20071024

The distraction of school choice.

The issue of School Choice has often created emotional political divides in our community. It held out for many people of limited income an opportunity to help their children escape from, what they perceived as, a broken public school system.

In specifics it works some times, for some people. In the aggregate it has proven to be an expensive experiment with neutral results. My conclusion is underscored by the recent article in the Journal Sentinel "Choice may not improve schools, study says."

It has been my contention for some time that School Choice, while a rightly intentioned movement by some progressive thinking members of our society, has failed to resolve the problems plaguing public education.

Here is why, in my humble opinion, School Choice has failed.

1. It is a distraction from having a meaningful discussion on how to alter public education so as to make it relevant to a post industrial, post agricultural society.

2. By putting pots of money out in the public for alternative educational methods, it attracts as many charlatans and well meaning nuts as it does legitimate educators.

3. It is used as a blunt instrument by anti-government neoconservatives to attack public education and school teacher unions.

At best, it has done little good. At worst, it has siphoned away from the public school systems many parents and students, who by example, provide academic and social leadership.

We need to set aside the "take no hostages" politics that has turned modern issues into into binary absolutes. Many ways exist to tackle issues, but we must be willing to open our minds and engage is civil public discourse if we want to explore alternatives.

The future of School Choice needs to be discussed, but so does the the future of public education.