Many would read this and conclude that such alternatives (or choices) are destructive of traditional public schools and of the students they serve. But I would argue that these alternatives are constructive, not destructive, for students, parents and teachers.No, choosing a school should not be like choosing between Uber, Lyft, or a taxi service—for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that all three of them provide the same basic service, whereas schools don't all provide the same service, by virtue of the fact that not all students have the same needs. And when public school districts are decimated by privatization, there is no guarantee that parents of students with specific learning requirements will be left with the "choice" of a school that provides them.
Let me offer this example from a different part of our daily lives.
How many of you got here today in an Uber, or Lyft, or another ridesharing service? Did you choose that because it was more convenient than hoping a taxi would drive by? Even if you didn't use a ridesharing service, I'm sure most of you at least have the app on your phone.
Just as the traditional taxi system revolted against ridesharing, so too does the education establishment feel threatened by the rise of school choice. In both cases, the entrenched status quo has resisted models that empower individuals.
Nobody mandates that you take an Uber over a taxi, nor should they. But if you think ridesharing is the best option for you, the government shouldn't get in your way.
The truth is that in practice, people like having more options. They like being able to choose between Uber Pool, Uber X, Lyft Line, Lyft Plus, and many others. Or when it comes to taking a family trip, many like options such as Airbnb.
We celebrate the benefits of choices in transportation and lodging. But doesn't that pale in comparison to the importance of educating the future of our country? Why do we not allow parents to exercise that same right to choice in the education of their child?
That's not supposed to be the case, but, in Indiana, where this scheme has been underway for quite some time, the reality has shown otherwise, necessitating requests for a state investigation into allegations that charter schools turned away homeless and disabled students.
Further, privatization exacerbates racial segregation and the exploitation of poor communities of color:
"Research has shown us that these charter schools are arising in poor communities where the students are African-American, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and one of the things research has shown is the expansion of charters schools mirrors predatory lending," [Dr. Joan Evelyn Duvall-Flynn, president of the Pennsylvania Conference of NAACP Branches and an educator, told Atlanta Black Star]. "When the tax base is low, less money is going to the public," she explained.Charter schools are enroll fewer disabled students, and many have instituted enrollment guidelines that may discourage applications from immigrant students. The quality of charter schools can vary wildly, and that is of particular concern given that, among many other problems, charter schools have led to public school closings.
"Schools have less resources, it is harder to maintain the facilities, harder to maintain sufficient teaching staff. We also noticed over the years that charter schools were leading to the resegregation of the schools. In that resegregation process, they were re-creating the white supremacy model," she said.
Rerouting tax dollars to school vouchers and charter schools that may select for existing biases means marginalized students end up with the choice between shitty private schools and a shitty public school system. Not better choices, but worse ones.
DeVos argues that "the government shouldn't get in your way" of choosing which driving service one uses, but if one service is, for example, charging lower rates by violating federal labor laws, yes the government should get in way. The government has a responsibility to get in the way of that.
Finally: It's also worth noting, again, that the entire argument about "school choice" is a red herring used to conceal that school privatization is designed to appeal to and entrench white supremacy.
As Carlton Waterhouse, a professor of law and dean's fellow at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, wrote in a recent column, "school choice" will not fix the rot at the core of the "educational crisis," because that rot is white supremacy:
Educational reform efforts over the past five decades have all been efforts to overcome white parents' taste for discrimination. These plans were routinely intended to lure white children into urban schools. Busing, magnet schools, theme schools, home schooling and now vouchers and charter schools have largely been embraced because so many white parents find educational environments with too many African-American and Latino students unsuitable for their children. This unspoken belief that African-American and Latino children threaten the moral and intellectual development of other children has a strong emotional power that drives public education in America.Indeed, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education concluded that privatization schemes stand to "reverse the state's progress on desegregation efforts."
That is the reality. Betsy DeVos wants you to imagine that school choice is as benign as which app you use to call a car to pick you up.
While presuming that everyone can afford a driving service in the first place.