November 2019 | Number 449
Virginia Walden Ford and others involved in the making of "Miss Virginia" are pictured at the film's premier. Photo courtesy of the American Federation for Children.
"Miss Virginia" Tells Inspiring Story of Virginia Walden Ford's Fight for Educational Freedom
School choice legend Virginia Walden Ford is the subject of a new feature film that premiered in October in cities across the country.

Based on a true story, "Miss Virginia" stars Emmy award winner Uzo Aduba as a struggling single mother who is losing her fifteen-year-old son to the rough streets of Washington, DC. Unwilling to see him drop out and deal drugs, she places him in a private school. When she can’t afford tuition, she launches a movement to change the system that is destroying him and thousands like him. Attacked and threatened by those who don’t want change, Virginia must discover depths of strength she never knew she had.

" Miss Virginia" can now be viewed on a variety of platforms. Visit to watch this important film.
Secretary DeVos Decries NAEP Scores
On October 30, the results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released. Average reading scores dropped since 2017 for both fourth and eighth graders. Eighth grade math scores were also lower than 2017, by one point. However, fourth grade math scores have increased by a point.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos offered a grim assessment of the results, saying: "E very American family needs to open The Nation’s Report Card this year and think about what it means for their child and for our country’s future. The results are, frankly, devastating. This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students."

She continued, "Two out of three of our nation’s children aren’t proficient readers. In fact, fourth grade reading declined in 17 states and eighth grade reading declined in 31. The gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening, despite $1 trillion in Federal spending over 40 years designated specifically to help close it."

To view all of the data, which is sortable in a host of ways, including by student groups, states, and districts, visit:
Catholic Schools Outperform Public Schools on NAEP
The 2019 NAEP scores show Catholic Schools outperforming their public school counterparts (note: scores for grade 12 are from 2015). Results for all private schools are only reported when at least 70% of the schools in the sample participate. The following graphs are from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

NAEP Reading Scores
NAEP Math Scores
Private School Principal Recipient of School Leadership Award
On October 23, Secretary DeVos announced that Shane Staszcuk, principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in Chicago, IL, is one of ten recipients of the 2019 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. Bell awards are presented to principals of National Blue Ribbon Schools for the vital role they play in guiding their students and schools to excellence, frequently under challenging circumstances.

“Bell awardees are truly extraordinary principals,” Secretary DeVos said. “These principals are models of transformative leadership, capable of articulating—and realizing—a vision of school as a community where every student and every adult thrives through learning. They are also skilled communicators who convey faith in the ability of students and staff to rise to high expectations.”
Kellyanne Conway, DeVos Discuss Scholarship Proposal
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway sat down with Secretary DeVos and the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess this past October for a conversation about DeVos' proposed Education Freedom Scholarships . The proposal would establish a $5 billion federal tax credit for voluntary donations to scholarship programs in the states. House and Senate versions of the program have been introduced but have yet to make headway.
Updated Title I Guidance Released
The US Department of Education has released updated non-regulatory guidance for Title I of ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act - ESSA). Of interest are at least two items.

First, the guidance reaffirms the policy announced by Secretary DeVos to a group of State CAPE leaders in March that religious organizations will now to be free to serve as contract providers of equitable services. See Section C-28 on pages 36-37 of the guidance.

Second, the guidance reverses a previous policy that barred the pooling of Title I funds across public school districts. Section B-8, Subsection 3, on page 17, says:

  • Pooling across LEAs: Because eligibility for Title I services is based on a child’s residence and not where the child attends school, it is common that multiple LEAs have a responsibility to provide services to eligible children who attend the same private school, making provision of those services through pooling across LEAs potentially more educationally effective and efficient than by each individual LEA providing services to eligible students in the same private school. Thus, multiple LEAs may pool the Title I funds generated by their private school children from low-income families who reside in a participating Title I public school attendance area to serve eligible low-achieving private school children who reside in those LEAs. In other words, low-achieving private school children in greatest need who reside in a participating Title I public school attendance area in any of the applicable LEAs may be served with the pooled funds. The LEAs, in consultation with appropriate private school officials, must establish criteria to determine the eligible private school students in greatest educational need to receive services.
Justice Department Files Amicus Brief Supporting Maine Religious Schools
From an October 7 DOJ release :

