Thursday, June 21, 2018

Prescription for Disaster: A Medicaid Malady

Prescription for Disaster: A Medicaid Malady
One of my very first publications. 

As relevant today as it was then! 



Prescription for Disaster: A Medicaid Malady

I constantly ask myself why does this happen to me? Am I part of some diabolical scheme to do away with public health efforts? Silence the noisemaker! Or is it just a coincidence that I spent three years in a doctoral program studying health law and policy specific to mental health and Medicaid. Don't they know how much more it hurts me to know exactly which systemic cracks I am falling through? Why have I encountered so many random barriers to health care in addition to those obstacles strategically placed in the system? We all know them: the endless forms, the incompetent employees, the negligence that already works to deter consumers such as myself from using the public health programs to which we are entitled. Yes, entitled. Medicaid is in fact an entitlement program no matter what they would have us believe.

Don't they know who I am? Who I could be? Who I might be if only my mental health and medications would remain stable? If only my health could be stabilized, I could live the rest of my life in rhythm without having my peace of mind tampered with by bureaucratic negligence and oversight. Without having my benefits tampered with by bureaucratic negligence and oversight! I could be a real noisemaker, if only…



Elyssa D. Durant 
Research & Policy Analyst
Columbia University, New York

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Healthcare Revolution Needed in America ©️ Elyssa Durant 2018

Healthcare Revolution Needed in America – Powers That Beat



Cross posted: 

Healthcare Revolution Needed in America

You say you want a revolution?

The Beatles: You Say You Want a Revolution

DailyDDoSe ©️March 29, 2018

I was admitted and discharged five times since I first woke up paralyzed early January trying to get a neurological consult.

Was told in no uncertain terms, there neurosurgeon and have been told "there's no neurologist or [137/81] neurosurgeon in this hospital. Then I'm told I have to see one outpatient and they discharge me to home without a wheelchair, walker, transportation, a diagnosis or any kind of treatment plan and tell me if I don't leave I'm responsible for the entire bill.

When I explain to them that I can't walk they offer no suggestions and tell me to take a taxi and go to another hospital because I'm too young for inpatient rehab and that my insurance won't pay for transportation because "you have bad insurance."

They TELL me they requested a walker or services or a medical surgical transfer but that it has been denied and that I have no rights to appeal.

WUT?

I've worked in many capacities as a private and government contractor and have been studying, auditing, advising, writing and advocating for myself and others and have served twice as an expert witness on health care appeals.

I'm not going to post my curriculum vitae here and I shouldn't have to but I've NEVER heard such a ridiculous line of bullshit in my life and I'm too furious and weak to fight the system right now.

But you don't have to be a fùcking scientist to google my name and figure out that I might not be the best person to fuck with for too long while on steroids before I take this whole god damn hospital, insurance company (and YES, the corrupt piece of shit Governor too) down with me.

This isn't just a lawsuit waiting to happen, it's a god damned revolution.

I've done it before and I'll do again. I'm not in this alone, and neither are the millions of Americans who are forced into medical bankruptcy, permanent disability or unable to navigate or access appropriate, affordable, accessible, medically necessary lifesaving medical care in the richest country on earth.

Call congress, call me, call your reps!! Now is not the time to sit back and be complacent.

I'm going to need some time to heal. This experience has broken me in ways I did not see coming but I promise you, I will not stop fighting and I beg you to keep doing the same.

Thank you for all of the love, support, patience and kindness. Having kind, caring people reach out to me across the world has made all the difference. More than you could possibly know.

I refuse to sit back and watch all the work I've done and the work of so many others go unnoticed.

Peter Morley

Natalie Weaver

Alyssa Milano

Scott Dworkin

Craig Anne Heflinger

Virginia Betts

Lori Smith

Tony Garr

Emmanuel Morel

Telene Thomas

Kirsten Olson

Laz

Joker

Roanna Carleton

Wayne Oldfield

To name just a few…

To be continued!


