Number two is false on so many levels. Wealthy people have many more choices period. Houses, cars, vacations, clothes, colleges, you name it - wealthy people have so many more choices. What's interesting is that the schools in our district are - almost to a school - full. Now is that because there are more people in our city? Maybe but the private schools are full as well. (Imagine if even half those private school parents came back.)
Here's a great essay by Chicago Schools' parent, Julie Vassilatos, The Frightening Implications of School Choice (bold hers, red highlight mine.)
Because "choice" of this kind quietly diminishes the real power of our democratic voice while it upholds the promise of individual consumer preferences above all else.Are public schools serving all children well? No. And that has always been the case and we should all be in the movement to change that. But there are a couple of very good reasons why creating a second system of public schools is not the way to move the needle for at-risk students.
In this model the local community is not important, and the voice of the local residents is not important. The neighborhood school is not the social epicenter for kids in one community and it is not the locus of parent effort and investment of time.
But in a choice district, parents and kids rarely have the one option they most want--a strong, well resourced, nearby, neighborhood school.
With the choice model, what CPS is doing is investing in severing community. CPS has chosen a school model that fractures and breaks down local bonds among families and within neighborhoods.
Poverty is one. Try acting like it really doesn't matter is lunacy. Not providing enough supports for those kids and saying a single good teacher will fundamentally change their lives is also lunacy. It's an odd thing that people point to charter schools and say, "Look, they have a longer school day." Is that support for kids with crisis/trauma in their lives or just a shelter until they get home? Except for extremely well-funded charters like Harlem Children's Zone ($23K per kid a year), I hardly ever hear about wrap-around services for charter students.
The biggest one, though, is this - if you are not fully funding public education, how do you know that public education doesn't work? Sure, you can point at the opportunity gap but guess what? That gap exists in every single state. That points to a more systemic reason (see poverty) than what public schools are or are not doing.
In our state, I believe this is the absolute truth. Fund our public school system to even the NATIONAL average for say, six years and if things are not on an upward trend, then look for other solutions. (I would also couple this with accountability from districts on how much money is spent centrally and why.)
But we've never done this. A great article on just this subject is at Salon by Gary M. Sasso, dean of education at Lehigh University.
It is not a coincidence that the so-called decline of the American public school system has coincided with the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, the wealth disparity between upper-income and middle-income families is at a record high.The Washington Post's Answer Sheet has a guest post by Marion Brady, a veteran educator, called "A Primer on the Damaging Movement to Privatize Public Schools." It's a great timeline of how corporate interests are working to undermine public education and largely gut and privatize it.
As the income disparity has increased, so has the educational achievement gap. According to Sean F. Reardon, professor of education and sociology at Stanford University, the gap for children from high- and low-income families is at an all-time high—roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier.
Can it be a coincidence that those who have benefited most from the last 50 years of steadily increasing income inequality—the top 10 percent–support an education solution that hinges on denigrating public school teachers, dismantling unions and denying that income inequality is the underlying condition at the root of the problem?
About fighting back:
America’s schools have always struggled—an inevitable consequence, first, of a decision in 1893 to narrow and standardize the high school curriculum and emphasize college prep; second, from a powerful strain of individualism in our national character that eats away support for public institutions; third, from a really sorry system of institutional organization. Politicians, not educators, make education policy, basing it on the simplistic conventional wisdom that educating means “delivering information.”
If you want to avoid cranking out the usual amateurish drivel about standardized testing that appears in the op-eds, editorials, and syndicated columns of the mainstream media, ask yourself a few questions about the testing craze: (a) Should life-altering decisions hinge on the scores of commercially produced tests not open to public inspection? (b) How wise is it to only teach what machines can measure? (c) How fair is it to base any part of teacher pay on scores from tests that can’t evaluate complex thought? (d) Are tests that have no “success in life” predictive power worth the damage they’re doing?