Archives for category: School Choice

Chris Lubienski has done comparative studies of public and private schools for years. In this latest study, he notes the paradox that choice schools tend to become standardized over time, betraying the claim that they would meet the differing needs and interests of students.

DOCUMENT RESUME
ED 439 519 EA 030 327
AUTHOR Lubienski, Chris
TITLE Diversification and Duplication in Charter Schools
PUBTYPE EDRS PRICE
Ontario,Canada,April14-18,19). InformationAnalyses(070) Speches/MetingPapers(150)
DESCRIPTORS
MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage. *CharterSchols;Diversity(Institutional);Educational
IDENTIFIERS
ABSTRACT
Change; *Educational Economics; Elementary Secondary Education;ForeignCountries;FreEnterpriseSystem; Privatization;School Choice Grant Maintained Schols (GreatBritain);*MarketSystems Aproach
Grant-MaintainedSchols:AnExplorationinthePolitical
EconomyofScholChoice. PUBDATE 19-04-0


NOTE


47p.;Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society (Toronto.)


This paper examines the political economy of charter schools to understand the tendencies toward standardization and emulation that these schools exhibit. It draws on the developed model of grant-maintained schools in the United Kingdom as an example of the market model’s evolution in mass education. It analyzes the promise of such approaches to explore reformers’ underlying assumptions and thus offers a window into perspectives that have driven these prolific reforms. The paper contrasts the emerging evidence with the public promises of reformers and contrasts these with the disappointing lack of diversification of options for education consumers. It states that widespread and controversial reforms in education across the globe entailed the introduction of market mechanisms of consumer choice and competition among providers in mass education. The text explores the promise of choice plans and charter schools, the effects of competition, and the reaction to uniformity. It concludes that there is a standardizing tendency inherent in markets that both accompanies and counteracts the potential for diversification that competitive markets can generate. The paper claims that market-oriented reformers generally ignore the constraining properties of competitive markets in their discussion of the potential effects of competition in education. (Containsaproximately25references.)(RJM)


Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made from the original document.

Diversification&DuplicationinCharter&GMSchols 20
ofsectionsofthemarket inefect,privatizedsuper-LEAswithprimaryacountabilityto shareholders,notcitizensoreven”consumers.”Thereisaneconomicincentivetolimitthe diversityofaproducttosomextent,becauseofresearch,development,production, distribution,andsuportcosts;asTeryMoenotes,”inovationscostmoney.Sometimes alotofmoney”(citedinMolnar,196,p.72).27Thus,thehated”one-size-fits-al” aproachtoeducationthatcriticsclaimisinherenttopublicontrolisalsolikelythrough thecostsavingfactorsofthe”cokie-cuter”aproachtomasprovisionofeducational services.Thesestandardizingtendenciesarebecomingmorevidentwithgrowthoflarge- scalenterprisessuchastheEdisonProject,TeseracT(formerlyEducationalAlternatives Inc.),AdvantageScholsInc.,orSabisInternationalSchols alofwhicharetryingto increasetheirshareofthecharterscholmarket,andalofwhichaveasetaproachto educatingchildren(Farber,198a;Hofman,198;Pole,198;Rhim,198;Sides& Decker,197;Toch,196;Vine,197).Inded,whenDykgraf&Lewis(198)studied charterscholsrunbymanagementcompaniessuchasthese,theyfoundstrongcentral controlexercisedbycorporateauthorities,andlitleopenesabouttheiractivities,which hinderspublicasesmentoftheirpractices.
Thistendencyfliesinthefaceoftheclaimthatcharterscholswilsharetheirinsightsand inovations.ThepromisewasmotivatedbyaperceptionthatLEAscholsareplaguedby adeadeninguniformity(Peterson,190),andnedinterventionsthatareproduced primarilyintheprivatesector(Coleman,190;West,195).28However,sucha perceptiondoesnotexplainhowalackofcompetitionecesarilyimposesuniformity acros15,0LEAsintheUS.Whatisthestandardizinginfluencefor15,0diferent bureaucraciesandmilionsofclasroms?Infact,theargumentcouldbemadethat, inasmuchasclasromsnowapearsimilaracrosdiferentcontexts,uniformaspectsmay beduetomarketinfluencesonthecuriculum,privatesectorcontrolofemployment posibilitiesforgraduates,theriseofindividualism,thecomodificationofpublic education,andothermarketefectsinstandardizingschols(Hogan,192;Labare, 197).Furthermore,itdeniesthemanyinovationsproducedinthepublicsector,and, moreover,ispremisedonhighlyhypotheticalpresumptionofinherentselfishnesof humanaturethatpositsthatinovationspringsfromtheposibilityofself-enrichment.
ButwhileadvocatesjustifiedcharterslargelyasR&Dcentersforpublicschols,itis becomingincreasinglyaparentthat evenifcharterscholsweretodevelopaplethora ofnewpedagogicalaproaches therearenotadequatemeansavailablethroughwhich otherscholscouldhaveacestothosediscoveries(Wels,etal.,198).Whilemarket-
orientedreformersclaimthatitissimplythefectsofcompetitionthatwilforceLEA scholstoimprove,thelogicofmarketsalsocounteractsanyrolethatcharterorGM
27Yet,thecomonlyapliedbusinesprincipleofeficiencyefectivelylimitstheresourcesrequiredfor inovationandexperimentation(seWelch,198).Inded,ironicaly,themarketizationofapublicsector institutionsuchaspubliceducationrepresentsanoveralstandardizationofoptions,chalengingtheunique aspectsofpublicscholsaspublicinstitutions,andforcingthemtoconformoretothedominant “eficiency”modelofaprivatebusines(seOetle,197). 28However,theasumptionthatinovationsareproducedintheprivatesectorignoresthextenttowhich inovativeideasandinstitutionshaveariseninthepublicsector,andthenexitedthepublicscholsystem (e.g.,Wiliams,19).Furthermore,thereismuchevidencethatmanyGMandcharterscholsused market-orientedreformstosimplyprovideaprivate-typeducationatpublicexpense.IntheUK,thishas benthecasewithGMscholsthatembracethegramarscholcuriculum,forexample.InNorth America,theownerofacharterscholmanagementcompanycaledtheEducationDevelopment Corporation(EDC)claimshedoesnotpursueinovativetechniques,but”usessucesfulChristianschols asaneconomicmodelforEDC’snonreligiouscharterschols”(MackinacCenterforPublicPolicy,197; sealso,Opel,19;Red,194;Sanchez,195;Schnaiberg,19;Simons,19;VanDunk, 198).
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scholsmayplayincontributingtotheoveralimprovementofscholing.Thatis,ina competitivemarket,scholssucedorfailbasedonhoweltheyatractandretain studentsrelativetothercompetingschols.Inacasewherecertainscholsare establishedtoproduceinsightsintoimprovingteachingandlearning,butalsoare dependentfortheirsurvivalonatractingconsumers,thereisaninherentincentivenotto shareimprovementsorinsightswithotherschols except,ofcourse,anyotherschols intheircorporatechain,asthecasemaybe.(Ontheotherhand,iftherewereadequate chanelssetuptodiseminateinovations,thefre-riderphenomenonsugeststhatmany schoblswouldnotasumethecostsofinovationifotherscholswildosoandshare withthemthediscoveries.)29
EmulationandDuplicationinConsumerMarkets Whilemarket-orientedreformersjustifytheiragendalargelyonthegroundsthatmarkets creatediversityofoptions,anexaminationinthepoliticaleconomyofconsumermarkets indicatesthattheyareignoringanequalyevidentstandardizingefectofcompetition. Dependingonthecircumstances,acompetitivemarketcanalsohaveconstrainingefectson experimentation,andfosterduplicationinsteadofdiversity.Inadynamicsystemofpublic choice,thelogicofmarketsdictatesthatproviderswiltrytostakeoutpositionsof advantageinordertocomandthepatronageofthemajorityofconsumers.Ifaprovider movestocornerasegmentofthemarket,thereissomeincentiveforotherprovidersalsoto moveinthatdirection,althoughnotquitetothesamextent,inordertocaptureal remainingbusinesuptoandposiblyincludingsomeofthemarketshareoftheirrivals (Hirschman,1970,p.63).Thiscanhavethefectofstandardizingoptionsavailableto consumers,asinasystemofscholchoice.
Forinstance,thisphenomenonisveryevidentinthearenaofpartypoliticsinrecentyears. InboththeUSandtheUK,”liberal/leftist”partiescametopowerlargelybyemulatingtheir oponentsonmanyisues.Ratherthanoferingvotersrealoptions,Clinton’sDemocrats (throughisDemocraticLeadershipCouncil)notonlyatractedvotes,butsimplycornered blocsofvotersbymimickingtheRepublicansoneconomicandsocialquestions.Thus, theytokforgrantedvotersfurthertotheleft,knowingthattherewasnotherviable alternativetowhichthosevoterscouldturn.Blair’snewLabourPartysucesfuly embracedClinton’sstrategyintheUK(Ford,19;Zakaria,198),andtheLiberalsin CanadandotherEnglish-speakingdemocracieshavelargelyembracedmarketprinciples previouslythoughttobethedomainoftheirconservative(clasicaly”liberal”)competitors. Whilesuchtrendsmayindicatethepresumptiononthepartofthesepartiesoftheloyaltyof theirmembers,italsosugeststhatviablealternativesarenotavailabletotemptthese peoplewiththeposibilityofexitingpartiesthatnolongerreflecttheirbeliefs.Regardles, theoveralefectistofervoterslesofaclearchoiceofdiferentoptions,andmany comentatorsfromboththerightandlefthavenotedthatthepoliticalmarketplacecurently
29Onceagain,Coulson(19) asapuremarketadvocate ofersbeterinsightsintotheworkingsof themarket.Whilehewritesoftheincentivesforcharterschols”balancingresearch-and-developmentcosts
againstthenedtokeptuitiondown”(p.305),healsonotesthatthe”onlywaytoenticeducational entrepreneurstotakeontheserisksistoprovidethemwithanincentivethatmakesthefortworthwhile”
(p.318).Yet,whileIagrewithisinsightsintothecorectdynamicsofthemarketpervertedbycharter scholdesigns,Icontinuetodisagrewithisprescriptionthatwemovetowardpurermarketstocorect thebastardizationofmarkettheory.Ifcharterscholsarepublicschols,astheyclaim,thentheyhavea responsibilitytothegreaterpublic,andnotjusttheirimediateclientele.ButunderCoulson’sfremarket model,ashenotes,charterscholswouldbeabletownandprofitfromtheirinovations,andexcludeal otherstudentsfromthenjoymentoftheirbenefits unlestheywerepersonalyabletoafordtopay. Thisistheantithesisofanyconceptionofapublicsystem.Furthermore,itdemeansthefortsandenies theinovationsofalwhoworkforchildrenbecauseofahumanitarianimpulse,insteadasumingthatonly personalgainmotivatesgodworks.
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ofersconsumersoptionsthatarelargelyindistinguishable.30Thus,whilestealingisues mayworkmostefectivelyinaduopoly,italsoapearstohavesomefectinmulti-party systems.InHirschman’sframework,isuemulationwilleadtodiscontentof peripheralizedconsumers/voters.31Butduopolisticorevenpolyopolisticpowerssystems canconstrainthatdiscontentmentthroughefectivecoperationexercisedby”competing” parties.Theirconfluenceofinterestsmayleadtointentionalyconcertedefortsor colusioncausedbythefectsoftheircomoninterestsinmaintaininganefective oligarchy.Thatis,evencompetingplayersmaycoperateinesenceinordertoprevent othersfromalsojoiningthegame.Thus,majorpartiesandproducershaveaninterestin themaintainingthe”thirdparty”statusofthirdparties.Whileattimestheymightlokfora minor-partyalyinordertotipthebalanceofpowerintheirfavor,theyalsohavean interestinremainingtheprimarypartnerinanycoalition.
Consumermarketsalsodemonstratethisconstrainingefectofcompetition,whetheritbe PCsandWindowsbothemulatingandcrowdingoutMacintoshproductsfromthe computermarket,VHSreducingandthenridingthemarketofthebeterBetasystems, bokstorechainsmimickingtheservicesofandtheneradicatingsmalneighborhod bokstores,JapaneseproducersintroducingtheminivanonlytohaveUSmanufacturers adoptstheideandthendominatethemarket,orlarge-scalevideochainscrowdingoutthe cornerstore.Whilesimplelogictelsusthattightcompetitioncaninhibitinovationin existingprovidersbylimitingresourcesavailableforexperimentation(whichisriskyand mayentailalos),evidencealsosugeststhataconfluenceofcompetitors’interestsand efortscanalsolimitinovationandoptions.Dunleavy(197,p.3)notesthese standardizingtendenciesforconsumerchoices(from”hamburgersorcomputers”)inwhat hetermsglobal”Macworld”capitalism:”Thescaleofmarketsandcompetitionhas decisivelyescalatedinsomeareas,screningoutlocalsolutionsandcorporationsinfavour oftransnationalcompanies,dominantbrandsandstandardizedsolutions.”32Whilehe notesadiversityofoptionsinsomeareas,thegeneral”resultisthatsingle-marketchoices
30Se,forexample,Fraser,198/19;Pres,196;Reves,197;andSobran,195. 31Hirschman discusingtwo-partysystems sesanycentralizingtendencylimitedbyideological
diferences,alertandvocalactivists,andpracticalconsiderationsofmaximizingvotersuport(ononehalf ofthepoliticalspectrum,withasmuchofanimperialisticforayintotheotherhalfascouldbereasonably puledofwithoutalienatingtheparty’snativebase):”adoptionofaplatformwhichisdesignedtogain votesatthecentercanbecounter-productive”(p.72).Yetacentralizingtendencycanbeunlimitedinan emulativecontextofnoveridingideologicaldiferences thatis,tacitagrement(perhapssubconscious) onmajorunderlyingisues,aswiththeneoliberalDLCapingRepublicansonisueslikeNAFTA,the deathpenalty,gaymariage,andefensespending.Thisunrestrictedcentraltendencyleavesthemore ideologicalyradicalwingofaparty(anditsnon-partyasociates/sympathizers)unrepresented.Voterson thextremearecertainly”captives”ofthemainpartiesintermsoftherealityoftheunlikelihodofsuces oflaunchinganalternativeparty,andthustheirpowerofexitislimited(bytheirnumbers)whiletheir powerofvoicewasoftenamplified(bytheiralertnes).Butwhenideologicalyemulativemainstream partiesdisowntheideologuesatthends,loyaltykepspeoplewithdiscernibleideologicalconvictions fromcreatingapotentialysucesfulpartythatwouldoferaclearlyideologicalalternativetothemasof votersinthecenter.Manysuchdisenfranchised”havetriedtoexertinfluencewithinoneofthemajor parties,havefailed,andlaterdecidedtoworkontheoutside”(p.85).Butmuchoftheirpotentialsuport restsinsimilarlyfrustratedpeoplewhorefusetoleavetheparty,despitethefactthattheirrapidly diminishingvoiceandpotentialorganizationalalternativepointstothexitsign.Thesealertvoters,even morethanthepotentialyfertilepolofinertvotersmoretothecenter,areletingtheirloyaltyprecludea “rational”option.Butthisaparentirationalityservesapurpose,asHirschmanstates:”Even though.partiesinatwo-partysystemareleslikelytomovetowardandresembleachotherthanhas sometimesbenpredicted,thetendencydoesasertitselfonocasion.Themorethisissothemore irationalandoutrightsilydoesthestubornpartyloyaltylok;yetthisispreciselywhenitismost useful.”(p.81)
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32Or”McWorld”capitalism.