Elyssa D. Durant, Health Policy Analyst ©️ 2018


Related

The Next Revolution in Healthcare: The Time is now.

You say you want a revolution? DailyDDoSe ©️March 29, 2018 I was admitted and discharged five times since I first woke up paralyzed early January trying to get a neurological consult. Was told in no uncertain terms, there neurosurgeon and have been told "there's no neurologist or [137/81] neurosurgeon in…

In "The Resistance"

Hello, my sweet. Just waking up and have use of my hands for a bit and just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you. I know it's hard for people to know what to say to me right now under the circumstances and a bit awkward that we…

In "Published"

I don't always play nice but I always play fair. © 2018



Elyssa D. Durant 
Research & Policy Analyst
Columbia University, New York

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sanity for Superheroes: In God We Trust: Applying the Lemon Test for Public Funds for Parochial Schools

Sanity for Superheroes: In God We Trust: Applying the Lemon Test for Public Funds for Parochial Schools

In God We Trust: Applying the Lemon Test for Public Funds for Parochial Schools

In God We Trust:  The Lemon Test and Public Funds for Parochial Schools Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M  Guiding Questions 1. How can school vouchers reach a balance between serving the public interest and preserving individual freedoms and rights?  2. What additional arguments can be presented for against the use of school vouchers for parochial schools? 3. How is the issue of school vouchers for sectarian institutions different or similar from issues surrounding prayer in school? 4. What are the common issues relevant to both charter schools and voucher programs? This article will address concerns regarding the long-term outcomes of school choice and voucher programs. Specifically: do school vouchers exacerbate the inequality between the rich and the poor? Since I believe that health care and education are both social goods, I have some reservations about letting the free-market run amok during such a critical point in history. Is it wise to allow for-profit market forces to dictate public goods when natural rights are at stake?  The shortcomings of the Medicaid managed care programs, Medicare supplemental insurance policies, and demonstration projects such as the privatization of prisons provide sufficient evidence of the dangers of profit driven corporations in American culture. Corporate scandals with food and other suppliers contracted by the Board of Education in New York City in the late 1990's provide excellent examples of how easy it is for private companies to manipulate funds away from the target recipients. It was not too long ago that private managed care companies offered gifts to boost enrollment by enticing desperate Medicaid recipients to join their plans. This marketing strategy is simply offensive when we are dealing with a social good albeit health care or education. Vulnerable populations are frequently exploited through corporate contracts and there is little reason to believe that for-profit conglomerates would treat public schools or economically disadvantaged students and families otherwise. Arguments on both sides of the school voucher issue are very similar to those presented for and against charter schools and free-market school choice. Smrekar (1998) presents four key issues that have been at the center of the school choice debate: (1) economic, (2) political; (3) social justice; and (4) pedagogical. The economic argument in favor of school choice points out that our current public education system resembles a monopoly. Proponents argue that the introduction of choice into the educational marketplace will promote competition and force schools with poor performance records to improve or close (Friedman, 1968). The political argument is centered on the democratic ideal that the freedom to choose where your child attends school is a fundamental right. The political argument also triggers strong feelings about the role of education in a democratic society. There are those who feel that the public school is intended, at least in part, to create a common set of core values that is best served by the public sector.  At the core of the political school choice argument is a debate regarding the benefits of providing a common set of experiences in a democracy versus promoting individual choice and liberty (Smrekar, 1998). This issue, while not dead, was challenged in 1925 when the Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 U.S. 510 (1925)) in favor of parents who sent their children to private school. This argument continues today and is at the center of both school choice and curriculum debates. The social justice argument is a bit more complicated and there is little agreement on any front. Proponents argue that school choice empowers the poor to participate in the education of their children by giving them the same options available to wealthier families in the United States. According to a 1997 poll in USA Today, 47% of parents would send their children to private schools if they had the financial resources (Doyle, 1997). Information is an essential component to any school choice program. In order to ensure social equity in school choice programs we need to be sure that the "poor" are fully informed of their choices and are not taken advantage of in the open market. Research has shown that the act of "choosing" has positive effects on the school environment and promotes parental involvement in their children's