Choice is a Good Thing, Right, Liberals? Oh, Not on Schools?
Choice is a good thing, right, liberals? Not on schooling, you say? Betsy DeVos’s ideas for promoting school choice are disastrous?
That’s the new liberal position on choice, when it applies to schooling. Oh, they may say they’re worried about DeVos’s “inexperience” — but Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan didn’t have experience, either. They may believe that her policies that will — get this — “kill children,” in the literal, not figurative sense. They’ll say they’re offended that she’s sabotaging the public schools, as said so eloquently by Sen. Chuck Schumer:
The president’s decision to ask Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education should offend every single American man, woman, and child who has benefited from the public education system in this country.
What About Public Education?
What about the public education system in this country? Fox News’ Andrew Campanella, in an attempt at peacemaking, maintained that “the concept of school choice isn’t about elevating one choice above another, or about demonizing any schools as ‘failures.’ It’s about recognizing the individual needs of individual students, and pairing students with the schools that best meet their needs.”
That’s true. But school choice is also about calling out the public schools that are failures and giving desperate parents good alternatives.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 35 countries outrank our students in Math, 27 outrank our students in Science and 23 outrank our students in reading. The Nation’s Report Card found in 2015 that, by grade 12, only 25 percent of students were at or above proficiency level in Math, 22 percent were at or above proficiency in Science and 37 percent were at or above proficiency in reading. Certain students, such as African Americans in urban areas, fare much worse.
Maybe liberals believe all the things they’re saying about DeVos and school choice. There’s another reason they don’t want school choice: loss of control over funding. With school choice, education dollars will flow to private, charter or possibly even homeschools, diverted from funding pools within their grasp.
Jeffrey Dorfman explains in Forbes that teachers’ unions receive money for each child enrolled in public schools. “Opponents of school choice are not worried about children, either the ones who want to leave or the ones that would stay. They only care about the teachers’ job security. So remember, the debate about school choice isn’t about education quality, it is really about jobs and union dues.”
Competition — Not Just for Businesses
Students enrolled in alternative education based on school choice consistently outperform public school counterparts. But school choice improves the public schools as well by providing them with competition. Even their students benefit from school choice.
A 2016 University of Arkansas study found that school choice encouraged public schools within the district to compete with the alternative school to perform better. A separate 2016 study on school choice also found that competition drives performance:
Thirty of the 42 evaluations of the effects of school-choice competition on the performance of affected public schools report that the test scores of all or some public school students increase when schools are faced with competition.
School choice, however, isn’t just about the numbers. Charter, private, Christian and homeschools are in large part value-driven — that is to say, they strive to build character and purposed values in a core-values model over and above what a student would receive in public school. For example, if a student is late in a Colorado charter school, they are required to apologize to their classmates for the disruption and late start.
Jamey Verrilli, co-founder of North Star Academy and Uncommon Schools, said that his charter school’s core values model is an integral part of the program. Uncommon Schools creates and runs urban charter public schools for low-income students. “You have to build a culture that’s going to enhance learning,” said Verrilli in a Fox News interview, “that’s going to strengthen core values, that’s going to build a sense of community for any child, particularly children in hard-pressed areas.” He added that the culture is a platform on which to build rigorous academics.
Most of all, school choice is about empowering families to make the decision for themselves and taking back control over their children’s education. School choice allows students to attend the school of their family’s choosing, to excel in a school with high expectations and/or a core-values model and it propels public schools to think of these alternative schools as competition, pushing their programs to be better for students.
Amy Kelley, President of My School My Choice, a coalition of teachers, parents and non-public schools striving to give a voice to families for school choice, believes parents are in the best position to make the best educational decision for their children — not the government.
“A good education is important, it is the foundation of a successful future for our kids,” said Kelley. “So providing our children with an education in the learning environment where they can thrive is crucial. Finding that environment is not always as simple as sending your kid to the local public school building. But there is no one who can possibly determine the place where our children will learn better than us, the parents. We know our children the best and, we are the best advocates for them.”