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expand,buttheoveralrangeofchoicesacrosdiferentcountries’marketsmayreduce.” Inhisdiscusion,hepointstotherestaurantindustryasanexampleofaninstanceof globalizationwhichnoneanticipatedfourdecadesago,butwhichasheavily standardizednotjustfodchoices,but”howcustomersareserved.”Ritzer(196)writes ofthe”McDonaldization”ofmarketsocietyasmarketforcespursueandimposea predictabilitythatreducesalhumaneds,desires,andrelationshipstoacomon economicalculus.Otherobserversalsonotethe”Disneyfication”ofculturethatundercuts globaldiversity(Hanigan,198;Seabrok,198).Similarly,inthe”marketplaceof ideas,”severalauthorshaverecognizedtheconstrainingefectsofcorporatecontrolofthe mediainacompetitiveconsumermarket.Mazoco(194,p.5)writesthatthenarowing competitivefieldlimitsthescopeofwhatisconsideredreasonablebythenewsmedia,and thuswhatislegitimizedaspertinentforpopulardiscusionandebate(sealsoBagdikian, 197;Herman&Chomsky,198).
And,ofcourse,sucesbredsemulation.Whetherthroughinovationorthe reintroductionof”triedandtrue”practices(oranyotherinexplicablypopularproductor service),ifsomething”works”intermsofatractingconsumers,competitorswiltryto duplicatethatsucesbyduplicatingwhateverbroughtonthatsuces,uptoandincluding impingingonanyproprietaryrightsofthesucesfuloperation.Thisemulationisreadily aparentfromtheresearchonthechoicesystemintheUK.There,ratherthanengagingin educationalinovations,market-orientedproviderstendtoemulatesucesfulschols institutionscharacterizedbytheirup-marketclientele throughtheintroductionof inovationsoftenperipheraltotheclasromsuchasuniforms,disciplinecodes,symbols oftraditionalism,andotherformsofimagemanagement(Glater,etal.,197).Whenthey makechangesinclasrompractices,theygeneralydonotintroducenewpractices,but reintroduceolderaproachesasociatedwithmorexclusivelitescholing suchasthe academicemphasisofthegramarscholcuriculuminordertoatractthebeststudents withtheleastamountofproblems,whowouldbetheasiesttoeducateandcosttheleast amountofresources.InNorthAmerica,charterscholreformersalsonedtoshow results.JoeNathan(198,p.502),aleadingproponent,warnscharterscholstoconsider “bestpractices”alreadyproveninotherschols:”Charteradvocatesoughttolokat carefulyevaluated,provenaproaches.”Moreover,thejustificationforcharterschols thatcalsforthetodiseminatetheirinovationsasumesthatotherscholswilduplicate theirpractices(althoughitisnotclearwhatincentiveunderthelogicofmarketsmight encouragescholstosharesucesfulsecretswithcompetitors).
Partoftheisueinthesecasesmaybetheilegitimacyoftheasumptionofmarket-oriented reformersthatconsumerdemandshapesmarkets.IntheiradvocacyofcharterandGM schols,proponentsofscholchoicecontendthatscholswilriseinresponseto consumerpreferences.Theyasumethatapre-existinglandscapeofthewantsandneds ofeducationalconsumerswilbereflectedinthegeographyofareactivemarket.Schol choiceadvocatescontendthatconsumerscontrolthemarket.However,thereismuch evidencetoindicatethatthecausalarowalsopointsintheotherdirectionaswel;thatis, marketscanalsoshapeconsumerpreferences.Producerscultivatewantsandnedsin consumers.Inthatrespect,simplywitnesthebilionsthatmarketentitiesinvestin advertisingandimagemanufacturing,particularlyaroundproductsforwhichtherewasno pre-existingdemand.Furthermore,insomemarkets,producersorproviderscanselect theirconsumers.Ineducation,thismeansthatscholschosethestudents.Thishas increasinglybenthecaseintheUK,asscholsnowsetoutcriteriaforprospective studentsinordertobeterpursuetheschol’smisionorphilosophy(Dean,193b;Dean,
193c;Edwards&Whity,197;Fitz,etal.,197;Walford&Pring,196;Whity& Power,197).Whilethishasbenoficialyencouragedinrecentyears,itwasinitialy donethroughcovert-selectiontechniques e.g.,parentinterviews,requiredalegianceto disciplinecodesoraschol’sspecializedmision/philosophy,andsymbolictrapingsof
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traditionalism(Dean,192;Francis,190;Glater,etal.,197;Walford,197a;West, etal.,197).ThereisnoreasontoasumethatthesametrendwouldnotocurinNorth Americancharterschols,asmanyscholsnowrequireparentorstudentcontracts, volunterhours,adherencetomisionstatements,orothermeansthatencourageself- segregationbyparentstomaskselectionofstudentsbyschols(Carl,198;Farber, 198a;Farber,198b;McGhan,198;McKiben,19;McKiney,196;Rothstein, etal.,198).Itsemslikelythatregulationstoblockovertselectionwilbelargely inefectual,asmarketcompetitionencouragesorevenforcesparentsandscholstofind waysofsortingthemselves.
Inovation,Diferentiation,andImageManagement Thistendencytowardemulationincompetitivemarketsraisestheisueofthedegreto whichdiferencesbetwenchoicesarereal,orperceivedresultsofimagemanagement. Eveninamorestableorstaticmarketcontext,diferencesbetwencompetitorsin consumermarketsareoftenemphasizedorexageratedinmarketingandpresentation. ThereisnotmuchdiferencebetwenPepsiandCoke,orbetwenFord,Dodge,andGMC trucks.Asexperienceshows,therearetwowaystomakeaprofit:(1)inovationinorder toatracttheconsumerwithabetervalueonabeterproduct,(2)orbetermarketing.In situationswhereconsumerinformationisobscureorinacesible(orcanbemadethatway throughimagemanagement),thelaterismorelikely.So,producerstrytocultivatetheal- importantbrandloyalty(recently,byintroducingtheirproductstothecapturedclienteleof schols).Therefore,advertisingcampaignsoftenfocusonsmaldiferencesofdegres, andnotoverwhelmingsimilaritiesbetwencompetingproducts.Infact,thecoland hamburgerwarssugestthatthebigestcompetitorsareoftenthemostsimilar,withthe majorairlines,networkandlocalnewscasts,andbigthreautomakersalbut indistinguishablefromeachother.Butinsteadoffocusingonthequalityorcost- efectivenesofproductsasrational-choicetheoristswouldlike,thesecompetitorsoften emphasizequestionsofstyle,atitude,andasociationinapealingtocustomersand workingthemarket.3Whilesmaldiferencesandbels-and-whistle(orsmoke-and- miror)inovationsmaybeusefulandcost-efectiveforproducers(oftensimplyto enhanceprofitmargins),itisthefectivenesandcosteficiencyofmarketingthatdeters theincentivetoferrealimprovementsandcostlyinovationsinaproductline.34Itis oftencheapertocultivatediferencesinimage-asociationintheyesofconsumersthanto researchandevelopabeteralternativetoacompetitors’product.Andmarketingisoften (evenusualy)designedtobscurewhetherachangeinaproductisanimprovement,or simplyachange.
Thisaspectinthelogicofmarketswouldalsobepresentforcharterscholscompetingfor per-studentfunding.AsscholsintheUKandtheUSbecomemoreinvolvedin marketingthemselvestopotentialconsumers,itwilbeimportanttonotethextentto whichemphasizediferencesareamateroftruecuricularorpedagogicalinovations,or simplyrepackagingofolderideasandtargetingthemataparticularsegmentor demographicgroupofthemarket.Niche-marketingsimplylimitsproducerstonon-growth areasofthemarket.So,whilerationalconsumersmaysekoutascholbasedon academicriteria,muchevidencesugeststhatthisisnotthecase.Whilechoiceplansin theUKandmanyjurisdictioninNorthAmericaresuportedbythepublicationofleague tablesorotherindicatorsofrelativestudentachievement,itisverydificult,ifnot
3Inafascinatinganalysis,Wink(192,ch.10)observesthisphenomenoninmanyareasofhuman competitionandconflict includingpoliticsandwar asoposingpartiesoftenemploythesamemeans inacontest,therebyemulatingorimitatingeachotherinpractice,andbecomingmorealikeinesence, whilexageratingdiferencesinordertojustifytheirpublicpositions. 34Inded,aproductioncost-orientedincentivenednotbepasedontotheconsumerintheformof savingsexcepttothextentthatitwouldslightlyundercutacompetitor’spriceifatal.
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imposible,togiveconsumersasnapshotofhowmuchonescholenhancesthe achievementofastudentascomparedtotherschols.Suchefortsarebefudledby problemssuchasfindingtheapropriatecomonmetric,orcontrolingforconfounding variablessuchasper-efectsandsocioeconomicstatus.
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Inlieuofaneasyindicatorofaschol’sabilitytoenrichastudent’spotential,rational consumersareforcedtorelyonotherevidenceofaschol’sworth.Unfortunately, evidencefromtheUKsugeststhatsuchindicatorsareoftensymbolicreflectionsofre- emergingsocialhierarchiesuniforms,theracialandethnicompositionofaschol,etc.
ratherthanimediateacademicfactors.Inded,thereismuchevidencefromboth NorthAmericandtheUKthatconsumersactualygravitatetowardsthesenon-academic
criterianywaywhenchosingaschol(Bal&Gewirtz,197;Carol&Walford, 197a;Carol&Walford,197b;Glazerman,198;Hirsch,194;Petronio,196;
Smith&Meier,195;Walford,192).Manyifnotmostparentsarenotusualyloking forinovationorevenexcelence.Whilerational-choicetheoristsasumethatconsumers sekthemostefectiveducationaloptionfortheirchildren,real-worldexperienceshows parents constrainedbysuchfactorsasconvenience,transportation,location,work,and theabilityandesiretoparticipateinandvalueachild’seducation lokatotherfactors suchassportsteams,proximitytohomeorwork,tradition,astudentbodythatreflects theirchildracialyoreconomicaly,achild’sdesiretobewithfriends(orawayfrom enemies),andsoforth.Evenrational-choicetheoristimplicitlyafirmthisphenomenon, oftenusingracialcodewordsthatmaskretrenchedracism,orsegregationisttendencies basedonsocial-clas noteducational diferentiation.Forexample,Moe(194,p. 27)debatesthecontentionthatBritishparentsfocusoncriteriaperipheraltoacademic enrichment,denyingtheimportanceof”sportsanduniforms”andinsteadclaimingthat informedpeoplewant”disciplineandorder,achievement,andproximity”(Mano,etal., 198a;Mano,etal.,198b;Schneider,Marschal,Teske,&Roch,198;Vanourek,et al.,197).Whatisnoteworthyabouttheseparentalpreferenceshereisthat,asadvertising increasesinimportanceinacompetitivemarket,thesetendenciessugestthelikelihodthat scholswilfocusonon-academicriteriaintheirmarketingcampaigns,promoting imagesthatdonotfocusimediatelyonpotentialacademicenhancement,butonon- academicriteriasociatedwithracial,ethnic,andsocialclasdiferentiation.
ConstrainingEfectsofConsumerPerceptionsinaCompetitiveMarket Ontheotherhand,whilemarketsshapeconsumers,consumers’perceptionsofwhatare apropriateproductsoftenconstraininovationthroughmarketforces.Parental asumptionsofwhatagodproductorserviceis whethertothpasteorscholing providesincentiveforstandardization,notjustdiversificationofoptions.Ifpeoplethink thatcolashouldbecaramelcolored,thenPepsiClearwilfail.Ifpeoplequatediscipline, rotememorization,andhightestscoreswitha”god”education,thentheromfor inovationinamarketcontextisconstrained.ThiswasthecaseintheUK,wherepopular conceptionsofeducation(atleastforactiveconsumers)meantthatmoretraditionalismand elitismwouldbetheprimary”inovation”drivenbythemarket.Subsequently,intheUK, scholshavebenforcedtopayatentiontotheirimagemanagementthroughmarketing, administration,andpresentation,oftenatthexpenseofeducationalconcerns(Bal& Gewirtz,197;Gewirtz,etal.,195).Thismay,infact,beoneofthecentralelementsof themarketdynamicthatistheconstrainingfactorineducationquasi-marketsinNorth America,asparentalperceptionsofwhat”god”scholingisaremanifestedinaconfining demandfor”back-to-basics”scholing.Kohn(198),forexample,claimsthatafluent andambitiousparentsintheUSdonotwantinovationsintheirchildren’seducation,but, instead,whatarecomonlysenassolid,tried-and-trueducationalpractices.Onthe otherhand,peopleoftencanotreachacomonunderstandingoftruly”inovative” education.GlobalLearningAcademyinCalgarywasestablishedtotry”diferentiated”
