Dear School Choice Opponent,
I realize that you’re feeling a bit defensive. With the nomination of Betsy DeVos and the election of Donald Trump, there are calls for vouchers for all students under the poverty line. That would prove to be a major disruption of our public education system, a movement away from the common good toward individual benefit, and there is no guarantee of improvement.
Let’s talk about improvement. Not all of our schools are effective. There are a myriad of factors but I’m certain that bloated bureaucracy and funding are two reasons. Is there a way to innovate by inserting smaller, more nimble schools with lower overhead and greater autonomy? Of course there is. And there isn’t one solution. There is a three-legged stool of reform—public, charter, and private schools.
By arguing for school choice, I’m not going to simply argue against public schools. Charter schools can add to the network of improved schools. And so can private schools. If schools collaborate on best practices and innovations, students will benefit. The questions then center on how we ensure the quality of instruction and school climate. Certainly a combination of testing, teaching/administrator licensure, and curriculum standards centered on the common good could suffice.
The equity question is much more difficult. All students—regardless of where they attend–deserve the same amount of services. I prefer not to argue that they deserve this because their parents pay taxes. After all, that argument makes education a service only for parents with children. That argument separates education from the common good and explains why retirees usually vote against school funding. We need to return to a commitment to the common good when every student receives the service he/she needs to succeed.
If we can agree that all schools should be committed to the common good, then all students should receive special education services, textbooks, and transportation. And if we agree that all schools are supporting the common good, then tax credits and scholarship organizations could support this effort to establish better schools.