Voucher-backers Sweep School Board
“D-11 Board Newcomers Are Plotting a Revolution” reads a headline in the Colorado Springs Gazette. The story describes the recent election of “pro-voucher, anti-establishment candidates” to the Colorado Springs District 11 school board. The four new members, who make up a majority on the board, were elected in part thanks to Denver-area philanthropists who made personal campaign contributions. Edward McVaney, founder of software giant JD Edwards and Company; communications executive John Saeman and his wife, Carolyn; and developer and longtime voucher advocate Steve Schuck together gave roughly $20,000 to the four winners, who told the Gazette “they plan immediate and wide-ranging changes.” Their plans include allowing students to receive vouchers more easily, returning educational control back to schools, and evaluating all non-teaching workers (who make up half to two-thirds of all district personnel) to see whether they should be retained. The four new board members ousted two incumbents and defeated three candidates endorsed by the teachers union. One of the new members likened the Colorado “revolution” to school reform in Milwaukee and said they hoped to make the school board “more like a private business than a government bureaucracy.” Terry Moe, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, told the Gazette that although most school boards can do little on their own, state law in Colorado allows local boards to provide parents with greater access to vouchers and charter schools.
Ranking the Big Boys
In its December 2003 issue, Business Week undertook its first annual survey of corporate giving. Among the most surprising trends to emerge, according to the business magazine, is “companies…sharing their skills with their counterparts in the world of social agencies.” It cites Boston’s Bain & Co., an international strategy consulting firm, for creating the Bridegspan Group. Bridgespan offers cash-strapped charities high-end consulting advice at deeply reduced rates. The article also points to General Mills, which played the leading role in restoring Minneapolis’s Hawthorne neighborhood (often referred to as “Murderopolis”) to its former glory by sharply reducing crime, paving the way for a new elementary school, and restoring or demolishing dilapidated buildings.
Choice Is Here to Stay
Education Week sums up a new education report from the Brookings Institution: “Choice is here to stay—like it or not—so policymakers need to get smart about harnessing its power to further the goals of public education.” Two years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation established the National Working Commission on K-12 Education at Brookings to “examine how communities interested in the potential benefits of new school options could obtain them while avoiding choice’s potential damage.” Chaired by the University of Washington’s Paul Hill, the Commission released its report, entitled “School Choice: Doing It the Right Way Makes a Difference,” in December 2003. Education Week describes the Commission as composed of “centrist education experts whose views on choice vary, but generally do not fall at the political extremes.” The report shies away from presenting an ideal choice plan, but instead describes how to design choice plans to achieve specific outcomes. For example, in order to achieve benefits for children whose families choose, new school providers “need the resources and freedom of action to provide good instruction.” The report also assesses the advantages and disadvantages of spending and government prescription. It finds that heavy regulation of schools is likely to produce few new school options, even with relatively generous funding; conversely, a choice plan with minimal oversight and limited funding is likely to be exposed to many risks without much benefit. “Some believe that even careful, measured expansion of choice is a threat to public education,” the report concludes. “It is equally possible that, just as Franklin D. Roosevelt used the power of government to save capitalism from itself, current state and local leaders can employ the power of choice to improve their chances of achieving the great goals of public education.”
Tithing’s New Twist
Claude Rosenberg is motivated by the ancient concept of tithing, but feels it needs some updating. “Tithing is wonderful,” he tells the San Jose Mercury News, “but people are still thinking about doing things as a part of their salaries instead of their total wealth.” His organization, NewTithing Group (newtithing.org) of San Francisco, looks to show people how. He’s developed an online calculator, PrudentPal, that shows individuals with personal incomes in excess of $100,000 per year how to avoid capital gains taxes and increase their charitable giving without appreciably affecting their own personal wealth. The trick is to give long-term appreciated assets instead of cash. NewTithing’s president tells the News that “those people could, on average, triple their donations and still be in an exceptional financial condition.”