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learning,an”inovative”aproachtoeducation.Butthescholclosedafterparentsand evendiferentteacherscouldnotagreonwhatthatmeans(Shepard,198).
Discusion Thisesayshouldnotbeunderstodasanargumentagainstthepotentialformarket-
orientedscholstofosterdiverseandinovativeoptions.Instead,Ihaveatemptedto demonstratethattherearestandardizingtendenciesalsoinherentinthemarketmechanisms importedintopubliceducation,andthatacountingforthesetendencieshelpsus understandtheunexceptionalrecordofcharterscholsinpromotingexperimentationin teachingandlearning.However,theprecedingdiscusionraisesbothimplicationsand questionsthatdeservefurtheratention.
Diversity Diverseoptionsareoftenaparentincharterschols,GMscholsandCTCs.Inded,
someofthesescholsapeartoembraceintensiveuseoftechnology,ofervarious pedagogicalaproachessuchasa”back-to-basics”ordiscipline-areaorientedcuriculum,
andsmalerclasandscholsizes.However,whileIhavenotedthatnoneofthese “inovations”arerealynew,anothertrendistowardethnic-basedandhome-scholed instruction.Theseoptionsdefinitelyoferadiferentiatedsetofoptionstoconsumers. Althoughscholsegregation(bylaw,tradition,residency,orevenself-segregation)isnot neworinovative,whatisuniqueaboutsuchtrendsisthattheylegitimizeresegregationof “public”scholsinthepost-Brownv.Boardera.Ofcourse,publicscholshaveben notoriouslysegregatedbyraceandclasinrecentdecades.Butpursuingthediferentiation ofprovisionthroughtheoptionofrace-andethnic-basedscholsrepresentsalegal institutionalizationofthatsegregationthroughtheauspicesofademocraticaly-run institutionthathadoncebenknownasthe”comon”schol.Likewise,”home- instruction”islargelyamovebyhome-scholerstopt-intopublicfinancingofprivately- orientededucationafterhavingexitedpublicschols(se.g.,AmericansUnitedfor SeparationofChurchandState,197;Fin,etal.,197;Rothstein,etal.,198).These newconsumeroptionsraisequestionsaboutthebalanceofpublicly-fundedprivate consumerrightsagainstthepublicinterestincultivatingacomonculture,tolerance,and socialcohesionwithpublicresourcesforthepublicgod.Such”diversity”ofconsumer choicesincharterscholoptionsstandsinstarkcontrasttoliberalefortstoachieve diversityoverthelastseveraldecades.
ContrastingSourcesofInovation Charterscholreformerspubliclyadvancetheiragendasaconsumer-orientedreform measure.However,experiencewithconsumermarketsindicatesthatmarketscanalsobe producer-oriented aphenomenonthatturnsthecausaltablesoncharterreformers’ asumptions.Yetthisfactisignoredbymarket-orientedreformersintheiradvocacyof charterschols.Furthermore,asitbecomesmorevidentthatprivatebureaucraciescanbe justasinflexibleaspublicbureaucracies,onewonderswhythisisnotalsoreflectedinthe rhetoricpromotingcharterschols.Ifgovernmentbureaucraciessquashinovative tendenciesduetoself-interest,donotloyaltiestostockholdersalsodivertinovative potentialitiesthatarisearoundcustomerserviceinprivatebureaucracies?Yetmanycharter scholreformerspersistinadvancingthesimplisticimageofaninovativeprivatesector juxtaposedtoaconstrainingpublicsector.Thisstarksimplificationisreminiscentof Orwel’sAnimalFarmtwofet,bad;fourfet,god(Chomsky&Barsamian,196,p. 121).Butthisasumptionignoresconsiderablevidenceoftheinovativepowersof publicsectors,constrainingfactorsinprivatesectors,andthefolyofautomaticaly opositionalizingthemalofwhichshouldproblematizeandcomplexifysuchclaims (Cohen,1982;Kutner,197;se,e.g.,Coulson,196).
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Inded,thisquestionofinovationleadingtodiversityineducationparalelsevidencein theconsumermarketsthatcharterscholreformersoftenhighlight.Buttheirreferencesto thesemarketsonlyapeartoconsideronesideofthequation.Anotherexamplemightbe seninthedialecticalprocesoutlinedbyDarwin’stheoryofevolution(and,inded,much ofmarkettheoryreflectsthisinitssurvival-of-the-fitestethos).Oneofthethrebasic dynamicsonwhichthistheoryoforganicprocesesisbasedisstandardization(asthe synthesis).Thatis,evolutionpositsthatthethesisofuniformityischalengedbyan aberation(theanti-thesis),which,dependingontheconditions,maychalengeoreven overwhelmthestatusquo,resultinginanewsynthesis.Thus,standardizationisjustas muchanesentialpartofsuchaprocesasisinovation,andisnecesaryfortheproces ofchangetounfold.35Bothpublicandprivateinstitutionsareoftenlikenedtorganisms, andtheycanbeflexibleintheiryouth,andstagnantandefensiveinmaturity.Wink (192)usesareligiousanalogytodescribethispatern:institutionsarecreated,falen, and/orredemed.
Market Fundamentalism Religiousimagerymayalsohelpexplainthetreatment,orde-emphasis,ofevidencein market-orientedreformers’advocacyoftheiragenda.Thesingle-mindednesofmarket- orientedreformersinperceivingonlyfavorablevidencefromconsumermarketssugests azealotryoffaithinmarketmechanisms.Inded,theprolificaplicationofmarketmodels topublicscholswasprecededbyverylitlehardevidenceastotheirefectsinmodern education.Whilethiswaspartlyduetothefactthattherearevirtualynocomprehensive andanalogousmodelsfromwhichtodrawpolicyinferencesonhowmarketswouldwork inschols,36itisalsoindicativeofanideologicalfaithinmarketprocesesabelief systemthatasuresthefaithfulofthepowerofmarketdisciplineasacorectiveto waywardpublicsectorinstitutions(thusdiscountingthenedforevidence).Infact,the discourseisliteredwithreferencesto”beliefs”onthisisue,inlieuofhardorcompeling evidenceonthepowerofmarketstodiversifyandinovateprovisionofeducation.37But, aswithanyfundamentalist,market-orientedreformersapearcapableofselective perceptionlimitedtoconfirmingevidence.Theyareabletoignoreorexplainawayany confoundingevidencethatchalengestheirbeliefsinthepowerofmarketstoprovide.38 Charterscholadvocatesdonotdemonstratethatmarketsfosterinovationincharter scholclasroms,becausetheyhavealreadysenenoughevidencefrom(aone-sided viewof)theautoindustryto”prove”thatdiversificationandinovationfalwithinthe purviewofmarkets.Hence,marketreformersareunableorunwilingtoconsider,much lesembrace,contradictorytendenciesinmarketsthatbothdiversifyandstandardize consumer options.
35Naturalprocesesareparticularlypertinenthere,sincemanymarket-orientedreformerspromotetheir agendasanaturalororganicalternativetoartificialstateregulation premisedontheasumptionofa universalhumanaturepreocupiedwithpursuingone’sownself-interest.Forafascinatingdiscusionof standardizationindynamicorganicproceses,seGould(1989). 36Coulsondisputesthelackofevidence(196;194;19). 37Ironicaly,thisissimilartohowscholexpansioningeneralisoftenforwardedbyreligious-likefaith andrhetoricregardingthepowerofeducation(Bowen,19;Meyer,1986;Mockler,194;Tyack,Kirst, &Hansot,1980;Walkom,190). 38AfterDisneyboughttheAmericanBroadcastingCorporation,MexicanovelistCarlosFuenteswrote: “Inaworldtornbyeverykindoffundamentalismreligious,ethnic,nationalistandtribal wemust grantfirstplacetoeconomicfundamentalism,withitsreligiousconvictionthatthemarket,lefttoitsown devices,iscapableofresolvingalourproblems.Thisfaithasitsownayatolahs.Itschurchisneo- liberalism;itscredisprofit;itsprayersareformonopolies;andnowitshalosareMickeyMousears.” (quotedinTheMenonite,196,p.17;sealsoWalkom,190)
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Moreover,likeanyfaith,marketfundamentalismestablishesaversionofhumanatureasa universaltruth.Theirclaimthatinovationwilflowfromindividualswhentheyare unleashedtonaturalypursuethenhancementoftheirself-interestdependsonavery debatableasumptionofauniversalhumanature.Whilemarket-orientedreformersclaim thatmaximizingself-interestisthedrivingforceofhumanprogres,thereisalsoevidence tosugestthat,inded,”humanature”isshapedbysocial,cultural,andinstitutional conditionsaswel.Furthermore,itapearsthatsomepeoplearewilingtotakerisksand pursueinovationsoutofphilanthropicandhumanitarianimpulses,orsimplecuriosity.
ResearchandPolicyBorowing Whilethelackofcompelingevidencefromeducationsugeststheideological(asoposed
toempirical)natureofthisreformagenda,theglobalscaleofmarketreformsraisesisues regardingtheroleorresearch,evidence,andideologyacrossocio-politicalcontexts. ParticularlyinthecasesoftheUKandNorthAmerica,thesimilaritiesofthesereforms pointtoeitherintentionalpolicysharingoraplicationsofuniversalaspectsofmarket ideology.Forthemostpart,theUKledthewaywiththesereforms,fromThatcher’s governmentthroughthepresentBlairadministration.YetthegeneralycriticalBritish researchliteraturehasfailedtopenetratetheUSdiscoursetoanygreatextent(Moe,194). Thatis,whilepolicyborowingapearstobeprevalent,policymakersdemonstratea concurentandcurioushesitancytoengageinserious”researchborowing.”Whilepartof thismaybeduetoachronicethnocentrismonthepartofAmericanpolicymakers,such parochialismisincreasinglyinexcusableinatimewhenresearchiswidelyacesible,and contextsandpoliciesarebecomingmoresimilar.Whity,forinstance,whohasbenvocal inhisobservationofthelackofinovationintheUKmarketreforms,hasbenquite wilingtosharehisinsightswithNorthAmericanaudiences(e.g.,Miner,197).Itis unclearwhytherehasnotbenmorediscusioninNorthAmericaoftheUKexperience beforembarkingonrapidandwidespreadmarket-orientedreforms,andonecanonly speculateabouttheknowledgeandintentionsofpolicymakersandmarketreformers.This raisesquestionsabouttheabilityofresearchandevidencetoinfluenceanideologicaly- drivenreformagenda.Butitalsoraisesquestionsabout”hegemonic”controlofthe discourse;thatis,whataretheinterestsofthepeoplewhohavethemicrophone,andhow aretheirinterestsandagendaservedandchalengedbyresearchevidence?
Ontheotherhand,someobserversspeculateonthexistenceof”policynetworks”to explaintheaparentpolicycopyingbetwendiferentcontexts(Carl,194;Whity& Edwards,198).Inded,thereisevidenceoftrans-Atlanticolusionandcoperationof like-mindedthinktanksandotherinterests.Yetwecanotdiscounttheposibilitythat similaritiesinmarket-orientedpoliciesareindicativeoftheideologicalparadigmofthe times reflectingnotsomuchpolicy-borowingaswhatLevin(198)sesasadiseaseor “epidemic”ofsuchpolicymakingintheraitdefines.However,whilehisanalogy discountsintentionallearningandaplicationbypolicymakersofthemarketzeitgeist explanation,otherevidenceindicatesthatrecently,deliberatepolicy-copyingisnow ocuringinaneasterlydirection.AlthoughtheUKsettheprecedentforquasi-market reformsofeducation,thelectionofBlair’sLabourPartysetthestagefortheUSto becomeamodel.ItapearsthatBlairhasmodeledmuchofhispoliticalstrategyonhis neoliberalmentorinClintononisuessuchaswelfarereform(Jones,198;McGuire,
198/19).Ineducation,likewise,there-emergenceof”crisis”rhetoricintheUK sugestsnotadisatisfactionwiththeresultsoftheToryeducationpoliciessomuchasa desiretocontinuetocultivatepopularsuportforreforms(e.g.,BritishBroadcasting Corporation,19).IntheNewStatesman aforumforNewLabour”modernizers” Bilefsky(198)recentlyadvancedtheposibilityofemulatingUSfor-profitmodelfor charterscholsintheUK.Nowitapearsthatthismodelwilbeimportedasthe corectivedisciplinarianforporlyperformingschols(MacLeod,19a;MacLeod,
19b;Raferty,19),therebylegitimizingthelocationofblameasthefaultofindividual 30

