Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, wrote an uninformed opinion piece urging Trump to invite cities to become “laboratories of choice,” where every student could go to the school of his or her choice. He says this would be “the right kind of choice.” “Uninformed” is the polite term. I was tempted to say “absurd” or idiotic,” but decided to be polite.


He begins his article by reciting the specious claims of the right wingers that everyone exercises choice except the poor. I know these claims because I was part of three rightwing think tanks where they were repeated again and again. Some people choose parochial schools; some choose private schools; others choose safe suburbs and neighborhoods. Only the poor are “stuck” in “failing schools.”


The assumption behind these assertions is that choosing schools will improve education. But there is no evidence for this claim.


Here is some news for Mr. Hiatt.


We already have laboratories of choice. First, there is New Orleans, which has no public schools. The scores are up, but most of the charter schools continue to be low-performing, probably because they have the poor kids who were not accepted in the top-performing charters. The district as a whole is low-performing in relation to the state, which is one of the lowest-performing in the nation.


Then there is Milwaukee, which has had vouchers and charters for 25 years. Three sectors compete, and all are low-performing. How is that for a “laboratory of choice,” Mr. Hiatt?


Then there is Detroit, in Betsy DeVos’ home state of Michigan. Detroit is the lowest-performing urban district tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It is overrun by charters, many of them operating for profit. Now there is another fine example of a failing “laboratory of choice.”


Mr. Hiatt, why don’t you take a look at other nations’ school system. The one that most people admire, Finland, has well-resourced schools, highly educated teachers, professional autonomy, a strong professional union, and excellent results. What it does not have is standardized testing, competition, or choice.


Please, Fred, read my last two books Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education and Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. Read Samuel Abrams’ Education and the Commercial Mindset. Read Mercedes Schneider’s School Choice. Pay attention. Be informed before you write.