School Choice: Does it Make Sense?

School Choice: Does it Make Sense?Over the next several posts, I will be discussing the issue of school choice. The current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a strong proponent of choice, making this a reasonable topic to discuss. School choice became a topic of discussion in the 1950s. Milton Friedman, the Nobel winning economist, began the discussion when he proposed vouchers for public education. His argument was simple, education should remain publicly funded but parents should have the ability to choose where to send their children to school. In Friedman's mind, schools ought to run as businesses. Competition would then weed out failing schools, replacing them with schools that succeed.

School Choice: Foundations

Today, school choice is not limited to Friedman's single option. The discussion now includes:
  • vouchers
  • neighborhood public schools
  • magnet schools
  • charter public schools
  • tuition tax credits for private schools
  • home-schooling, and
  • virtual online schooling
Driven mainly by the religious right and school delivery corporations, many experimental approaches to choice have come and gone. It is important to ask, especially now, whether school choice makes sense or not.
After sixty or so years, from Friedman's voucher plan, 31 states have adopted some form of school choice into law. Over that time, independent research looked at choice from many angles. Some funding came from organizations supporting choice. Other funding came from those opposing school choice. Independent research is funded by issue neutral sources. This is important because funding tends to create bias in the reporting of results that supports the funding source position. Only independent research has no bone to pick, therefore it is more trustworthy.
Overall, data demonstrates a mixed result on school choice. Some data suggests charter school success while other data suggests the opposite. There is a large body of data suggesting that charter schools are prone to corrupt management as opposed to traditional public schools. Over the next few posts, I will discuss four main topics.
  • Arguments for and against school choice
  • What produces school improvement, increased funding or competition?
  • What do we know about failing schools?
  • Charter school results in student achievement.
  • Is there a solution to this divide in American education policy?

School Choice: The Goal of These Posts

My goal in writing these posts is not to argue for one position over another. Rather it is to lay out facts that are known about the issue in a concise manner in order for you to think about the issue rationally. In my final essay, I will suggest solutions that make sense to me. Perhaps they will to you as well, but only you may decide on your position.

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