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schols(seThrup,198).Moreover,theEdisonProjecthasplansforinternational expansion,includingtheUK(Walsh,198a).
Questions for Further Investigation Thisexplorationalsoraisesseveralquestionforwhichasearchforanswersisbeyondthe scopeofthispaper.Isuesdeservingoffurtheratentioninclude:
Whatmarketconditionspromoteitherthediversificationorstandardizationof consumeroptions?Whatconditionssuportorconstraininovations?Towhatextentcan thoseconditionsbemanipulatedthroughpolicyinstruments?Howouldtheyaplyto educationquasi-markets?
WhatprecedentsareavailableregardingpublicfinancingofR&Defortsby privateproviders,particularlyexamplesthatspeaktothepotentialbenefitsandangers
inherentinthecharterscholmodel?Whilepublicmoneyhaslongonetonon-profit researchfoundationsanduniversities,whatlesonscanbelearnedfromthexamplessetin publicresourcesandprerogativesgoingtofor-profitendeavors?Somemightclaimthatthe defenseindustry,forexample,hasabuseditspositionwithwastefulandfraudulentuseof publicmoniesforresearchandevelopment(e.g.,MultinationalMonitor,19).Others mightpointtothegeneralbeneficialefectsofpublicfunding,proprietaryalowances,or privateprerogativesgrantedtoprivatendeavorsinpharmaceuticalresearch,forinstance (e.g.,Tulock,196).
Towhatextentdoestheparticipationorpenetrationofinvestmentcapitalpromoteor constraininovationsinmarket-orientedschols?Dosucesfulinvestmentcapital operationstendtobecomecautious,lokingforwaystomaintainposition?Oraresuch endeavorsmorelikelytopursuerisksandsuportentrepreneurialeforts?(Onthistrendin education,seWalsh,198b)
Whatistheroleofthecomongodinconstrainingandcultivatinginovationand diversification?Furthermore,whatistheroleofthestateorthepublicindefiningthe comongodanditsaplicationtothisquestion?Thereapearstobeapresumptionthat diversificationisinherentlygod.Butaremorechoicesalwaysbeter?Towhatextent doesthediversificationofconsumeroptionsencourageamovetowardthelowestcomon denominator,andrivedownthegeneralqualityofchoices?Forexample,some neoconservativesmightclaimthestatehasaninterestinregulatingthentertainment industrytothextentthatthepursuitofprofitspromoteslicentiousnes,hedonism,andbad taste.Similarly,healthadvocatesmightmakeaparalelclaimregardingthedutyofthestate tomonitororregulatethefastfodortobacoindustries,therebyconstrainingconsumer choices.Abeterexample,perhaps,involvesconsumerrightsintheautoindustry. Benetetal.(198)claimthatamonopolisticDetroitautoindustryfailedtohedconsumer preferencebybuildingtomany”expensive,gas-guzlingvehicles”inthe1970sand
1980s(p.28).WhiletheDetroitautoindustrydideventualyrespondtothechalenge posedbymorefuel-eficientJapaneseimports,recenttrendsindicatethat atleast partialybecauseofconsumerdemandandmarketingalautomakersarenowbuilding more”expensive,gas-guzlingvehicles”thaneverbefore,aslighttrucksandsportutility vehiclesnowoutnumbercarsinewvehiclesales.Doesanyoneclaimthatmore dangerous,leseficient,morepolutingvehicles(drivenbyconsumerpreferenceand imagemanufacturing)enhancethecomongod?Theagregatefectsmaybe detrimentaltoal.Butwhatistheroleofthestateandthepublicsetagainsttherightsofthe consumerinthisquestion?Theanswerwouldhaveimplicationsfortheroleofthestate andpublicintheregulationofconsumerchoiceandcompetitiveprovisioninmarket- orientededucation.
Finaly,whatistheapropriateroleofthestateinademocraticsocietyinrequiring rationalchoice?Theimplicationsofthisquestionareimportant.Sinceitisnotalways cleartoconsumerswhenevermarketingrepresentsinformationoninovationsorthe obfuscationofalackofimprovements,doesthestatehavearoleinregulatingthis informationintheinterestoffuldisclosure?Ifafre-marketsocietyispremisedonthe
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fre-flowofinformationtoalowfulexerciseofrationalchoice,doesthestatenedto intervene,ironicaly,inordertodefendthelaisez-fairelementsinherentinacompetitive systemofinformation-basedchoice?Furthermore,doesthestatenedtorequirethe provisionoftruechoice,ortheguaranteofarangeofoptions,ifmarketfailureconstrains thoseaspectsofasystemofconsumerchoiceinanarealikeducation?
Inconclusion,thisesaydemonstratesthatthereisastandardizingtendencyinherentin marketsthatbothacompaniesandcounteractsthepotentialfordiversificationthat competitivemarketscangenerate.Thisanalysisisanatempttoprovideamorebalanced viewofthelogicaldynamicsofmarketprocesesineducationthanthatwhichisnow evidentinpolicydiscourseofchoiceineducation.Thus,whilenotdisputingthatthereare someconomicincentivesforinovationandexperimentationembededinthelogicof markets,thexamplesdiscusedhereindicatethattendenciesneglectedinpolicydiscourse canalsohaveoposingefects.Market-orientedreformersgeneralyignorethe constrainingpropertiesofcompetitivemarketsintheirdiscusionofthepotentialefectsof competitionineducation.Theirasumptionsofdiverseandinovativeoptionsareoverly optimisticandsimplistic.Inlieuofevidenceontheworkingsofmarketmechanismsin education,theymakeone-sidedalusionstoconsumermarkets,orideologicalasumptions abouthowmarketsshouldworkineducation.
ThexperiencesofcharterscholreformersinNorthAmericahasledtoareconfiguration oftheclaimsforcharterschols.Premisedontheclaimthatpublicscholclasroms wereinherentlyunproductivebecauseofbureaucraticLEAgovernance,charterschol reformerspromisedthatachangeingovernancewouldleadtoinovationsinthe clasrom.Asreal-worldproblemsandcompetitivemarketsdynamicsconstraintheability todeliverinovations,theyefectivelyretracttheirpromiseofclasromexperimentationin favorofthemoreasilyatainablegoalofoferingoptionsinvariouslocalities.Reformers ignorethexamplesofcompetitivequasi-marketsintheUK,andfailtotakeamore balancedviewofconsumermarkets.Thisanalysiscalsintoquestiontheclaimthatthe lackofeducationalinovationwasunpredictable.Thus,whilepromisesofeducational inovationcanbesenasharmlesorwel-intentionedinthemselves,theactual standardizationtrendsexposetheimprecisionofsuchclaims.Andtheirpredictability highlightstheservicethatthosefalseclaimsprovidedforinvestorsinopeningupublic educationasamarketforprofit-makingventures.
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Julian Vasquez Heilig, T. Jameson Brewer, and Frank Adamson recently published an analysis of the neoliberal roots of school choice and its spillover into research on school choice.

