EduShyster interviews reformer Andy Smarick, best known as the reformer who believes that local school boards and neighborhood schools are an anachronism. He preaches the doctrine of “relinquishment,” in which public schools abandon their “monopoly” and make way for a wide variety of choices, mostly charter schools.

Smarick foresees a future in which parents choose any school they want without regard to district lines. He sees the choice movement as the wave of this future. For some reason, he holds up Chicago and New York City as examples of cities where there was “the illusion of democratic control.” It is an odd choice since both cities are under mayoral control, and parents have no illusion of control at all. They do not have elected school boards; they have boards hand-picked by the mayor.

EduShyster asks many questions to determine the contours of his vision, but she does not ask the crucial question: If all schools were charter schools, how would that improve education? We know that charter schools on average do not have higher test scores than public schools, so what is the point? Isn’t there some value to neighborhood schools, the one choice that parents do not have in New Orleans or other districts where reform has taken hold?

Curiously, Smarick holds up the District of Columbia as an exemplar of parental choice. But why would any district want to be like D.C.? What is the evidence that D.C. offers better education than other districts? In fact, D.C. has the biggest achievement gaps of any urban district tested by NAEP.

So when Andy Smarick talks about a future of high-performing seats, I can’t help but point out that charters are not all high-performing, that seats don’t perform, and that buildings don’t perform. Children “perform.” Is it better to move them to a charter school or to make sure they get the small classes, rich curriculum, and experienced teachers in neighborhood schools? As EduShyster points out, no body of citizens or parents has voted to get rid of public schools. Waiting lists for charters are dubious measures, since many contain the same names or are inflated.