education (Doyle, 1997). Additional components of the social justice argument have focused on the nuts and bolts of choice programs, and point out how there are several different ways that choice programs may (wittingly or unwittingly) promote social inequity (Cookson, 1995). Such arguments focus on transportation problems, admissions policies, the availability of information, and how we define "choice" and implement policies regulating recruitment, enrollment and performance of participating schools, (Cookson, 1995; 1997). The pedagogical argument points out that school choice programs are better suited for the individual needs inherent to a pluralistic society. Although some feel there is value in providing core curriculum and a common set of basic skills, there is a current trend towards specialty schools that focus on the arts and sciences, technology, vocational training, etc. Educators look towards successful magnet schools as examples of the pedagogical success that demonstrated the importance of school choice and parental involvement as indicators of educational outcomes. Some educators fear that the introduction of school choice and voucher plans would prompt the best students to leave public schools and that this would have a negative effect on the overall climate of public classrooms. Among the various school voucher programs, there is considerable controversy surrounding the program design that gives qualified individuals the choice to attend parochial schools using public funds. Traditional arguments against this type of school voucher program have focused on the constitutionality of using state funds for sectarian institutions. In theory, public schools are believed to be completely independent of religious institutions and provide a place where young adults can join together and develop a core set of "American" values and "democratic" principles. Just this year, states such as Tennessee have modified the curriculum to include Bible class in publicly funded classrooms. It is not yet known how this will be implemented given the number of students who did not meet the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) benchmarks. They are just now trying designing the course content and have not yet selecting the text to be used next fall (2008). Historically, the church had a key role in the education of children in America. During the National Period (1780-1830), churches were used to educate children, and the King James Bible was used as a reader in these classrooms (Smrekar, 1998). Derek Neal (1997) points out that much of the current sentiment against Catholic schools is not a reflection of their excellent performance record, but rather an indication of the anti-Catholic sentiment which swept the country during the late part of the 19th Century (Neal, 1997). Neal argues that until that point, there was no contest to religious education as long as it was Protestant. Catholic schools have traditionally served the children of the working class. They were a major socializing force earlier in the century and continue to succeed with children who might otherwise fall through the cracks in public schools. Despite tapering enrollment, Catholic schools remain a viable force in the private sector providing a reasonably priced private education to American children. Neal conducted a study that looked at the graduation rates of minority children attending Catholic schools compared with children attending public schools in the inner cities. Controlling for demographic variables, (parent's education, parent's occupation, family structure, and reading materials at home) closer analysis revealed graduation rates for urban minorities are 26% higher in Catholic schools compared with public schools in the same communities. Although Neal found similar benefits for whites and in suburban communities, this effect was most profound for urban minorities. Other studies have focused on identifying the qualities that make Catholic schools successful. A number of factors have been identified by Bryk and Lee, including active parental participation and the benefits of school choice in creating an inclusive community that fosters a common set of values and ideals (Bryk & Lee, 1995). Interestingly, the very same variables found to enhance the performance of Catholic school students are remarkably similar to the reported benefits of magnet schools and choice programs. Despite the excellent performance records of Catholic schools, there are currently no voucher programs that allow parochial schools to participate in state funded voucher programs. The reason for this is quite simple, but not necessarily correct or in the best interest of our children. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the use of public funds in religious institutions. However, it can also be argued that it is unconstitutional to exclude parochial schools from voucher systems because it violates the student's free expression of religion. In addition, voucher programs require a conscious decision on the part of the student and the parent. The state does not enforce a blanket endorsement of any one religion. I use Catholic schools as an example because they represent the majority of parochial schools in urban America. Voucher programs typically undergo strict scrutiny for all four reasons mentioned above, but this issue is especially true of any choice or voucher program that channels funds into Parochial schools. For this reason, Catholic schools and other schools with religious affiliations have been excluded from voucher plans up until this point. It