They begin:

To conceptualize the politics of research on school choice, it is important to first discuss the politics of market- based approaches within the broader purview of public policy. Modern notions of “markets” and “choice” in schooling stem from the libertarian ideas Milton Friedman espoused in the 1950s. As these ideologies escalated in the 1980s under neoliberal theory and Republican orthodoxy, the argument that parents should have choice between competing schools within an education market with little regulation began to crack the public schoolhouse door, allowing an influx of private school vouchers and charter schools.

The ideology of a competitive education market supposes that competition and deregulation are necessary and fundamentally positive forces that will “fix” the “failed” public school sector (Vasquez Heilig, 2013). Mundy and Murphy (2000) argued that to build public support for their approaches, neoliberal proponents focus on three organizing economic rationales: 1) efficiency, 2) the axis of competition- choice- quality, and 3) the apparent scarcity of resources. On the supply side, neoliberals argue that private firms deliver goods and services more efficiently than the government. On the demand side, neoliberals “promote competition as a means to deliver more consumer choice, which theoretically leads to higher quality products” (Adamson & Astrand, 2016, p. 9).

Because school choice is a policy prescription, research and evaluation often follow soon after the policies are implemented. In theory, new reforms should be piloted, researched, and then deter-mined to what extent they can— or should— be scaled. School choice advocates work backward: They conduct multiple experiments on communities in an attempt to justify a policy rooted in ideology rather than empirical evidence. In fact, Lubienski and Weitzel (2010) found that many states passed laws supporting charter school expansion at a faster rate than they could build the schools and faster than the normal research cycle needed to determine their effectiveness. Furthermore, this ideology presupposes the efficiency and effectiveness of educational markets, requiring education to be understood as an individualistic good rather than a public one.

