by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
In a widely-read Facebook post, economist Steve Horwitz, visiting scholar at Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State, dissects the opposition to school choice:
Sorry folks, but if you seriously want to argue about school choice, you should consider the following:
1. It’s easy to be proud that you are a #productofpublicschools when you live in predominantly white, middle or upper middle class neighborhoods. Not so easy when you went to, or your kids will go to, urban, poor, and predominantly non-white schools. Perhaps some empathy is in order for those whose public schools suck and would like to give their kids a better alternative and who find your pride to be an expression of privilege.
2. More generally, you’re going to have to stop comparing the IDEAL of public schools with the worst version of private schools and start comparing reals to reals. The reality of public schools isn’t the unicorn in your heads and the reality of school choice will not be the nightmare you imagine. Comparative institutional analysis has to be reals to reals.
3. You also need to remember we already have “school choice” for people wealthy enough to have a wide range of choices about where they live. The US educational system is *already* unequal because we’ve indirectly linked school quality and property values. Pretending that choice will cause inequality ignores the deep inequalities of the status quo. It’s the ability of wealthier parents to “exit” by moving elsewhere that drives school quality not per-pupil spending, which is unrelated to student performance.
The parents who are scrimping and saving to send their kids to private schools right now while still paying taxes for crappy public schools are HEROIC in their attempts to overcome the inequities of public schools.
4. If you’re upset that the government educational bureaucracy won’t listen to all the good teaching ideas that are out there, isn’t that an indictment of public education? Why should our kids’ future depend on politicians and bureaucrats who know nothing of them and who are “bought and sold” by lobbyists and unions? The private sector provides much better service than that in all kinds of areas, including important things like food. Why hold kids hostage to a process with deep structural flaws? At some point, “voice” doesn’t work and only the ability to “exit” can force people to provide high quality services.
Just a few things to think about. (Also, this is not about DeVos, this is about the issues her nomination raised.)