is not politically viable to institute a choice or voucher program at any level (at the district, state or national level) since similar plans have historically presented long-standing, hard-fought, legal challenges to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Since the Supreme Court has not ruled on this issue, most challenges up until this point have taken place in state courts[1]. These state decisions have been split, and while there are a few voucher programs operating in Wisconsin and Ohio, neither permits sectarian schools to participate in their programs. Milwaukee designed a voucher system that included parochial schools in 1995 but later revised their proposal after the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction against expansion into religious schools (Kremerer & King, 1995). School choice programs that involve vouchers have not been tested in the Supreme Court, but there is a long history of court cases that challenge the flow of money from the public sector into private, sectarian institutions. The recent pattern of Supreme Court rulings has lead some legal scholars (Kremerer & King, 1995) to conclude that school vouchers would pass constitutional muster under the following circumstances: 1. Provides payments in the form of scholarships to parents of school age children 2. Allows parents to choose among a variety of public and private sectarian and nonsectarian schools for their children 3. Gives no preference to sectarian private institutions Voucher programs up until this point have encountered substantial resistance from the legal community and a number of civil rights and political organizations. This becomes more pronounced when the voucher model includes sectarian institutions in the model plan and state court rulings have been inconsistent in decisions surrounding the constitutionality of voucher programs. The definitive case regarding school voucher programs is Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602 (1971)). The Court's ruling in Lemon was based on three components that came to be known as the "Lemon Test." The Lemon Test applies the following to any Constitutional challenge of the Establishment Clause: 1. The government action must have a secular purpose 2. The primary effect must neither advance, nor inhibit religion 3. It must not result in excessive governmental entanglement with religion Since voucher programs do not generally provide support directly to the institution, individual freedom and choice remain intact. Individual families are empowered by educational vouchers since they choose the school and religion appropriate for them. Qualified schools are not determined by religious affiliation and all schools are required to adhere to state and federal regulations that increase accountability. Similar issues came before the courts in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 U.S. 510 (1925)) as well, however Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602 (1971)) is considered to be both the landmark and test case currently before the courts. The reason for this is quite simple, but not necessarily correct or in the best interest of our children. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the use of public funds in religious institutions. However, it could also be argued that it is unconstitutional to exclude parochial schools from voucher systems because it violates the free expression of religion. In addition, voucher programs require a conscious decision on the part of the student and the parent. The state does not enforce a blanket endorsement of any one religion. I use Catholic schools as an example because they represent the majority of parochial schools in urban America. Teacher's unions are resistant to bring in a new system that has the potential to upset their job status and security. It will likely be a number of years before we truly understand the effects of magnet schools and can evaluate the implementation of school choice programs that are already in place. Because we are dealing with such an essential human, social good, it is my recommendation that we do not implement a largest-scale voucher program until issues of access and equity are resolved on other public fronts. We must ensure real choices for the students and families who are not information savvy and may be limited in their ability to recognize the real value of their options. We must find a way to ensure the equitable distribution of resources so that education truly does will empower the poor. Is it time to apply the Lemon Test to school vouchers?   You decide. References Cookson, P.W., Jr. (1994). School choice: The struggle for the soul of American education. New Haven: Yale University Press. Cookson, P.W., Jr. (1995). ERIC Digests: School Choice. Doyle, D.P. (1997). Vouchers for religious schools. Public Interest, 127, 88-95. Haynes, C.C. (1993). Beyond the culture wars. Educational Leadership, 51(4), 30-34. Houston, P.D. (1993). School vouchers: The latest California joke. Phi Delta Kappan, 75(4), 61-64. Kremerer, F.R. & King, K.L. (1995). Are school vouchers Constitutional? Phi Delta Kappan, 77(1), 307-311.  Kremerer, F.R. (1995). The Constitutionality of school vouchers. West's Education Law Reporter,101 Ed. Law Rep. 17. Kremerer, F.R. (1997). State Constitutions and school vouchers. West's Education Law Reporter, 120 Ed. Law Rep. 1. Neal, D. (1997). Measuring Catholic school performance. Public Interest, 127, 81-87. [1] Including a decision that was handed down regarding a choice plan in Ohio. (12/18/2000) Elyssa D. Durant © 2007-2014


