School Choice Opponents Ignore the Failings of Public Schools

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By Andrew Pillow

For whatever reason, the idea students and families should be able to have a choice about where they go to school remains controversial. Part of the reason this remains the case is because some school choice opponents exclusively cite evidence that supports their side and conveniently leave out or ignore evidence that doesn’t.

As a school choice advocate, I am perfectly comfortable saying charter schools and voucher systems are not a panacea. Not every charter school out performs its public-school equivalent, and not every voucher scheme serves the population it is supposed to. In order to achieve the best possible outcomes for students, school choice advocates need to take a look at what works and what doesn’t while holding charter schools to the same standards we hold public schools.

With that being said, traditional public-school advocates need to do this as well. If that is not being done, we are advocating for what’s best for adults and not what’s best for students.

Currently that is not what is happening.

If you frequent any of the traditional online educational forums these days you will see an army of anti-choice zealots decrying charters and school vouchers. They’ll post stories about the latest charter school scandal, or the results of some study that concludes charters are ineffective. They’ll parrot statistics about suspension and expulsion data. If you are really lucky you will get the “Charters exacerbate segregation” argument.

As if traditional public schools don’t have scandals.

As if hundreds of studies haven’t found inner city public schools to be ineffective.

As if public schools don’t have a well known track record of over suspending and expelling students.

As if inner city public schools are beacons of student body diversity.

Of-course none of the above are true. Which begs the question: Why are some people intentionally slanting evidence against school choice?

The answer: This debate is not about children and families. It’s about organizations and political ideologies.

Any time a debate is about those things objectivity flies out the window. The fact of the matter is that many public schools have been failing for a long time and they have had nobody to blame but themselves. So school choice policies have become a convenient “boogeyman” for traditional public-school zealots as most find it easier to point the finger outward than inward.

But pointing fingers is not what’s best for students and people in education should know that. After all, that’s what we tell our students every day.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.