How advocates of school choice became dupes of the privatizers (rough draft)

Public schools have failed, children need more options, parents should be in charge of their children’s education, we’re sick of high stakes testing because our kids are more than a test score, zip codes shouldn’t determine educational outcomes and the list of talking points that the proponents of school choice spout goes on and on. They either don’t realize or they don’t care that they are dupes of the privatization movement and people who want to profit off of public education, who don’t care if they hurt children, families and communities as they rush to gorge themselves at the public trough.

First public schools have not failed, in fact they have arguably led to much of the greatness our country has experienced. Now are their problems in public education, sure, I personally don’t think they are always rigorousness enough, learning the quadratic formula is great but learning a work ethic and deadlines is even better and discipline remains a problem in many schools but to say public schools where the vast majority of people got their education have failed is to say America has failed.

Then children do need more options, I think this is something that we can all agree upon and over the last decade we have seen a tremendous growth in public school options. Where I live every high school has an advanced academic program and a magnet option something that has been duplicated more and more across the country. You know whats wild though is the privatization movement often disingenuously points to these as success of the school choice movement. Well friends there is a difference between public school magnets and charters and voucher schools. Magnets are part of the system while charters and voucher schools are seeking to dismantle the system.

Parents should be in charge of their education, sure but they shouldn’t expect the rest of us to pay for their choices. To many gentrified white folks are sending their kids to charters not because they are innovative but because if gives them a private school feel on the public dime. They don’t think about the resources it rips from the surrounding schools. To many others want to send their kids to voucher schools because they want a religious education for their children. Um what happened to God will provide. We have a separation of church and state for a reason and those families sending their kids to bible thumping schools would flip their lids if Islamic schools started to take advantage of the system.

Parents should be in charge of their kids education and if there is a service or program that their public school system doesn’t provide they can feel free to lobby their school board members or become school board members themselves. Boards are accountable to the citizens they represent. Who is accountable at charter schools or a private schools that takes vouchers accountable too? The answer is nobody but their owner.

As far as high stakes testing, its incomprehensible to me that so many people blame public education for the actions of politicians many of whom along with their family members and big donors are seeking to profit off or public education. Nobody thinks high stakes testing is a good idea but blaming public schools for them is like blaming the blowing leaf for the monsoon. Get this too, high stakes testing is so important for public schools but students at private schools that take vouchers don’t have to take any high stake tests during their entire academic career. How is that fair? Both are paid for by public money. The answer is it isn’t and politicians have designed it that way to drive families away from public education and leaving because of them is like rewarding the arsonist for burning down your house.

The thing is taking vouchers is a Faustian bargain. Teachers at voucher schools don’t have to have degrees or be certified, they can be felons or the owners niece who is kind of good with numbers. Furthermore there is no guarantee they will learn anything of value as these schools can teach whatever they want and many teach junk science and history.

Zip codes shouldn’t determine out comes and of course they shouldn’t but when any politician especially a white affluent politician says that, it’s the height of hypocrisy.  They don’t want to send poor and mostly minority kids to the private schools with the wide range of electives and the smaller classes, that they sent their children to. No, they want to send them to private schools in strip malls and no excuses charters where the smallest infractions can get students kicked out, which often happens right after the charter school has been paid.

Furthermore most charter companies don’t even try to set up in the poorer zip codes that any more. In my hometown of Jacksonville, they don’t set up in the poorer sections of town where the bones of failed charter schools can be found in a  dozen locations. No, now they set up in the affluent areas of town draining resources form the already successful public schools there.

Friends if politicians cared about zip codes they would give them more resources, and make sure the students there had smaller classes. They could make the school year longer because some kids need more time to learn stuff and put in social workers and mental health counselors because why some kids do poorly in school often has nothing to do with schools. There are so many things they could do but instead their answer is often to open up a for profit charter across the street and siphon kids to voucher schools that have no accountability.

I get it, families should care about the education of their children but and this may not be popular with some, a public education for children is supposed to benefit us all whether we have children or not and vouchers without accountability and for profit charters generally benefit their owners disproportionately more than anyone else. 

This is not say there is no room for charters and vouchers. If there is a not for profit charter that is a center for innovation lets do it and if a private school offers a program the public schools in the area don’t then lets provide a voucher to it if a family thinks it is the right spot for their children. Unfortunately schools like that are far and few between.

Choice for the sake of choice is a bad choice especially when the real reason behind it is not to help children  to fill bank accounts. Are there problems in public schools? Sure, but if a politician is more interested in replacing them than fixing them you should ask yourself why.

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