This is a response to this article from Christian Post
Their reason #1 is that “Choice matters because parents are best equipped to care for their children”. Let me remind you that this was in the papers this week:
Yes, I made sure to link to the story as told by Christian Post. You’d think that the best argument in favor of at least a wee bit of governmental oversight over the raising of children would be a case of a mom abusing their child, in this case for not reciting Bible verses correctly.
But, it get’s worse: “When parents can’t afford to live in a strong school district, or don’t have the means to private school or homeschool, freedom to educate their children as they see best is restricted.” At the surface, I agree 100%. But let’s dig a little deeper:
- If a parent can’t afford to move or send the child to a private school, what are the odds that they can afford to drive their child to a better school? Are there any better schools within reasonable driving distance? Does a school choice voucher include a stipend for this transportation?
- Does the better school have enough seats for all the students who want to go there? Does a school choice law include funding for expanding the buildings of popular schools?
- Assuming that there is no transportation or space issues, what happens to the bad school once all the students of parents who care about school choice leave (meaning, there’s now a school full of students of parents who don’t care about their children’s education).
The real costs of school choice is reflected in the above bullet points. It’s not just about letting parents pick their favorite schools, it’s about ensuring that students can get into those schools.
Public schools are divided into districts for two simple reasons: transportation and space. Students who live near a school are the easiest to transport via buses and district size can be dictated by the number of seats available in the school.
My dad has 7 brothers and sisters (all born within 10 years). When the family (Navy) moved to Norfolk for the second (and final) time, my grandparents were not impressed by their district’s public schools, so they enrolled all the kids into one of the local Catholic schools. They got either discounts or scholarships or some other way of paying for this private school that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. But that “free” education came with a cost: my dad and his siblings had to ride the second bus. Despite going to their neighborhood on both trips, my dad and his siblings had to stay at the school an hour or so longer every day because the paying students got preferential treatment for the bus.
I’m not saying that this is still true at private schools (I’m the product of public school), but if no additional funding goes towards transportation, what will happen with the students who use a voucher to afford to attend a school? Will they also be treated like second class citizens?
#2: Choice matters because every child is unique.
Well, I’m in school right now to become an elementary school teacher. My education class for the semester is Language Acquisition and Reading.
Every chapter of our main textbook includes a section on English Language Learners and emphasis is placed on how these students learn best when their native language is respected.
Our secondary textbook, which teaches teachers about phonics, has 10 recommendations “intended to provide a beginning point for the application of reading diagnosis as it applies to phonics instruction within the multilingual classroom.” (Self-Paced Phonics, 5th edition by Roger S. Dow). Most of the recommendations are items I consider common sense for educating ALL children: “Know the cultures of the children in your classroom”, “Use a wide range of teaching approaches and strategies”, “Use meaningful reading material”, “Model and teach tolerance”, “Adopt and value dialogue as a teaching style”, “Be open to Change”, “Be reflective”.
Now, I realize that the fact that these items are needed in an textbook for educators hints that these aren’t values that have been ingrained in the career called Education (meaning that teachers of yester-year didn’t and don’t think that the above items are important in their classroom). So, school choice is a rebellion from a culture of bad teachers. But, here’s the thing: teachers and administrators retire. Young people, such as myself, are comfortable with multiculturalism and globalism. We’re obviously being taught by folks who think that students deserve to be respected and involved in their education rather than being trained to remember rote facts.
I’m learning tons about what Common Core actually is. Yeah, it sure is different from my parent’s education. Students are now expected to think deeply about the content! The mantra is “College and Career Ready”. Are there still teachers who think that it’s best to teach the test? Yes. Will they be weeded out? Yes, but it will take time.
That’s why it’s important to keep parents who are involved in their children’s education IN public schools! Who else is going to blow the whistle on bad practices? Bad teachers?? It took the random placement of my AP class (we 20 kids were the only ones placed into most of the AP classes in my high school) in to the AP Psychology class that was usually reserved for letting regular/honors kids into an AP class without risking bad grades, to get rid of a crappy teacher. I don’t know if he was fired from the school, but he was not allowed to teach AP Psychology the next year. We also had to teach the newly minted AP English Literature teacher how to proctor AP tests and gave her tips on how else to teach an AP class. The only reason we could teach the teachers was because we’d already had, gosh, 3 or 4 well run AP classes. Why these teachers hadn’t been properly trained or monitored is beyond me!
#3 School Choice Empowers the Underprivileged
Ooh! Way to make it look like y’all care!
Except that this is a rehashment of the arguments of #1: Economic status should not influence where a student goes to school (except when it comes the actual logistics of attending that school).
I believe I’ve heard that most students don’t live in an area where another school exists within 30 miles? This article from the News Observer in North Carolina says that there aren’t any charter schools within 40 of their 100 counties. Assuming that some of those 40 also don’t have a private school, it’s entirely possible that there are counties with just public school options.
I started thinking about public school districts in Southeastern Virginia, where I live.
Southampton County has 4 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 1 high school.
Isle of Wight County has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools.
Accomack County has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 4 high schools (though 1 of the high schools is on Tangier Island and teaches K-12 with a 7 person graduating class “last year” according to their website).
There’s 16 miles between the high schools in Isle of Wight. 21 miles between two of the high schools in Accomack. That’s not including the driving distance if you live at either end of these two long and narrow counties. That’s a long drive!
The Christian Post article ends with a plea for people to participate in their local school board elections.
First of all, I don’t think it’s entirely proper for people to be voting in school board elections when their children don’t attend a particular school. So, this author needs to make up his mind: do people take their children out of public schools or do they vote in school board elections? Public school boards aren’t going to be the ones lobbying for more charter schools and private school vouchers since both of these agendas take money and students out of public schools. If the author favors school choice, he shouldn’t be asking parents to vote in school board elections, but to vote in all state elections for legislators willing to fund charter schools and vouchers.
Yes, more parents need to get involved with the decisions that the school boards make! Parents should also be involved in the PTA and should join field trips as chaperones often. Parents should be advocates not only for their own children, but for ALL the children of a particular school, district, state, etc!