A choice = a chance
October 20, 2011
Like never before, the past several months have focused the harsh light of truth on the politicization of our public school systems and the under-performance that flows directly from it. Naturally, then, school choice is increasingly under attack by those who benefit from the status quo.
So it’s heartening to read this spirited defense of parental choice, and all the more so to find it somehow making its way into print in a boutique Liberal publication. We can almost hear the howls of indignation.
Economic consultant Larry Kaufman discusses these key concepts:
- Spending lots more money won’t bring success if you’re just doubling down on failure;
- To obtain success, reward success and penalize failure. Failure without consequences is failure guaranteed, just because it’s easier;
- A school is no different from a car repair shop or insurance agency in the sense that customers will receive inferior service if they aren’t free to take their business elsewhere.
Most important of all, skepticism about school choice is mainly expressed by privileged classes who can send their kids to any school they like. Those who see school choice as a ray of hope can seldom afford the luxury of disparaging it. As for those who claim that choice poses a threat to good public schools, Kaufman says:
Others vested in the public school monopoly have called school choice “a serious attack on public education in Wisconsin and a watering down of one of the best public school systems in the nation.” But if a school really is “one of the best in the nation,” it has nothing to lose, and a great deal to gain, when parents are allowed to choose where to send their children. More fundamentally, school choice is not an attack on public education; it is public education, because it too is financed with public funds.
Nobody expects every choice program to work miracles any more than they expect every conventional public school to fail. But we wring our hands over the economic plight of urban minorities even as we know that appalling numbers of their children leave school unable to read. When somebody objects to the idea of letting a little sunlight disinfect that system, it’s not out of line to ask what’s in it for them.