The folks over at The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity are shining a light on school choice with a new project, Amplify School Choice. As we get ready for National School Choice Week (January 25 – 31, 2015), they asked me to respond to a few questions about school choice. They have posted the questions and my responses to the Amplify School Choice site, and I’m taking the liberty to re-post them here.
1) Can you summarize the meaning of school choice in one sentence?
School choice is simply recognizing that public education is not a system, but the idea that all children should have access to a quality education.
2) What made you get actively involved in this issue?
I first became interested in school choice when I was teaching in a traditional public school. Even in my relatively homogeneous school, I knew that I could not meet the needs of every student. Students are simply too diverse for a one-size-fits all approach; allowing schools to specialize and parents to choose simply made sense. I becamepassionate about school choice when my own kids were assigned to a school that couldn’t meet our family’s needs.
3) What is the biggest misconception about school choice?
The biggest misconception about school choice is that it is somehow bad for teachers. As a result, teacher groups consistently oppose school choice initiatives. In reality, school choice provides options for teachers, just as it does for students. It gives teachers the ability to choose a school that aligns with their vision of what a quality education looks like. Moreover, it creates a market for their skills.
4) Is there an aspect of school choice that you think is often overlooked, or doesn’t receive the attention it deserves?
When people want to know if a restaurant is good, they can click a host of different apps and have access to scores of reviews. In almost any area where there is a competitive market, there is a plethora of information. When it comes to education, however, it is much more difficult.
Because of this, critics of school choice are quick to argue that parents might not make the best educational decisions for their children. They either do not realize or ignore the transformational impact that choice can have. With choice, parents have an incentive to ‘shop around.’
Now, they have a need for information; a need that will be met in much the same way as it is in other competitive markets. The bottom line is that choice shifts parents and students from recipients of education to consumers of education.
5) What more can be done to expand school choice across the nation?
We must continue to share the positive message of school choice: It empowers parents and expands options for students and teachers.
So far, more than 11,000 events are scheduled for National School Choice Week. I’ll be moderating a discussion with students in Kansas City (Jan. 27) and in St. Louis (Jan. 29). If you are interested in finding out more about school choice, I invite you to join us.