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School Choice Is A Problem, Not a Solution For Education

Ugh. The Bee editorial page has trotted out its conservative bull dog Ben Boychuk again. Just days after Martin Luther King Day, Boychuk is writing about his own dream--school choice.(1)

It seems that next week is National School Choice Week and the kickoff event is being held in southern California. This will serve as a show case for what we're missing says Boychek, because California only offers five kinds of school choice: neighborhood public school; charter schools; magnet schools; home schooling and private schools. That is not enough! What California really needs is vouchers or the tax credit equivalent, so that students may take their school dollars where ever they want.

Never mind that school choice exists only for those parents with the means to get their child to the school of their choice (provided of course, that the school chooses them). Forget that California rejected vouchers multiple times in statewide initiatives. Ignore that we have almost no accountability for the tax dollars that already go to charter schools. Pretend that vouchers haven't been the well rounded success that Boychuk claims they are.(2) Vouchers are the Holy Grail for school choice advocates, and that's what he's asking for, no, dreaming about in his piece.

The fact is that school choice originated as a pushback against public school integration.(3) All the various school choices that are alternatives to neighborhood public schools have only served to make schools more segregated. Now in Sacramento, we even have charter schools that serve specific ethnic groups, one for Hmong students and another for Russian students. We are moving backwards not forwards in our efforts to integrate our public schools. Have we abandoned Martin Luther King's Dream?

If he really cared about the education and welfare of all children, Boychuk would not be wishing for the fragmentation of our education system and the diversion of public dollars into private hands. He should be clamoring that schools once again make equity, not test scores a priority. Every child should have a well resourced, well funded neighborhood school that is the cornerstone of the community. That should be a goal, not just a dream.




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