Republican Presidential candidates claim to be for choice, including vouchers, charters and opportunity scholarships, and they also claim to be for local control of schools.
But school choice and local control are like oil and water. You must choose one or the other.
For example, Brandon Wright, in “Donald Trump Quotes about Education” from The Thomas B. Fordham Institute quotes Donald Trump as saying:
And we’ve got to bring on the competition—open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition—the American way….
And then Trump says:
Education has to be local.
Likewise, Jeb Bush, in a Washington Post Op Ed from March, praises choice by saying:
In 1991, Minnesota led the way on creating charter schools. When I was governor, Florida began grading schools on an A-to-F scale in 1999 and offered dramatic school-choice options to parents. Now, 16 states grade their schools, 19 have choice programs and all but eight have charter school laws.
But he also starts out in the same Op Ed:
Given all the challenges facing education reform, we need to remember who really should make the decisions about what happens in our schools: state and local authorities and, most important, parents.
But choice and local control do not mix.
Local control means citizens own their schools. They pay taxes for them and they can individually, or collectively, question what is taught. They can hash out problematic curriculum, like Common Core—even reject standards. They might demand better school safety, or they can affect a zillion other issues surrounding their schools.
There is school pride! Parents and citizens shore up schools, attend student plays, give a few dollars to the band boosters, cheer for the hometown sports teams, praise graduates, and elect and work with the school board to find solutions to school problems.
The state and the federal government might overstep their power, but they should support local schools and fill in the gaps in funding. Local public schools should still belong to the people.
When you hear of the state taking over the local schools, there’s a serious problem and citizens should question and understand why that is occurring.
And foisting one set of standards or tests on all schools, across the nation, raises concerns about a national curriculum that stifles the voices of local communities.
That’s why so many people from both political parties are upset about Common Core.
Choice means the local community relinquishes local control to charter, parochial, or private schools. This may seem like more control is given to parents and supporters, and maybe it is upfront, but once the choice has been made, the public has no more voice concerning the school.
Sometimes a school district might be able to shut down a bad charter school, but too often these schools lack transparency.
Tax dollars, through a voucher or opportunity scholarship, may be spent in a variety of schools, but no one cares what the community thinks about it. You pay but have no say!
In good scenarios, of course, private schools care about parents so they can stay in business, but the private school will be run the way the owners think best. They don’t care what the public thinks other than maintaining a reputation of being a good school.
And they can be selective with the students they accept. If they don’t think a student measures up—out they go.
It is much the same with parochial schools.
Charter schools like to claim they are “public schools,” but they are often criticized for being selective with students too.
Charter chains like Green Dot, Aspire, and Rocketship (there are many others) are popping up across the country like McDonalds. There’s nothing local about them. They run on their own terms. Any talk about local support is artificial.
They aren’t really public schools. They are quasi-private schools. They get tax dollars without taxpayer input.
And they have been criticized for being too selective.
Some charters might involve parents. These are the good charters. But in most cases, parents and students sign contracts with rules telling them what the charter demands from them. This might sound good on the surface, but where do you put the imperfect kids or those whose parents don’t measure up?
No real public school can dismiss a student due to lack of parental support or a student’s troubled behavior. Real public schools accept everyone and their great challenge is to help those who have problems.
So, whether you like choice or local control it is important to know the difference. Democratically run local schools are unlike choice schools. You can be for one, or the other, but you can’t be for both.
Republican candidates need to learn the difference too and get their facts straight.
Donald Trump, you and politicians like you, who claim choice and public schools are one and the same thing, “You’re Fired!” Well not really, but it was fun to say anyway.