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie would envy.

Luedtke’s deceptive rhetoric masks a visceral fear that the public realizes that in certain cases, charter schools can deliver higher quality education in a more efficient and less costly manner, than his union compatriots can provide.

Jay Greene an education researcher at the University of Arkansas reported that four randomized control trials, the gold standard for research studies, found that:

… students in urban areas do significantly better in school if they attend a charter schools than if they attend a traditional public school.  These academic benefits of urban charter schools are quite large.  In Boston, a team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, Duke, and the University of Michigan, conducted a RCT and found:  “The charter school effects reported here are therefore large enough to reduce the black-white reading gap in middle school by two-thirds.”

Other randomized control studies in New York and Chicago reported similar results showing the closing of achievement gaps between low-income students in charters and their wealthier peers in traditional public schools.

Given these results, it should be no surprise the Ma Bell of education in this state roams the finely appointed legislative lounges of Annapolis to impose rules that put charter schools at a competitive disadvantage.

Realizing he is short on any substantive policy prescriptions of his own, outside of spending more of your money that is, Luedtke hides behind the work of the legislatively formed Commission on Education and Excellence in Education or Kirwan Commission, named after it’s chair, former Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, Brit Kirwan.

According to the Maryland Manual the commission’s charge is to:

… review and assess current education financing formulas and accountability measures, and how each local school system is spending its funds, including the increased State funds… and review the Study on Adequacy of Funding for Education in the State of Maryland, required by the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act.

Not a lot in that charge about innovation.

And true to form the Kirwan Commission has been all about funding and less about innovation.  Holding meetings for more than a year, there’s been barely any talk of innovation—other than potential new ways to spend more taxpayer dollars, as evidenced by the teachers union constantly flogging a consultant report showing Maryland needs to spend $3 billion more on education.

Of course it’s the same consultant that told the Thornton Commission nearly a decade ago that Maryland needed to spend more money.

And not co-incidentally said consultant consistently submits reports that states must spend more money on education.

Starting in 2001, every one of the studies Augenblick was paid to produce came to the same conclusion: Taxpayers must come up with hundreds of millions of additional dollars to properly educate public school students. The company recommended spending hikes that ranged from 3.6 percent (Nevada, 2006) to 61.4 percent (Montana, 2007).

In 2013, the company concluded that the District of Columbia needed to spend 22.1 percent more to adequately educate students. As of 2012, Washington, D.C. public schools spent nearly $30,000 per student, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since Thornton funding increased kicked in in 2003, state funding has increased from $3 billion per year to more than $6 billion per year.  Factor in local and federal funding, Maryland’s public schools receive nearly $12 billion per year.

The ostensible purpose behind the Thornton formula increases was to reduce the achievement gap between poor minority students and their white peers.

What has been the return on that investment?  Appalling proficiency rates among Maryland’s most vulnerable students.   As Maryland increased per-pupil funding to Baltimore City’s schools proficiency 8th graders in math ranged from 10 percent, to 12 percent, and 10 percent to 13% for 4th graders in reading.

It should be noted that as this travesty was occurring during the eight years of the O’Malley administration, the teacher’s union and their Democratic allies patted themselves on the back for Maryland’s “number one” Education Week rankings, as the same reports showed Maryland at or near the bottom of the nation in the achievement gap.

The poor ROI on a 100 percent increase in education spending would lead one to ask about accountability.  But, we’re talking about the unaccountable teacher’s union here. Hence the reason why they rammed through the unconscionable and misleadingly named Protect Our Schools Act, over Governor Hogan’s veto.  The act does more to insulate the union from accountability for its failure’s and protect it from innovative competitors, who have shown the capability to succeed in areas it has failed.

Pair the Kirwan Commission’s singular focus on education funding over innovation with the Protect Our Schools Act, and you find the teacher’s union and their Democratic stooges want more money and less accountability… which is exactly what every monopoly wants.

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