A weird argument against school choice.
In response to argument made by Will Wilkinson about liberals being more responsive to school choice and defined contribution social insurance schemes (that there is a contradiction, but that’s a topic for another day), The Economist blogs:
School choice was an idea that had a lot of proponents in the 1990s, but with well over a decade of large-scale pilots for various implementations, it doesn’t seem to be showing any results. And you have former top proponents like Diane Ravitch actually turning against charter schools.
For starters, public school was implemented over a hundred years ago and a program that has had less ten years of implementation is not going to reverse a lot of the damage that was done by that venture (besides, the idea of education as a “right” which led to public schools never produced anything in the form of scientific studies to justify it). It’s going to take a lot more than ten years to see any marked effect from allowing parents the freedom to send their kids to whatever school they wish.
I believe that the reason that school choice may not be producing some of the results that proponents believe it would is because charter schools and vouchers – two items critical to the school choice movement – still must operate within the regulated mess that governs public schools (and in some states where the unions and pols are even more hostile to school choice, under even harsher conditions). Here’s how to really determine whether school choice will really work: allow an industry to spring up that is not subject to the same regulatory morass as the public schools are and allow these schools and their teachers to be held accountable by the parents who purchase their services. Compare this setup to the public structure. If this does not produce the results that school choice supporters believe it will, then stop the program and leave the kids in the public school setup. If it does produce the results that school choice supporters believer it will, then begin the systematic dismantling of the public education system as there was no justification for education as a “right” in the first place. Of course, we already know that allowing parents to choose which schools their kids go to produce optimal results: I mean even the President chose to send his kids to a really good school and declined to send them to the great public schools of Washington, D.C. (and, in a bit of Obama hypocrisy, he is ending a program to allow underprivileged kids to attend the same school because, guess what! the unions don’t like it).
And The Economist should really be careful about using former school choice proponents as shrills for its position. When Al Sharpton is willing to tour with Newt Gingrich about the need for school choice, then it is the beginning of the end of the failing public school structure.
So let’s not be willing to sentence more generations to failing public schools in any instance. Let’s continue to remove government from running the schools because they have proven inept at doing it and return power back to the parents to govern where they should be able to send their kids.