Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why School Choice Won't Help Our Students

The basic premise sounds reasonable-- kids going to a "failing" school can choose to go to another school. Why should some students have to go to a worse school, especially when those attending these schools are disproportionately students of color and low-income? Here's why school choice won't fix failing schools or help our students:

1. School choice reshuffles students without addressing underlying problems. Do you think ALL students deserve a quality education? If so, what happens to the students left behind in these failing schools, which now have even less funding, possibly not even enough for proper upkeep? Well, capitalist logic follows that the school will either improve or close. A school that was already declared failing that now has even LESS funding is not going to improve. So, it closes. Now, all the students still there are now denied the choice of going to their neighborhood school-- not exactly school choice now, is it? So all these students are assigned to other schools, without any of the problems facing the original school or students being addressed. 

2. School choice does not protect students with disabilities. In 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed. This law gave students with disabilities the right to attend public school AND required schools to provide them with the needed services. Betsy DeVos doesn't believe schools should be required to provide special education services-- or at least thinks it should be up to the states to decide! Students with IEPs will be left to attend the schools that voluntarily provide services-- likely isolating them from their general education peers and possibly not receiving services at all as parents contemplate signing away their rights to get them into a "better" school.

3. School choice leads to even greater de facto segregation. Think it's a coincidence that upper class white people like school choice? It's not. Presumably, vouchers will be given for how much money the public school system is currently paying to educate the child (to give you an idea, about $5,000 per kid in Chicago). If parents want to send their kid to private school, they can use that $5,000 voucher, but they'll still have to pay the difference. Guess who can afford the difference? Not the kids at my school, I'll tell you that-- I work at a 100% low-income school. But what about more economically diverse schools? History tells us that given the option, white parents will pull their students out of an integrated school and put them practically anywhere else. And while of course there are plenty of low-income white people and upper-income people of color, sadly socio-economic lines can still be drawn by race in many areas. 

But what would a person who's never attended or sent her children to public school know about any of this? Someone who's never taught students with disabilities, or wait-- any students at all! 

Our students deserve better. Tell your senator to vote NO for Betsy DeVos here.

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