The dichotomy between the concepts of a “public” or a “private” good rests at the center of school choice approaches. The idea of education as a public, or common, good views it through the lens of the collective and, theoretically, ensures equal access and equitable experiences. Conceptions of education as a common good— in the same way we conceptualize, say, police/ fire services, public libraries, and public roads— stem from the understanding that individuals in society share an obligation to one another, and if we collectively focus on improvement, we collectively benefit.

The contrasting view is the ideology rooted in Friedman’s (1955) rugged individualism, with a limited conception of public or common goods. According to Friedman, there is little collective obligation to one another, and a self- interested focus on personal improvement will, theoretically, improve the collective. Note that within this theory, the byproduct of collective improvement is not necessarily a result of a spillover from the individual to the collective; rather, through hyper- individualistic accountability, everyone for him or herself, the improvement of individuals will, taken as a whole, represent the improvement of the masses. The conceptualization of education as an individualistic good— a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded in educational markets— requires a reliance on a theory of meritocracy, whereby success is “attainable” through education and “hard work.” By definition, success is the result of making use of such things. Poverty, then, becomes evidence of poor choices and a failure to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps rather than an economically produced phenomenon. This myth that associates hard work with morals not only allows for the crass dismissal of systemic poverty and racism endemic in American society, but also informs how we conceive of educational choices within an educational marketplace. School “choice” systems in education further exacerbate individualistic accountability while also reinforcing the façade that success or poverty is a choice between working hard or failing to seize an opportunity. That is, if the choice exists for a “better” education in a charter school or by use of a school voucher, then generational poverty shifts the locus of accountability to the individual and family for failure to take advantage of the choice. Put simply, the presence of additional choices in education redefines public policy failures not as collective ones but as individualistic failures understood through deficit ideologies.

Considering the underlying politics of school choice, it is important to examine the ramifications of neoliberal and collective ideology on market- based school choice research. In this chapter, we point out that ideologically driven, neoliberal organizations push a sector of research suggesting positive findings of school choice models. We begin with a synthesis of the pertinent literature on the conceptions and funding of market- based school choice research. Next, we discuss the role of the production and politics of market- based school choice research in conceptualizing the current educational policy environment. In the third section, we delve into the politics of the use of market- based school choice research, focusing on the community level. We conclude by discussing the implications of how the comingling of ideology, methods, and funding informs the public discourse about market- based school choice and fits into the larger conversation about education reform.

Three scholars have recently published a very informative book about the history of education in New Orleans. The authors tell this story by scrutinizing one very important elementary school in the city, the one that was first to be desegregated with one black student in 1960. The book is titled William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans (Peter Lang). The authors are Connie L. Schaffer, Meg White, and Martha Graham Viator.

This is the school that enrolled 6-year-old Ruby Bridges in November 1960. Her entry to the school each day, a tiny little girl accompanied by federal agents, was met with howling, angry white parents. Her admission to an all-white school in New Orleans was a landmark in the fight to implement the Brown v. Board decision of 1954. It was immortalized by Norman Rockwell in a famous painting called The Problem We All Live With.

The authors set the stage for their history by pointing out that the Reconstruction-era constitution of Louisiana forbade racially segregated schools. In the early 1870s, about one-third of the public schools in New Orleans were racially integrated. Some schools had racially integrated teaching staffs. School board members were both white and black. When Reconstruction ended, rigid racial segregation and white supremacy were restored.

The William Frantz Public School opened in 1938 as a school for white children. It occupied almost a full city block.It was one of the few schools built during the Depression. It was built to accommodate 570 children. The authors demonstrate the vast inequality between white schools and black schools. Not far away was a school for black children of elementary age. Not only were black schools overcrowded, but black neighborhoods had problems with poorly maintained sewers, streets, sidewalks, gas and water lines, and structurally unsound buildings. Black schools were dilapidated, students shared desks, and class sizes were often in excess of 60 children to one teacher. Black students had fewer instructional hours than white students, due to overcrowding. White teachers were paid more than black teachers.

Black citizens of New Orleans were outraged by these conditions but they were politically powerless. The white power structure did not care about the education of black children.

Then came the Brown decision of 1954, which declared the policy of “separate but equal” to be unjust. The federal courts moved slowly to implement desegregation, but eventually they began to enforce it. The federal district judge who took charge of desegregation in New Orleans was J. Shelley Wright, a graduate of the city’s white schools. He determined to implement the Brown decision, despite the opposition of the Governor, the Legislature, the Mayor, and prominent white citizens of the city, as well as White Citizens Councils.

In 1958, the Louisiana legislature passed several measures to weaken desegregation efforts including laws allowing the governor to close any school that desegregated, providing state funds to any students seeking to leave the traditional public schools, and granting the state sweeping power to control all schools.

Their well-written history brings the reader to the present, to the all-charter model that privatizers hold up as an exemplar for every urban district troubled by low test scores and white flight.

The section of the book that I found most interesting was their detailed account of the white reaction to the prospect of school integration, despite the fact that the black students who applied to attend white schools were carefully screened for their academic potential and their behavior. Ruby Bridges was the one and only student chosen to start desegregation. Crowds gathered every morning to spit and scream. They harassed not only Ruby, with her federal protection, but any white student who dared to enter the school. Their blockade eventually forced whites to abandon the William Franz Public School. A few persisted, but little Ruby never met them. She was assigned to a classroom with no other students and one teacher.

The whites who tried to stay in the school were subject to threats of violence. Some lost their jobs, as did Ruby’s father. They feared for their lives. The hatred for blacks by whites was explosive. The portrayal of malignant racism is searing.

A relatively small number of whites tried to calm the situation. One such group was called Save Our Schools. They reached out to the white parents of the school, trying to bring peace and reconciliation.

In perhaps the most disturbing response to an SOS mailing, a WFPS parent who had received a letter from SOS returned the letter smeared with feces. A handwritten comment on the letter stated the parent would rather have ignorant children then to send them to a “nigger school.”

The mob won. By the middle of the school year, fewer than 10 white students remained in the school, and they too needed protection. By 1993, not one white student attended the school.

As the tumult continued after Ruby’s admission, prominent whites funded private schools so that white students could escape the specter of desegregation. The Legislature passed laws to support the resistance to desegregation and to give vouchers to whites fleeing the public schools and to underwrite the private academies where racist white students enrolled.

When the battle over desegregation began, New Orleans schools enrolled a white majority. Racism led to white flight, and before long the school district was overwhelmingly black, as was the city.

The authors detail the problems of the district. Not only was it segregated and underfunded, but its leadership was unstable. The management was frequently incompetent and corrupt. Its accounting department was a mess. So was Human Resources. Teachers were not paid on time. The management was woeful. The state wanted to take control of the district before Hurricane Katrina. Three months before the disastrous hurricane, the state leaned on the district to hire a corporate restructuring firm at a cost of $16.8 million.

In June, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board signed an agreement relinquishing the management of the district’s multi-million dollar operating budget to the state. As a result, the district entered into negotiations with a New York turnaround management corporation, Alvarez and Marsal, to oversee its finances. In the contract, the board not only surrendered financial control, it also granted the firm authority to hire and fire employees.

Alvarez & Marsal put one of its senior partners, Bill Roberti, in charge of the district. Before joining the management consultants, Roberti had run the clothing store Brooks Brothers. A&M had previously received $5 million for a year of controlling the St. Louis school district, which was not “turned around,” and collected $15 million for reorganizing New York City’s school bus routes, with poor results (some children were stranded for long periods of time, waiting for buses on the coldest day of the year).


Before the hurricane, the state created the Recovery School District (in 2003) to take control of failing schools. In 2004, it passed Act 9, which allowed the state to take over schools with an academic score of 60 or less and hand them over to charter operators. After the hurricane, the Legislature passed Act 35, which changed the criteria for takeover and paved the way for the Recovery School District to take charge of most of the city’s public schools. Parents got “choice,” but the new charter schools created their own admissions policies, and most did the choosing.

Prior to Act 35, schools with School Performance Scores below 60 were considered to be in academic crisis. Act 35 raised the threshold score to 87.5, virtually ensuring every school in Orleans Parish would be deemed in academic crisis, and therefore, eligible for takeover by the Recovery District…Act 35 achieved what Governor Davis, Leander Perez, and segregationists failed to do in 1960. Act 35, for all intents and purposes, allowed the State of Louisiana to seize control of the Orleans Parish school district…The takeover of the failing schools within Orleans Parish made the Recovery District the largest school district in the State of Louisiana. Had the threshold for the School Performance Score not been raised in Act 35, the Recovery District would have taken over only 13 schools and had a much reduced presence and influence in public education in New Orleans.

After the hurricane, district officials and Alvarez & Marsal issued a diktat permanently terminating the jobs and benefits of more than 7,500 teachers and other staff.

Sixteen years since Hurricane Katrina and the privatization of public schools in New Orleans, the debate about the consequences continues, as it surely will for many more years.

For those interested in New Orleans, I recommend this book, along with Raynard Sanders’ The Coup d’Etat of the New Orleans Public Schools: Money, Power, and the Illegal Takeover of a Public School System, Kristen Buras’ Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance. For a favorable view of the charter takeover, read Douglas Harris’s Charter School City: What the End of Traditional Public Schools in New Orleans Means for American Education.



The privatization movement is built on the ideology of “a backpack full of cash.” Give the money to the family and let them spend it where and how they want. The money is not actually in the child’s backpack, but handed out to families to spend as they wish. If they want their child to attend a religious school or a private school or a for-profit school or a virtual charter school or home school, here is a voucher worth $5,000.

This approach discounts the obligation of the community and society to provide certain basic goods and services that are available to everyone. We have public beaches, public parks, public transportation, police, firefighters, and other goods and services that are the responsibility of government. We pay taxes to maintain public schools, even if we don’t have children ourselves. We pay taxes to maintain public schools, even if our own children are grown and are no long in school. We pay taxes to maintain public schools, even if our own children attended private schools. That’s what a community does to make sure every child is educated. It is the job of the polity to assure that all public schools have equitable and adequate resources.