1. How can school vouchers reach a balance between serving the public interest and preserving individual freedoms and rights? 

2. What additional arguments can be presented for against the use of school vouchers for parochial schools?

3. How is the issue of school vouchers for sectarian institutions different or similar from issues surrounding prayer in school?

4. What are the common issues relevant to both charter schools and voucher programs?




This article will address concerns regarding the long-term outcomes of school choice and voucher programs. Specifically: do school vouchers exacerbate the inequality between the rich and the poor?

Since I believe that health care and education are both social goods, I have some reservations about letting the free-market run amok during such a critical point in history. Is it wise to allow for-profit market forces to dictate public goods when natural rights are at stake? 

The shortcomings of the Medicaid managed care programs, Medicare supplemental insurance policies, and demonstration projects such as the privatization of prisons provide sufficient evidence of the dangers of profit driven corporations in American culture. Corporate scandals with food and other suppliers contracted by the Board of Education in New York City in the late 1990's provide excellent examples of how easy it is for private companies to manipulate funds away from the target recipients.

It was not too long ago that private managed care companies offered gifts to boost enrollment by enticing desperate Medicaid recipients to join their plans. This marketing strategy is simply offensive when we are dealing with a social good albeit health care or education. Vulnerable populations are frequently exploited through corporate contracts and there is little reason to believe that for-profit conglomerates would treat public schools or economically disadvantaged students and families otherwise.

Arguments on both sides of the school voucher issue are very similar to those presented for and against charter schools and free-market school choice. Smrekar (1998) presents four key issues that have been at the center of the school choice debate: (1) economic, (2) political; (3) social justice; and (4) pedagogical.

The economic argument in favor of school choice points out that our current public education system resembles a monopoly. Proponents argue that the introduction of choice into the educational marketplace will promote competition and force schools with poor performance records to improve or close (Friedman, 1968).

The political argument is centered on the democratic ideal that the freedom to choose where your child attends school is a fundamental right. The political argument also triggers strong feelings about the role of education in a democratic society. There are those who feel that the public school is intended, at least in part, to create a common set of core values that is best served by the public sector. 

At the core of the political school choice argument is a debate regarding the benefits of providing a common set of experiences in a democracy versus promoting individual choice and liberty (Smrekar, 1998). This issue, while not dead, was challenged in 1925 when the Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 U.S. 510 (1925)) in favor of parents who sent their children to private school. This argument continues today and is at the center of both school choice and curriculum debates.

The social justice argument is a bit more complicated and there is little agreement on any front. Proponents argue that school choice empowers the poor to participate in the education of their children by giving them the same options available to wealthier families in the United States. According to a 1997 poll in USA Today, 47% of parents would send their children to private schools if they had the financial resources (Doyle, 1997).

Information is an essential component to any school choice program. In order to ensure social equity in school choice programs we need to be sure that the "poor" are fully informed of their choices and are not taken advantage of in the open market. Research has shown that the act of "choosing" has positive effects on the school environment and promotes parental involvement in their children's education (Doyle, 1997). Additional components of the social justice argument have focused on the nuts and bolts of choice programs, and point out how there are several different ways that choice programs may (wittingly or unwittingly) promote social inequity (Cookson, 1995). Such arguments focus on transportation problems, admissions policies, the availability of information, and how we define "choice" and implement policies regulating recruitment, enrollment and performance of participating schools, (Cookson, 1995; 1997).

