by Anna Manning
John Hood writes for Carolina Journal‘s Daily Journal:
As a policy analyst and opinion journalist, I have spent much of my career advocating the expansion of choice and competition in education. I purposefully use both of those terms, because I think that families making choices and schools competing for students are distinct but mutually reinforcing mechanisms for improving educational outcomes.
Parents and students should have as many school choices as possible because that increases the likelihood of a right “fit.” Schools vary in leadership, philosophy, culture, emphasis, and facilities. The needs of students can vary widely, too. Some thrive in large environments while others feel safer and more valued in smaller settings. For some, schools dedicated to shared religious values, or to specific academic or vocational themes, can be lifesavers. But for other kids, they’d be too confining.
Regarding what will suit the needs of a specific child, I don’t assume I know better than those who know and love that child. You shouldn’t make that assumption, either.
Education shouldn’t be structured like a public utility, serving everyone according to street address. Water is water. Electricity is electricity. But the services that schools provide — academic instruction, socialization, discipline, and both the “hard” and “soft” skills we need to succeed as workers, parents, neighbors, and citizens — are not indistinguishable commodities. Their precise content and proportions can and should vary according to the needs of students and the preferences of their families.
What shouldn’t vary so much is the capacity to act on these preferences. Affluent families have always enjoyed school choice. They can either afford private schools or to move into neighborhoods assigned to the public schools they perceive as “best.” It is ironic that many of those who complain the loudest about disparities of income, wealth, and privilege fight so doggedly against public policies such as charter schools and opportunity scholarships that expand school choice to low- and middle-income families.
Read more here.