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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Choice just for choices sake is a bad choice.

The JPEF’s study on school choice was very enlightening.

The study pointed out that it couldn’t even evaluate the quality between public schools and private schools that take vouchers. I think that should enrage even the most ardent supporter of vouchers. It means we are giving money to these schools and at the end of the day we really have no idea how they are doing. It also blows a hole in accountability doesn’t it? Why is accountability a necessity for public schools but draws a collective shrug when applied to private schools that take public money?

Then the study mentions how choice options are draining tens of millions of dollars away from the district, something JPEF doesn’t seem all that concerned about. This loss of resources has a huge effect on class size, getting those kids that need extra help those resources and a whole host of other things. Despite that JPEF suggests we double down on more choice options which will siphon even more money away.

Most of this money is diverted to charter schools which have exploded over the last five years. At no time does the report mention many are run by for profit management companies and as a group perform worse than their public school counterparts, a fact one can plainly see if they visit JPEFs web-site.

The study makes no effort to tell us which option is better. I mean isn’t that the question we really want answered, are charters and voucher schools better than public schools or vice versa. If one of the options is better should we really be funneling our children into the worse option just so we can say parents had a choice? It’s almost like the JPEF doesn’t want the answer, which really isn’t all that surprising.

You see I don’t think it should be lost on anybody that the board of the JPEF is made up of numerous charter school operators and pro-choice advocates. Their money bank rolled the findings, which are basically

1. School choice doesn't produce better results.
2. We need more school choice.
3. School choice hurts the district
4. Who cares we need more school choice
5. We have no idea which choice is better.
6. Haven’t you been listening? WE NEED MORE SCHOOL CHOICE!

Finally the sample size they used to come up with their recommendations was 1,000 caregivers and parents, not much when you consider the 130 thousand students that attend both public schools and charter schools, then add another 20 thousand private and home school children.  This means the potential sample size was a quarter million parents and care givers and the study barely reached half of one percent of them.  While they are making their policy recommendations that is not mentioned at all.

I think we do need more school choice options. We need more schools like Frank Peterson, A. Phillip Randolph, and the academic and arts magnet schools but what we don’t need are more voucher schools and charters especially when one under performs and the other is set up so we have no idea how they are doing. What they really represent is privatization.

Choice just for choices sake is a bad choice and the answer is to fix the problems in our public schools and give them the resources they need to succeed not to further drain their resources and outsource our kids’ education to as a group substandard choices.

 Without a doubt I believe public schools are by far the best thing going and that’s even with all the obstacles put in front of them. The thing is even if you disagree shouldn’t we be having an honest debate? Shouldn’t we be looking to facts and evidence to make our decisions? Instead Jacksonville gets the self-serving report by a think tank financed by charter school operators and pro choice fanatics


  1. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your passionate interest in this topic and support of public education. I want to clarify that this brief is not intended to advocate for or against the expansion of privately-operated school choice options.

    The recommendations we offered in the brief were about expanding options within DCPS-operated schools. We heard from a number of parents who opted for a charter or private school because they did not get into a magnet and were unaware of other special transfer options within the district available for them to consider. We were concerned to hear repeatedly that many were not fully aware of all their public school options when they made their choice.

    Right now, the district already has near open enrollment at middle and high school when all acceleration programs, academies, and special transfer options are considered. Our concern is that for some parents, these options remain inaccessible to them due to lack of knowledge and/or transportation. Our recommendation to consider moving more plainly to a system of middle and high school open enrollment (with transportation) would be one way to try to address that.

    Our recommendation about piloting new choice options is also primarily framed around ways DCPS could restructure some of the choice options under its own umbrella to be more responsive to what we're hearing from parents who are currently otherwise leaving to find what they are looking for.

    In terms of the question of which option is better, we want to emphasize that there is no single or simple answer to this. The existing research around this question is decidedly mixed, and quality varies significantly among individual schools within any type of option--neighborhood, charter, private, etc. The important question, from a parent’s perspective, is ‘which option is best for my child’.

    School choice is obviously a large and multilayered issue, and questions of funding and oversight at a macro level – while critical – were beyond the scope of what could be covered in this single brief. Given that our state's school choice system is not likely to change any time soon, we felt the most pressing issue to focus on first was helping parents better understand this system and make more informed choices for their children who are in school right now.

    We would encourage all your readers to read the full report at, and let us know in the comments any thoughts, questions or other ideas they have on the topic. Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about the report.

    Jason Rose
    Director, Data & Research
    Jacksonville Public Education Fund

  2. They gave us FCAT!
    They gave us Sunshine State Standards!
    They gave us Erroneous Paper Work!
    They gave us Choices!
    They gave us Charter Schools!
    They gave us Vouchers!
    They gave us Chartrand!
    They gave us Vitti!
    Next, they will give us STEEL CHAINS!