The pedagogical argument points out that school choice programs are better suited for the individual needs inherent to a pluralistic society. Although some feel there is value in providing core curriculum and a common set of basic skills, there is a current trend towards specialty schools that focus on the arts and sciences, technology, vocational training, etc. Educators look towards successful magnet schools as examples of the pedagogical success that demonstrated the importance of school choice and parental involvement as indicators of educational outcomes. Some educators fear that the introduction of school choice and voucher plans would prompt the best students to leave public schools and that this would have a negative effect on the overall climate of public classrooms.

Among the various school voucher programs, there is considerable controversy surrounding the program design that gives qualified individuals the choice to attend parochial schools using public funds. Traditional arguments against this type of school voucher program have focused on the constitutionality of using state funds for sectarian institutions. In theory, public schools are believed to be completely independent of religious institutions and provide a place where young adults can join together and develop a core set of "American" values and "democratic" principles. Just this year, states such as Tennessee have modified the curriculum to include Bible class in publicly funded classrooms. It is not yet known how this will be implemented given the number of students who did not meet the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) benchmarks. They are just now trying designing the course content and have not yet selecting the text to be used next fall (2008).

Historically, the church had a key role in the education of children in America. During the National Period (1780-1830), churches were used to educate children, and the King James Bible was used as a reader in these classrooms (Smrekar, 1998). Derek Neal (1997) points out that much of the current sentiment against Catholic schools is not a reflection of their excellent performance record, but rather an indication of the anti-Catholic sentiment which swept the country during the late part of the 19th Century (Neal, 1997). Neal argues that until that point, there was no contest to religious education as long as it was Protestant.

Catholic schools have traditionally served the children of the working class. They were a major socializing force earlier in the century and continue to succeed with children who might otherwise fall through the cracks in public schools. Despite tapering enrollment, Catholic schools remain a viable force in the private sector providing a reasonably priced private education to American children. Neal conducted a study that looked at the graduation rates of minority children attending Catholic schools compared with children attending public schools in the inner cities. Controlling for demographic variables, (parent's education, parent's occupation, family structure, and reading materials at home) closer analysis revealed graduation rates for urban minorities are 26% higher in Catholic schools compared with public schools in the same communities. Although Neal found similar benefits for whites and in suburban communities, this effect was most profound for urban minorities.

Other studies have focused on identifying the qualities that make Catholic schools successful. A number of factors have been identified by Bryk and Lee, including active parental participation and the benefits of school choice in creating an inclusive community that fosters a common set of values and ideals (Bryk & Lee, 1995). Interestingly, the very same variables found to enhance the performance of Catholic school students are remarkably similar to the reported benefits of magnet schools and choice programs. Despite the excellent performance records of Catholic schools, there are currently no voucher programs that allow parochial schools to participate in state funded voucher programs.

The reason for this is quite simple, but not necessarily correct or in the best interest of our children. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the use of public funds in religious institutions. However, it can also be argued that it is unconstitutional to exclude parochial schools from voucher systems because it violates the student's free expression of religion. In addition, voucher programs require a conscious decision on the part of the student and the parent. The state does not enforce a blanket endorsement of any one religion. I use Catholic schools as an example because they represent the majority of parochial schools in urban America.

Voucher programs typically undergo strict scrutiny for all four reasons mentioned above, but this issue is especially true of any choice or voucher program that channels funds into Parochial schools. For this reason, Catholic schools and other schools with religious affiliations have been excluded from voucher plans up until this point. It is not politically viable to institute a choice or voucher program at any level (at the district, state or national level) since similar plans have historically presented long-standing, hard-fought, legal challenges to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Since the Supreme Court has not ruled on this issue, most challenges up until this point have taken place in state courts[1]. These state decisions have been split, and while there are a few voucher programs operating in Wisconsin and Ohio, neither permits sectarian schools to participate in their programs. Milwaukee designed a voucher system that included parochial schools in 1995 but later revised their proposal after the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction against expansion into religious schools (Kremerer & King, 1995).

