Amidst the emotional and political jockeying that has come to characterize the debate over charter schools in Massachusetts, we lose sight of two fundamental questions that should drive public policy decisions: Who benefits? And who pays?
We all have a stake in public education. We all pay taxes to support public education. And we all get to vote on who will manage the operation of our schools (well, unless we are in occupied territories like Philadelphia or Newark). School choice throws all of that out the window.
Conservatives often claim they are big fans of school choice. I think they're wrong. I don't mean that I want to disagree with them using fluffy progressive liberal arguments. I mean that in the world of conservative values and goals, school choice really doesn't fit. Let me explain.
No Child Left Behind, "school choice," "recovery school districts," and Common Core are what the United States has done to solve the education "crisis." Mind you, the "crisis" is that the United States is not number one in education.
Indeed, the center of the fight in NYC seems to be about what will happen when the considerable wealth and influence of a capitalist economy begins to remake the institution that was founded to be the ultimate safeguard of our democratic society.
Far from an education revolution, the political attention given choice and competition is diverting us from the hard work of making sure public schools prepare every child for their next steps after graduation.
The connective tissue of our nation is under assault. Rather than inviting our children into public spaces to learn, we are setting up mechanisms for families to isolate their children in settings that share only their particular view of society.
Fear of litigation is always a major concern when a state considers whether to pass a choice program, though typically the fear is that the lawsuit will come from within the state, not the federal government.
The students I hope to reach have over-worked parents who will in all probability cannot spare the time to read this. Many of these students don't have access to computers. Many of these parents might not even read English.