The “bait and switch” of the school choice is to individualize the social obligation and turn it into a consumer choice. This is a deceptive way of evading society’s obligation to ensure that every school, wherever it is located, has equitable and adequate resources. All schools should have the resources they need for the children they serve: well-tended buildings, a library with up-to-date technology, a full arts program, experienced teachers, small classes, a curriculum that includes history, science, civics, mathematics, literature and foreign languages.

But some very rich people don’t like paying taxes so poor kids can have what their children have, and they have persuaded many legislators to buy into the hoax of school choice. Persuasion takes the form of campaign contributions, and they are very generous with their efforts to evade taxes that serve the good of all.

This reader explains:

I just don’t get why it is so hard to get the message across that we are not purchasing our own child’s education, we are providing a public good that educates all children. We are not buying the right to use roads or police and fire services, we are participating in the funding of those common goods for the entire community.

This situation points out the importance of avoiding public/private partnerships or at least structuring them much differently (to avoid huge tax write-offs). If everyone pays their taxes, the needs of the community will be met through that common collection. When private sources get to direct what happens, that means the common good has been sabotaged. No private entity should be dictating what the common good will be.

Jeanne Kaplan is a veteran civil rights activist who was elected to serve two terms on the Denver school board. She has been active in multiple campaigns to stop privatization and over-testing and energize a genuine effort to improve the public schools. She wrote this piece for this blog.


  THE SISYPHEAN TASK IN DENVER

The dictionary defines Sisyphean task as something you keep doing but never gets completed, an endless task.  In Greek mythology Sisyphus is punished by the god Zeus and is tasked with endlessly pushing a rock up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down each time he nears the top.  I will leave the deeper philosophical meanings to others.  Simply interpreted, public education advocates residing in the Queen City of the Rockies, “transformers” if you will, will find similarities to this story as we reflect on our battle to defeat “education reform.”  In Denver’s case the Sisyphean task master has not been a vengeful god, but rather a school board member or a school board itself which through their betrayals continues to keep “transformers” tasked with pushing the education transformational rock up the mountain.

Call it the Sisyphean Challenge, Groundhog Day, a Broken Record, Déjà vu.  However you describe it, these “transformers” are experiencing another setback in their attempts to stop or at least slow down the business-based “education reform” model. In 2009 Denver voters thought they had put an end to the then still budding “education reform” movement.  “Transformers” won four of seven seats on the school board but quickly lost that advantage when, within hours of the election, one supposed “transformer” flipped sides.  For the next ten years education reformers had free reign in Denver. Four to three boards became a six to one board, became a seven to zero board.  All for “education reform.”  Forward ten years to today.  “Transformers” once again gained control of the Denver School Board in theory.  This time the transformer majority was believed to be 5-2.  But local education reformers – with a lot of help from national reform partners – once again figured out how to get their privatization agenda through this hypothetically anti-privatization 5-2 Board.  By consistently voting to renew and re-establish privatization policies and projects, today’s Board has deprived Denver voters once again of reaching the mountain top, and usually by a 6-1 vote.  And from today’s perspective the rock has once again rolled down the mountain.

The below listed organizations, initiatives and foundations have all had their hand in preventing educational transformation in Denver. The list is thorough but not comprehensive:

1 – A+ Colorado30 – Empower Schools
2 – Adolph Coors Foundation31 – Gates Family Foundation
3 – Anschutz Family Foundation32 – Janus Fund
4 – Bellwether Education Partners33 – KIPP – Knowledge is Power Program
5 – Bezos Family Foundation34 – Koch Family Foundations
6 – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation35 – Laura and John Arnold Foundation
7 – Bloomberg Philanthropies36 – Laurene Powell Jobs – Emerson Collective
8 – Boardhawk37 – Leadership for Educational Equity
9 – CareerWise38 – Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
10 – Chalkbeat39 – Lyra Learning – Innovation Zones
11 – Chan Zuckerberg Initiative40 – Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
12 – Schusterman Family Foundation41 – Moonshot
13 – Chiefs for Change42 – PIE Network (Policy Innovators in Ed)
14 – City Fund43 – Piton/Gary Community Investments
15 – City Year44 – Relay Graduate School of Education
16 – Colorado Health Foundation45 – Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation
17 – Colorado Succeeds46 – RootEd
18 – Community Engagement & Partners47 – Rose Foundation
19 – Daniels Fund48 – School Board Partners
20 – Democrats for Education Reform49 – Stand for Children
21 – Denver Families of Public Schools50 – Students First
22 – Denver Foundation51 – Teach for America
23 – Denver Scholarship Foundation52 – The Broad Academy/The Broad Center
24 – Donnell-Kay Foundation53 – Third Way
25 – EdLeadLeadership54 – TNTP
26 – Education Pioneers55 – Transform Education Now (TEN Can)
27 – Education Reform Now56 – Wallace Foundation
28 – Education Trust57 – Walton Family Foundation
29 – Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

Below are some of the reform ventures coaxed through by these groups.  Many have been used to maintain the failing status quo.  Some have been used to make money for friends and colleagues.  Some have been outright failures.   But by its failure to address them or by its continued tolerance of them, the DPS Board has sanctioned the continuation of privatization in our city:

·      At a time when education reform was truly hanging on by a thread in Denver, the Board assured its continued existence for the foreseeable future by voting to renew the use of the racially biased state accountability system, going even further into reformland by promising to develop a new accountability “dashboard” (a key “reformer” tenet).  While testing is state mandated, the District did not even explore the possibility of waiving its obligation to rely on this system. This one decision has also allowed the proliferation of many of the above listed groups and has given new life to the overall privatization movement.  A lot of new players are making a lot of new money from the public education system in Denver. After all, what is the business model really about if it is not about making money?  This one vote has allowed the continuation of some of the most divisive and punitive practices such as:

1.     Relying on high stakes testing even though the Board has given lip service to wanting a waiver this year due to COVID; 

2.     Relying on a non-transparent Choice system, which some believe is being used to fill unwanted charters;

3.     Ranking of schools and continued competition resulting in winners and losers among students and schools;

4.     Relying on Student Based Budgeting where the money follows the student;

5.     Marketing of schools, whereby wealthier schools and schools with their own board of directors (charters and Innovation Zone schools) have a distinct advantage;

6.     Giving bonuses to employees of schools based on test scores.  

Other recent reform-oriented Board decisions include:

·      Voting to renew or extend all 13 charter school contracts that were up this year even when some were struggling for enrollment and academic success.  The Board claimed it did not want to disrupt kids and families.  Portfolio model.

·      Promoting school MERGERS as opposed to school CLOSURES for under enrolled neighborhood schools, somehow thinking voters won’t notice that merging schools results in the same failed policy as school closures, that campaign promises have been broken, and that charter schools are being treated differently.  Portfolio model.  

·      Voting to approve new Innovation Zones, the hybrid portfolio model that supposedly gives schools more independence while, unlike charters, is still under the control of the school board.  These Innovation Zones do, however, have their own administrative staff as well as their own boards and have ushered in their own cottage industry. Portfolio Model.

·      Working with City Fund funded School Board Partners for Board training. City Fund is a relative newcomer to the education privatization world and is largely financed by Netflix Reed Hastings and John Arnold of Laura and John Arnold Foundation.  Locally, City Fund has dropped $21 million into Denver’s own RootEd to assure “every child in Denver has the opportunity and support to achieve success in school, college and their chosen career.” This needs to be done equitably, of course!  And only within a non-union school!  Grant funding from private sources to promote private interests.

·      Hiring a Broad trained Superintendent search company, Alma Advisory Group.  Alma has also been involved in executive searches for both City Fund and The Broad Academy, two quintessential privatizers.  More than four months have gone by since DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova resigned.  Four metro Denver school districts have had superintendent vacancies this winter.  Two have already found their leaders.  Denver is still holding community meetings which if they follow DPS history, will end up be ing rather meaningless.  Most importantly, will this “reform” inclined group be able to bring a wide-ranging group of candidates forward? The Broad Academy, training leaders in education reform.

·      Continuing to allow and expand non-licensed teachers and administrators from programs such as Teach for American and Relay Graduate School of Education into DPS’ schools and continuing to tell the public they are just as qualified as professional educators.   Anyone can teach!

Why do these examples matter, you might ask?

For starters, review the list of organizations and people pushing privatization.  The sheer number is staggering.  Then check out the similarity of language in their missions, visions, and goals and the uniformity of strategies and messaging.

·      Every child deserves a great school. 

·      Every school deserves all the support it needs to ensure equity.

·      Every school should have parent and community partners.

·      Every school should be anti-racist, celebrate diversity, be inclusive.

These are all worthy goals, albeit very general ones.  But what is the overall strategy to achieve them?  Privatization and the business model focusing on innovative and charter schools using an accountability system based on high stakes testing to define success seems to be their answer.  And in spite of claims that “reformers” are agnostic as to the type of school they foster, there are a few common characteristics they demand in their privatized schools:  

·      the ability to hire and fire anyone at any time; employees do not have to be licensed; at-will employees if you will.  That’s right.  No unions in innovation or charter schools.  Anyone can teach. 

·      an accountability system based on high stakes tests; schools and employees evaluated and punished by the results of these racially inappropriate tests.

·      market-driven criteria used to define school success.  Winners and losers, competition, closures, choice, chaos, churn.

·      “learning loss,” the pandemic-based slogan, must be addressed by unrelenting dependency on high stakes testing.  No test waivers for this crazy school year.  “Reformers” must have that data, and they must remind everyone that in spite of Herculean efforts on many fronts, public education has failed. 

Add to this scenario the amount of money being spent to further this agenda. Determining this takes some patience because the tax records are often difficult to find and decipher. Then try to deduce who is benefitting from each program.  This also takes some digging, for let me assure you, public education has spawned not a cottage industry but rather a mansion industry!  Search the group you are interested in and check out its board and staff.  And finally, look at the effect all of this has had on kids.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Isn’t it always about the kids?  In reality few of these extra ventures have had any effect on kids.  Fewer still touch kids directly.

