School Choice: A Response to Mr. Rich

June 16, 2007

by Tammy Drennan

In Response to: School-Choice Strategy By Howard S. Rich
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118195964720137475.html

Excerpt from Mr. Rich’s article: “Scaling back choice plans does nothing to diminish institutional opposition. Too often, supporters of school choice assume that watering down legislation in their states will result in acquiescence from teachers unions and the education-industrial complex. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether it is choice for one child or one million children, the education establishment will fight it tooth and nail. If anything, the rhetorical salvos launched against scaled-back proposals are even more incendiary, with bureaucratic apologists falsely accusing school choice supporters of “sneak attacks” and “end-arounds” in addition to the predictable “anti-public education” harangues.”

Here’s the major drawback to government-allowed and funded school choice — the unions and their ilk oppose it now because they think that’s the best strategy for the current stage of the movement. If anyone thinks for a moment that these seasoned agents of control haven’t considered Plan B, they are woefully naive.

As soon as, or if, the movement gets out of hand, they’ll play their next card, and it’s a good one — better, really, than the one they’re playing now, but like most organizations they tend toward the more conservative (and thus feasible) move initially. The next move will be to simply embrace school choice, controlled, of course, for “quality,” “equality” and the half dozen other “-ities” that work so well in a politicized system.

It’s not hard to imagine or believe. As a matter of fact, it’s hard not to imagine. The system will already be under state control; the next step will be logical and easy.

What will we have then? Public schools back to Square One (where they’ve been for 150+ years). Charter schools back to Square One (just a step from where they started). And, if vouchers extend to private schools, real choice destroyed for thousands and even millions of children. Depending on just how far the voucher game goes, homeschooling may or may not remain a free domain.

We already have school choice, as well as the means to make it available for all school children. What the school choice movement is after is not choice at all but easy money. If it was after choice, it would first be after parents to act on the choices now available to them (isn’t it parents we want to empower?). Then it would be after the likes of Bill Gates and other philanthropists, and churches and entrepreneurs and relatives to help fund choices for those who can’t afford them. These would be free choices that would actually empower parents instead of empowering schools, systems, and ultimately the state and the NEA even more.

The sad thing about the school choice movement is that if it’s successful in the path it now pursues, it will rob us all of what choice we have left. If only all that passion and energy could go into true freedom in education, true parent-empowerment, true choice. If only.

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