School choice programs that involve vouchers have not been tested in the Supreme Court, but there is a long history of court cases that challenge the flow of money from the public sector into private, sectarian institutions. The recent pattern of Supreme Court rulings has lead some legal scholars (Kremerer & King, 1995) to conclude that school vouchers would pass constitutional muster under the following circumstances:

1. Provides payments in the form of scholarships to parents of school age children

2. Allows parents to choose among a variety of public and private sectarian and nonsectarian schools for their children

3. Gives no preference to sectarian private institutions

Voucher programs up until this point have encountered substantial resistance from the legal community and a number of civil rights and political organizations. This becomes more pronounced when the voucher model includes sectarian institutions in the model plan and state court rulings have been inconsistent in decisions surrounding the constitutionality of voucher programs.

The definitive case regarding school voucher programs is Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602 (1971)). The Court's ruling in Lemon was based on three components that came to be known as the "Lemon Test." The Lemon Test applies the following to any Constitutional challenge of the Establishment Clause:

1. The government action must have a secular purpose

2. The primary effect must neither advance, nor inhibit religion

3. It must not result in excessive governmental entanglement with religion

Since voucher programs do not generally provide support directly to the institution, individual freedom and choice remain intact. Individual families are empowered by educational vouchers since they choose the school and religion appropriate for them. Qualified schools are not determined by religious affiliation and all schools are required to adhere to state and federal regulations that increase accountability. Similar issues came before the courts in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 U.S. 510 (1925)) as well, however Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602 (1971)) is considered to be both the landmark and test case currently before the courts.

The reason for this is quite simple, but not necessarily correct or in the best interest of our children. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the use of public funds in religious institutions. However, it could also be argued that it is unconstitutional to exclude parochial schools from voucher systems because it violates the free expression of religion. In addition, voucher programs require a conscious decision on the part of the student and the parent. The state does not enforce a blanket endorsement of any one religion. I use Catholic schools as an example because they represent the majority of parochial schools in urban America.

Teacher's unions are resistant to bring in a new system that has the potential to upset their job status and security. It will likely be a number of years before we truly understand the effects of magnet schools and can evaluate the implementation of school choice programs that are already in place. Because we are dealing with such an essential human, social good, it is my recommendation that we do not implement a largest-scale voucher program until issues of access and equity are resolved on other public fronts. We must ensure real choices for the students and families who are not information savvy and may be limited in their ability to recognize the real value of their options. We must find a way to ensure the equitable distribution of resources so that education truly does will empower the poor.

Is it time to apply the Lemon Test to school vouchers? 

 You decide.



References

Cookson, P.W., Jr. (1994). School choice: The struggle for the soul of American education. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Cookson, P.W., Jr. (1995). ERIC Digests: School Choice.

Doyle, D.P. (1997). Vouchers for religious schools. Public Interest, 127, 88-95.

Haynes, C.C. (1993). Beyond the culture wars. Educational Leadership, 51(4), 30-34.

Houston, P.D. (1993). School vouchers: The latest California joke. Phi Delta Kappan, 75(4), 61-64.

Kremerer, F.R. & King, K.L. (1995). Are school vouchers Constitutional? Phi Delta Kappan, 77(1), 307-311. 

Kremerer, F.R. (1995). The Constitutionality of school vouchers. West's Education Law Reporter,101 Ed. Law Rep. 17.

Kremerer, F.R. (1997). State Constitutions and school vouchers. West's Education Law Reporter, 120 Ed. Law Rep. 1.

Neal, D. (1997). Measuring Catholic school performance. Public Interest, 127, 81-87.

[1] Including a decision that was handed down regarding a choice plan in Ohio. (12/18/2000)

Elyssa D. Durant © 2007-2014



^ed 

Educational Law, Finance and Public Policy

Top Down Policy Failure in Public Education by Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) does not have the answers, nor does our newly elected Mayor who recently launched an aggressive media campaign to recruit new teachers willing to work within the constraints our over-regulated, under-funded public schools. This article MNPS News glossed over the magnitude of the desperate situation in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS).