Each privately funded unit on this list has had a privatized DPS connection of some sort.  Some initiatives are duplicative. Some are very narrowly focused. Some purport to be THE ANSWER to public education’s struggles.  There is no tolerance for differing beliefs.  Yet, after 15 years of experimentation Denver’s students remain mired in mediocrity, suffering from an ever narrowing curriculum and dependent on evaluations, ratings, and a definition of success based on racially biased tests.  Nationally, Denver Public Schools remains a leader in implementing “education reform” but alas, it also remains a leader in teacher and principal turnover and home to one of the largest achievement/opportunity gaps in the nation. 

We in Denver have been subjected to the high-octane version of “education reform” for more than 15 years.  Choice, charters, competition, closures have resulted in three unequal tiers of schools (charter schools, innovation zones, neighborhood schools).  Reformers call this “the portfolio model.”  I call it structural chaos. Michael Fullan calls it fragmentation, a system wrongly focused on “academics obsession, machine intelligence, and austerity.”  To those privatizers who say, “but you have no solution,” Fullan has one that would turn public education on its head and could possibly produce what all of us involved in the public education scene say we want: robust, equitable education for all.  Fullan has a solution for whole system success that would be focused on the human elements of public education:  learning and well-being, social intelligence, and equality of investments.   But in order for anything like this to work the superintendent and the board must be on the same page.  Elections matter.  And candidates need to understand what is at stake and what they have been elected to do.

Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. (Given today’s America it might have slipped to second place behind voting rights). I ran for school board on that belief, I witnessed its importance through the lives of my immigrant parents. I do not believe our democracy will survive without public education, but the cornerstone must change. Radically.  Dramatically.

Imagine if all of the efforts of those 50 plus organizations were combined into one united movement focused on an anti-racist, equitable systemic change.  And imagine how truly revolutionary, transformative and unifying this movement could be if it included voices and ideas not aligned with the business model but with people who are willing to truly look at things differently, people who were willing to be honest and show leadership.  Imagine how during this unique time in our nation’s history this new system could have resulted in a new and exciting way of delivering and evaluating teaching and learning, well-being, equity and equality.  Imagine how exciting this unique time in Denver could been had we taken advantage of this opportunity.  , Instead, DPS decided to continue with the status where money and power continue to rule, where a business model has been buttressed to portray a non-existent success, and where an elected Board of Education has turned its back on its mandate.

Historically “transformers” in Denver have been dogged in their attempts to get that rock to the mountain’s peak.  We have kept fighting even when betrayed by school board members, even when organization after organization has put down roots to continue the mirage of success, even when untold millions of dollars have been invested in programs that have yet to make a significant difference in educational outcomes.  Can we in Denver defy Greek mythology and end this Sisyphean nightmare? Or are there too many yet unknown obstacles in our path to stop us once again?  Elections will decide. Time will tell. 

The Brookings Institution published a study of the D.C. school system, which is almost evenly divided between public schools and charter schools. It was written by three scholars: Vanessa Williamson, Brookings Institution; Jackson Gode, Brookings Institution; and Hao Sun, Gallaudet University. The title of their study is “We All Want What’s Best for Our Kids.” Their findings are based on close reading of an online parent forum called “DC Urban Moms,” where school choice is an important topic.

What they found is not surprising. Choice intensifies and facilitates racial and socioeconomic segregation. This is the same phenomenon that has been documented in choice programs everywhere. The most advantaged parents master the system and get their children into what is perceived as the “best schools.” The “best schools” are those that have the most advantaged students.

The study begins:

Public education in the District includes a system of traditional public schools and a system of public 8
charter schools; in 2018–19, these schools served over 90,000 students at 182 schools. The city is highly diverse, as is the incoming school-age population. Among children under five, 48 percent are Black, 27 percent are white non-Hispanic, and 17 percent are Hispanic.9 54 percent of the city’s public school students are in traditional (DCPS) public schools, while 46 percent are in public charter schools (DCPCS). All students have the right to attend their local public school, or they can enter a lottery for a seat at another traditional public school or public charter school.10


In practice, parents’ school choices are limited. Housing in Washington is strongly segregated by race and class, with popular schools generally located in expensive or rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.11 Housing prices in the District are high and rising, and affordable housing is in exceptionally short supply.12 The District’s school system does not provide regular school bus transportation; children can ride public transit to school for free, but commutes can be long, and it is often impractical for working parents to accompany young children to a school that is far from home.13 Most students attend a school in their own wards, with students in poorer parts of the city facing longer commutes.14


In making decisions about where to send their children to school, parents (and especially more privileged parents) are key contributors to school segregation and inequality.


Even for parents willing or able to enroll their children far from home, there remain fewer options than might first appear. The most popular traditional public schools rarely have spaces available to students who live beyond the school’s catchment area. Popular charter schools often have waitlists of hundreds of students.15 Moreover, researching the schools available via the lottery requires time and resources; school lottery waitlists are dominated by families that are more socioeconomically privileged.16


In making decisions about where to send their children to school, parents (and especially more privileged parents) are key contributors to school segregation and inequality. As the District of Columbia Auditor’s office has stated, “there is a pattern of District families moving away from schools with more students considered at-risk17 to schools with fewer students considered at-risk. These moves are facilitated by the robust choice model in DC.”18

Billy Townsend was a school board member in Polk County, Florida. He saw up close and personal how charters were sucking the high-scoring students out of public schools and excluding the students with disabilities. He saw up close and personal how the state’s voucher program was serving as a refuge from high-stakes testing and enabling the restoration of racial segregation. Billy believes, as I do, that if the day ever comes when so-called reformers see the harm they are doing to kids and to our democratic institution of public education, they might repent. Will shame move them more than the pursuit of profit and power? Perhaps we are naive to think it might. But hope springs eternal that even the profiteers and entrepreneurs and shady fly-by-night grifters might someday see the light.

Billy has written a powerful series about the Jeb Crow school industry and how its sole purpose is to destroy public education without helping kids. All of the articles are referenced in this post, the last of the series. He has demonstrated how the voucher schools are highly segregated and low-quality. He refers to the choice schools as “failure factories” but now calls them “Jeb Crow” schools to credit former Governor Jeb Bush for creating the Big Lie that school choice saves children. It doesn’t.

Townsend throws out a challenge to reformers who are sincere, if there are any, about equity and helping kids:

Serious “reformers” — those who actually mean it when they use the moral, racialized language of equity in justifying punitive policies that destroy public education capacity — know today that their entire life’s work is bullshit that failed on its own terms. 

They know it. Every single one of them. Some of them will cry about America’s super awesome graduation rate; but they know that’s manipulated data bullshit, too. Mostly, they’ve just gone silent while think tanks beg to keep getting useless test data and grifters use the language and weaponry “reformers” provided them to demolish public education capacity for everyone. 

The question now: if, when, and how will “reformers” ever break their shamed silence about their failures and decide to help us fix them?

Jeb Crow means wealthier, whiter kids get high capital charters; more vulnerable, less white kids get no capital vouchers; and we kill/privatize public schools altogether.

The grifting and cheating by state education officials is breath-taking. They know that school choice is a cynical ploy to shift money from taxpayers to private corporations. They know that the corporation that handles the voucher funding now has assets of nearly $700 million. They know where power lies in Florida. They know how corrupt the Legislature is. But everyone goes along to get along.

If you read one thing today, read Billy Townsend’s reports on Florida’s massive crime against children and the state’s own future.

I said I would not reproduce blogs, with rare exceptions. Jan Resseger is that one rare exception.

In this post, she explains how the costs of vouchers are destroying and defunding Ohio’s public schools.

From the earliest days of corporate reform, which is now generally recognized to have been a failed effort to “reform” schools by privatizing them and by making standardized testing the focal point of education, we heard again and again that a child’s zip code should not be his or her destiny. Sometimes, in the evolving debates, I got the sense that some people thought that zip codes themselves were a problem. If only we eliminated zip codes! But the reality is that zip codes are a synonym for poverty. So what the reformers meant was that poverty should not be destiny.

Would it were so! If only it were true that a child raised in an impoverished home had the same life chances as children brought up in affluent homes, where food, medical care, and personal security are never in doubt.

But “reformers” insisted that they could overcome poverty by putting Teach for America inexperienced teachers in classrooms, because they (unlike teachers who had been professionally prepared) “believed” in their students and by opening charter schools staffed by TFA teachers. Some went further and said that vouchers would solve the problem of poverty. All of this was nonsense, and thirty years later, poverty and inequality remain persistent, unaffected by thousands of charter schools and TFA.

In effect, the reformers held out the illusion that testing, competition, and choice would level the playing field and life chances of rich and poor kids. After 30 or more years of corporate reform, it is clear that the reform message diverted our attention from the wealth gap and the income gap, which define the significant differences among children who have everything and children who have very little.

Imagine the cost of assuring that every school in the nation were equitably and adequately funded. Imagine if all students had small classes in a school with beautiful facilities, healthy play spaces, the best technology, and well-paid teachers. That would go a long way towards eliminating the differences between rich schools and poor schools, but our society has not taxed itself to make sure that all kids have great schools.

None of the promises of “reform” have been fulfilled. The cynical among us think that the beneficiaries of reform have been the billionaires, who were never willing to pay the taxes necessary to narrow income and wealth inequality or to fund good schools in every neighborhood. They gladly fund “reforms” that require chicken feed, as compared to the taxes necessary to truly make zip codes irrelevant.

Florida’s State Constitution has explicit language forbidding public schools fir religious schools. Voters in Florida passed a referendum in 2012 against vouchers.

No matter. Republican legislators are expected to endorse SB 48, which will decrease funding for the public schools that most students attend. Students will be able to get a voucher even if they never attended a Public school.

Read about it here.

The fact that voucher studies repeatedly show that unregulated voucher schools produce worse outcomes for students than public schools is of no concern to the rabid believers in the free market.

The free market of choice that Florida is embracing will deepen the inequities in the state’s already mediocre and underfunded school system.