Is “School Choice” an Anti-Public School Sentiment?

There are a lot more options for receiving K-12 education today than when I was growing up. Long gone are the days when parents had to pick between the public school in their district or paying pricey private school tuition out of pocket. The rise of public charter and magnet schools, state-led voucher programs, online learning, and homeschooling options has meant that parents now have no reason to settle on the closest school or pay a premium to avoid it.

Do so many options undermine the purpose of public schools though? Should all of the energy that is going into building, naming and analyzing these other schools really be channeled into strengthening the basic schools that the government gave us?

In theory, I suppose there is an argument for refocus of educational pursuits where schools already exist, instead of creating new versions. But that theory hinges on the false assumption that given the chance, public schools would find the motivation, both within and outside school walls, to improve. Since the 1918 decree that all American children must attend at least elementary school, public schools have been considered a basic right. That widespread access certainly led to a better educated public but in the process the privilege of learning has been lost.

Despite spending more on public education than France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil AND the U.K. combined, the U.S. lags behind these nations in math and science. Only 25 percent of high school graduates have the literacy skills they need to get a job. What’s more, every 26 seconds a U.S. student drops out of high school. In the democratization of education process, indifference to learning has risen and the standards at public schools have dropped.

Enter school choice – a movement that strives to improve education at ALL schools through the old-fashioned business concept of competition. Public charter and magnet schools are tuition free, just like public schools, but must make some promises in their contracts in order to stay open. If these schools of choice habitually do not reach their goals, they close. Can the same be said of public schools? The accountability level that these young additions to the public school arena bring ensures that students achieve more – and if they don’t, those schools do not stick around long.

School choice is not simply about non-traditional public schools though. The movement goes much deeper than that and empowers parents to take the reins of their children’s learning paths. Since 2007, the number of K-12 students enrolled in online public schools has risen an astonishing 450 percent. Home schooling is also on the rise as 1.77 million K-12 students are homeschooled – a number that has more than doubled since 1999.  Parents are pushing back against simple acceptance of educational opportunities based on geography; they are still choosing traditional public and private schools but only after educating themselves.

At the end of January, National School Choice Week will take place. Last year, there were over 3,600 independently-held School Choice events across the country meant to celebrate choice in education.  Parents, administrators, politicians, students and other community leaders are encouraged to hold rallies, open houses or other events to shine the spotlight on choice in K-12 education.

Traditional public schools are not excluded from the events and are an important part of the discussion. It is meant to be a time of K-12 enlightenment, when misconceptions about choice in education are resolved.

So can public schools thrive in a school choice environment? I think so, yes. Options like charter, magnet, private, online and homeschool curricula are not meant to undermine the nation’s public schools but to build them up through shared quality standards. There is room for all choices in K-12 schools and students benefit from the options.

What is your stance on school choice?

0 Replies to “Is “School Choice” an Anti-Public School Sentiment?”

  1. I don’t think school choice is an anti-public school sentiment. I do think some public schools may suffer, urban ones especially. But I think parents can have some say in where their children attend school. We are fortunate to live in an area with excellent public schools, so I didn’t have that huge decision to make for my kids.

  2. Everyone should be treated the same. I don’t like the idea of school choice. You go to a school based on where you live, we shouldn’t shuttle students all over the place to get them at the “best” school.

  3. I think it is a slippery slope. Choice schools and magnet schools and even vouchers for private/religious schools do have a spot in the K-12 conversation, but we can’t neglect public schools in the process. We have to remember that our public schools are the basis of every other service our country offers.

  4. I don’t believe in choice schools that are receiving public funding. These schools are not held accountable at the same level as public schools, but should be. These choice schools don’t offer adequate ESL or Special Education services for our most vulnerable high risk students. Neither do most of these choice schools provide transportation or breakfast/lunch programs. Many of these choice schools require an admission placement test and commitment contracts. In essence, these choice schools hand pick students and have the ability to dismiss students who don’t meet their standards. Therefore, to make comparisons of choice schools to public schools is false. Public schools take all students with the commitment to provide a great education. When public funds are taken away from traditional public schools it erodes the very foundation of making success attainable for the most vulnerable. As for vouchers being used at private schools, this is a “pandora box” that private schools should not open themselves to. Once these funds are accepted it will be very difficult for private schools to replace this funding once it is taken away and once they will be held to the same standards and accountability as public schools. Private schools should hold on to their autonomy. You cannot expect to accept public funding and not be accountable for its use.

  5. Public schools are a mess. Bullying, drugs, alcohol, and poorly vetted teachers bringing personal beliefs into the classroom. People are tired of undoing the damage that the underfunded, and poorly ran public schools are doing to their children. Ask any child in 6-12 grade how they really feel about their public school, and if they feel like theyre truly benefitting. Seems to me that only people who have been out of the public school system for decades are the ones who dont see a problem. The fact is, traditional public schools are an antiquated way of the past and are being left to rot, and for good reason. People are done with their children learning nothing of value and being expected to do the same thing with same kids for 12 long years. They’re done. The kids are done. Now is the time for alternatives. No ones cares that you went through public school, and the younger generations shouldnt have to do it because you had to do it. Be active in your childs life. Take control of what theyre learning and what theyre subjected to and raise the standard of people that we’re turning out into the world.

  6. Every parent loves school choice until they hear the magic words..
    “The school you have chosen is currently at 100% capacity and we have no room for YOUR CHILD”
    As soon as YOUR CHILD has no choice but to attend the assigned public school do parents scream… make the public schools better… guess what… ITS TO LATE
    It is then and only then that school choice becomes a problem.
    Personally I am not against school choice, as the author points out there are positives (and negatives as well) the focus should be on making ALL SCHOOLS better… and it starts with changing (not getting rid of) teachers unions. No more tenure based on time… retructure to tenure based on RESULTS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *