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Friday, December 12, 2014

Parents are the last people who should pick their children’s schools.

What happens when a parent picks a lemon for car? It can be inconvenient and expensive but usually manageable but what happens when a parent picks a lemon for a charter school? They are sold a bill of goods and the school does not deliver which is a real possibility in Florida as over 260 have opened and failed leaving communities and families in a lurch and of those that remain as a group they perform worse than their public school counterparts.

The same question can be asked about private schools that take vouchers. We have no idea how they are doing because the entire system is set up to resist accountability. Sure there may be good ones but there are definitely terrible ones too, terrible ones that parents for whatever reason picked to send their children too.

Then what if a parent has crazy ideas about religion, the government, homosexuals or minorities? Breaking that cycle becomes impossible if the child is attending a school which spouts the same ideas.What if they get bad information from a movement that wants to undercut and privatize public schools so they can profit off of them?

Picking a school isn’t like picking milk or even a car, we are talking about real setbacks that can hinder a child for life if the parent chooses wrong. Parents shouldn’t be required to make a decision that could handicap their children for a lifetime or be convinced to pick wrong as many charter schools and private schools are now advertising.

Instead parents should be able to depend on a system of high quality public schools that have the resources that they need to assure an excellent education. Something that has been made even more difficult as Florida has set up a parallel system of charters and vouchers that siphon resources away from public schools.

I am not saying parents shouldn’t be involved but often the same people that say parents should have more choices are also blaming them for problems with their children by not being involved. At the end of the day parents are being asked to make a decision that most do not have the right information to make, while school choice supporters hope, cross their fingers, that the free market works it out.

Dr. Raymond of the Stanford Credo Charter project recently said, I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed… The policy environment really needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. We need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools. But I also think we have to have some oversight of the overseers.

The pro-market reform Thomas B. Fordham Foundation paid for this study she was commenting on.
This isn’t to say choice shouldn’t have a role to play at all but it should come under the public school umbrella as they provide more and various magnet or industry certification programs so more kids’ abilities and interests can be served. Then if there is a specific program not being offered by a district we can look at vouchers and charters as they are used to supplement public schools not to replace and privatize them.

The answer is to fix the issues in our schools and to supply them with adequate resources, not to outsource our kids futures to maybes and possibilities.

Parents have a difficult enough job, let’s leave the educating to the professionals.

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