Feeling the backlash in a big way, Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” issued a call to end the “Toxic Rhetoric” about school choice, especially charters. 

Chiefs for Change are strong proponents of privatization. Here are the current members. Is your superintendent a “Chief for Change” who wants to divert money from public schools to the Betsy DeVos agenda of school choice?

They say:

Recent attempts to halt or severely limit school choice—including legislative debates over caps or moratoriums for charter schools—are misguided at best. Effective mechanisms of school choice—those that ensure quality, accountability, equitable access, and equitable funding—provide opportunities that our students need and deserve. 

Families with financial means in America have always been able to choose the school that is best for their child, by moving to a certain part of town or by sending their children to private schools. But most American families do not have that opportunity. The school in their neighborhood may fall short in meeting their child’s needs in any number of ways—but they’re stuck. 

Our nation’s history of redlining to separate both housing and schooling based on race and income, along with local zoning ordinances that restrict and confine affordable housing, alongside the recent wave of “school district secessions” by higher-income neighborhoods, have compounded the problem. Our nation’s children often live in neighborhoods just a short distance from each other but worlds apart in terms of school quality. This is unacceptable. Every child deserves school options where they will learn and thrive. 

That is why today we are calling on policymakers across the nation to end the destructive debates over public charter schools. Proposed caps and moratoriums allow policymakers to abdicate their responsibility to thoughtfully regulate new and innovative public school options: like banning cars rather than mandating seatbelts. They are a false solution to a solvable problem. 

The backlash against school choice, the demand to halt charter expansion, comes from an outraged public that supports their community public schools.

Only 6% of the students in the U.S. attend charter schools, most of which perform no better than or much worse than public schools. An even smaller number of students use vouchers, even when they are easily available, and the research increasingly converges on the conclusion that students who use vouchers are harmed by attending voucher schools.

The claim that poor kids should get “the same” access to elite private schools as rich kids is absurd. Rich parents pay $40,000-50,000 or more for schools like Lakeside in Seattle or Sidwell Friends in D.C. The typical voucher is worth about $5,000, maybe as much as $7,000, which gets poor kids into religious schools that lack certified teachers, not into Lakeside or Sidwell or their equivalent.

Perhaps Chiefs for Change should advocate for for housing vouchers worth $1 million or more so that poor families can afford to live in the best suburban neighborhoods where “families with financial means” live.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

What this press release really means is that the advocates of privatization know that the public is turning against them.

That’s good news.

The public wants to invest its tax dollars in strong, equitable public schools that meet the needs of all students, not in ineffective charters or vouchers that divert money from community public schools.