Monday, February 18, 2013

School Choice, A Free Market Fantasy

I worry Act 10 and the subsequent recall attempts have muddied the Wisconsin waters to a point many cannot see clearly what is best for our kids and schools. Clearly, the expansion of Wisconsin’s voucher program is a bad choice for Wisconsin public schools.

Certainly, some anecdotal success stories exist among voucher-using students, but (as Diane Ravitch explains) two decades of comprehensive educational research distinctly shows that, overall, voucher schools perform no better than traditional public schools.

Do not be blinded by the well-funded, school choice marketing of the the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP is not out to improve Wisconsin’s public schools. Traditional public education runs contradictory to the free market model of competition favored by AFP and other free market think tanks. These tanks think for Governor Walker.

For the free market enthusiasts, the free market fairy will work its invisible hand magic and solve many of the problems plaguing our public schools by expanding privately-run, publicly-funded voucher schools. 

For those of us in public education, we know better. There is no magic in solving the complex socioeconomic problems dragging down too many of our students and schools. The international, national, and state research reveals how socioeconomic inequity creates inherently unequal opportunities among schools and students. School vouchers address symptoms of poverty, not the causes.  

What Wisconsin schools most need is a comprehensive plan that treats the causes of student poverty. Serious reform must include a culture of collaboration, student-centered learning, school-led community partnerships, and, above all, extensive social and academic support for our neediest students.

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