But it does raise questions about the hiring and retention practices by the Board of Ed. The basic fact that students are not making adequate progress is a reflection of the top-down policy failure by MNPS and the Board of Ed. Students are not making adequate progress, and teachers are being shuffled around in a desperate attempt to fix a problem that they do not fully understand.
This data seems to support the need for performance based incentives such as the study on performance incentives at the National Center for Performance Incentives on the Peabody Campus at Vanderbilt University. Teachers in the experimental group receive a $15,000 bonus if their students demonstrate a pre-determined level of achievement and demonstrate proficiency. In conjunction with the RAND corporation, data will be collected twice a year: at the beginning of the academic term to establishing the baseline level of competency for each student. Data is then collecting at the end of the year to measure achievement. Several waves of data will be collected and evaluated over the next several years will be evaluated in conjunction with the RAND Corporation.
In order to fix our broken schools, we need to look at schools that work. There are in fact public schools in urban neighborhoods that are successfully educating the students despite limited budgets, supplies, and adequate funding. So what is it about these schools that allows them to successfully educate disadvantaged, at-risk students and how can we replicate their success?
As an educator employed by MNPS, I earn $10.46 / hour (without benefits) teaching at-risk students. What does this say about the fiscal priorities of our community? My graduate degree in education is from the very same university that Mayor Karl Dean attended in New York City. What does that say about our values as a society? What does that say about the value of a graduate degree from the Ivy League?
I called HR and the "Certificated Office" to inquire about obtaining a provisional teaching license and alternative certification, I was simply told that I was not eligible for alternative certification and without additional coursework, and tuition and fees, I was not deemed qualified to teach in Metro. I am not qualified to teach in Metro since, apparently, Metro "does not teach education." What a joke. To make matters worse- I had to pay them to find out that I was not even qualified to work with Head Start. I went to Head Start! Shouldn't that be enough? I find it difficult to believe that a city so desperate for teachers is not willing to bend the rules just a little or waive the application fee for anyone who is willing to work in such a hostile environment.
The state Department of Education could not offer any realistic solution to the simple fact that I cannot afford to pay the fees associated with the application fees certification requirements. If the Mayor really needs applicants, perhaps the city should comp the application fees necessary to be considered for employment. They are strangely unfamiliar with the political process, and teachers are expected to implement and carry out policies that were designed by academic professionals or educational consultants. If MNPS truly wants a better-qualified staff, then the Mayor, the Board of Education, and school administrators need to take a closer look at the methods used to recruit, retain, and reward qualified individuals willing to sacrifice their financial stability for a career in public service.
The high rate of student mobility is compounded by the constant shifting of school personnel. Many schools may just lose the few experienced, dedicated teachers they still have left have, to surrounding districts, cities, and states. Such instability in the system may even prompt the younger set to leave the profession all together and discourage future teachers from applying for jobs in Metro. Now that I realize my education was a complete waste of time and money, is it any wonder that I am ready to give up on teaching and maybe even ready to leave Nashville for good. The local hardware store has more to offer including benefits!
Everything we know about the positive outcomes in neighborhood schools is their strong reliance upon community buy-in and parental involvement. One thing that makes magnet, lottery, charter schools, parochial, and private schools so good is the fact that parents, teachers, students, and administrators fight to get in, and fight to stay there. The act of choosing, in effect, leads to an enhanced sense of community and builds a supportive, consistent, and structured environment.  Calling rezoning and teacher shuffling in Metro "Project Fresh Start" is ridiculous-- it would be more accurate.




  • The state Department of Education could not offer any realistic solution.
  • The high rate of student mobility is compounded by the constant shifting of school personnel
  • The Board need to take a closer look at the methods used to recruit, retain qualified educators.

  • Elyssa D. Durant © 2009-2017