"The Department of Justice today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, explaining that a Maine law that bans religious schools from the state’s school tuition program violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

"The majority of Maine’s school districts do not operate their own high schools. Instead, those school districts may either contract with another school to educate their resident high school students, or they may pay tuition to the private high school of the parent’s choice—but only if the high school is not religious in nature. The plaintiffs in this case,  Carson v. Makin , all live in school districts that do not operate their own high schools and either send their children to a religious high school at their own expense, or would like to send their children to a religious high school but cannot afford to do so. They sued the Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Education, claiming that Maine law violates the United States Constitution.

"'Our Constitution guarantees that all people in our nation may exercise their religion free from discrimination by the government,' said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. 'The First Amendment’s religious freedom protections are especially important for families and children, and the Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all children may participate equally in educational programs without discrimination because of their religion.'"
EdChoice Releases 2019 Schooling in America Survey
EdChoice has released the 7th Edition of its Schooling in America Survey . Among the key findings:

  • "79% of parents are satisfied with their current private school. 67% of parents are satisfied with their current public district school."

  • "On average, the United States spends approximately $12,200 on each student in America’s public schools...The median respondent estimated public schools spend $5,000 per student, which is less than half of what they actually spend ($12,201). The median current public school teacher we surveyed estimated public schools spend $4,000 per student."

  • "The top reasons parents choose the schooling environments they’ve chosen appear to be all over the map, likely because it’s such a personal decision. A few top factors stood out for each school type. Public District Schools: the fact the school was assigned to them or because it’s close to home or work. Private Schools: academic reputation and safety."

  • "When you describe how education savings accounts (ESAs) help families not just afford private school but also customize an education for their kids—nearly everyone supports them. 85% of current school parents support ESAs; 78% of current public school teachers support ESAs; 77% of the general population supports ESAs."

  • "The top most important reasons people support ESAs: access to a better academic environment and more freedom and flexibility for parents. The top most important reason people oppose ESAs: the perception that they take money away from public schools. Parents are far more likely to say ESAs should be available to all families, not just those who qualify based on financial need."
The Last Word

Funding for the US Department of Education is still in limbo as lawmakers have once again failed to fund federal programs on time. Congress is supposed to pass all of the appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government by the beginning of the new fiscal year, but a month later that still hasn't happened.

This should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

It turns out that Congress has only passed all of the requisite spending bills on schedule four times in the last forty years . A month into the new fiscal year, which began October 1, federal education programs -- make that all federal programs -- are still waiting to have their new funding levels set and are being forced to rely upon a stopgap measure that expires November 21.

The good news: all that is needed is for Republicans and Democrats to sit down together in good faith, put aside their differences, and broker a compromise. OK, maybe that isn't particularly reassuring. Moreover, observers of the congressional scene do not expect the impeachment process to increase either side's appetite for reaching across the aisle.

When the dust settles, the federal government, including USDE, will be funded. But an already broken appropriations process could get especially messy in the coming weeks.
Private Education: Good for Students, Good for Families, Good for America
CAPE member organizations:

Agudath Israel of America

American Montessori Society

Association Montessori

Association of Christian Schools

Association of Christian
Teachers and Schools

Association of Waldorf
Schools of N.A.

Christian Schools International

Council of Islamic Schools
in North America
Council on Educational Standards
and Accountability

Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America

Friends Council on Education

Islamic Schools League of America

Jesuit Schools Network

Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

National Association of
Episcopal Schools

National Association of
Independent Schools
National Catholic
Educational Association

National Christian School

Office for Lasallian Education
Christian Brothers Conference

Oral Roberts University
Educational Fellowship

Seventh-day Adventist
Board of Education

United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran
Synod Schools
Affiliated State Organizations a coalition of national associations serving private schools K-12

Executive Director:
Michael Schuttloffel

Outlook is published monthly (September to June) by CAPE.
ISSN 0271-145

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 844-883-CAPE
Michael Schuttloffel
Executive Director
Phone: 844-883-CAPE