This week is National School Choice Week, self-described as “an unprecedented opportunity to shine a spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children.”
Ironically, “opportunity” for America’s schoolchildren is what National School Choice Week places at risk. The further irony is “choice” can mean public tax dollars siphoned away from community schools to subsidize for-profit ventures. Vouchers, tuition tax credits and charter schools not governed by local school boards create a secondary, profit-driven system of education that strains limited resources and risks re-segregating schools, economically and socially, by admitting only certain, top-performing students.
Our nation’s grassroots democracy was founded on the principle that all children, regardless of ZIP code, deserve access to a world-class education. Nine out of 10 school-age children today are enrolled in public schools, which are their gateway to the future. Choice absent accountability can hurt vulnerable students when the choice turns out to be a bad one. Unfortunately, the “choice” movement — and its glossy public relations campaign that masks flaws by hyping “empowerment” — jeopardizes opportunity for all students, ultimately harming our nation’s global readiness and economic prosperity.