Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Parent: Why school ‘choice’ doesn’t mean the same thing to me as to Betsy DeVos - The Washington Post

Parent: Why school ‘choice’ doesn’t mean the same thing to me as to Betsy DeVos - The Washington Post:

Parent: Why school ‘choice’ doesn’t mean the same thing to me as to Betsy DeVos

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It’s National School Choice Week 2017, a celebration being promoted on its website as “the largest series of education-related events in U.S. history,” featuring 21,392 total events in all 50 states and  16,777 schools of all types holding events. There are  2,159 home-school groups holding events as well as 1,258 chambers of commerce. More than 600 governors, mayors and county leaders are issuing School Choice Week proclamations. Rallies and special events are being held at 25 state capitol buildings.
It’s quite something.
Why are these exercises held annually? According to the website (boldfaced type from the original):
The goal of National School Choice Week (NSCW) is to raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and home schooling.
Though traditional public schools — which educate the vast majority of U.S. schoolchildren — are mentioned first, the emphasis of these events wasn’t about fixing the traditional neighborhood public school. That was evident at a rally Tuesday in Washington, D.C.,  where House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) used the occasion to praise Betsy DeVos, the Michigan billionaire nominated by President Trump to be education secretary. DeVos is a longtime advocate for vouchers and charter schools who once called the public education system “a dead end.”
There was talk by other legislators at the rally of “failing” public schools and how to help kids get out of them. How to systemically improve traditional public school districts and institute fair funding systems wasn’t a popular speech topic.
School choice has become increasingly controversial across the country amid the proliferation of charter schools — many of them run by for-profit companies — and voucher/voucher-like programs that use public money to pay for private and religious school tuition.
Choice supporters say that parents — especially but not exclusively those with children in troubled traditional public schools — have a right to send their children to any school they want and the public should pay for it.
Supporters of the traditional system say that while there are some excellent charter schools — which are funded by the public but operated privately — charter and voucher schools don’t generally perform any better than public schools, are not held to the same standards, and are not accountable to the public.
Here’s a post, written by Bertis Downs,  a parent and a public education activist in Athens, Ga., who asks policymakers so intent on expanding charters and vouchers: “Much of this makes me wonder why our leaders don’t embrace the ‘first ​choice’ so many parents and teachers advocate: the improvement of all public schools so that there are excellent​ schools in every neighborhood in America?”
Downs was legal counselor and manager of the band R.E.M., and he spends a great deal of time advocating for public education in Clarke County, where he lives, as well as around the country.  He was an adjunct professor teaching entertainment law and music law at the University of Georgia Law School. And he is a board member of the nonprofit education advocacy group Network for Public Education.

By Bertis Downs
​T​his is School Choice Week, the annual exercise when well-funded, corporate school reform outfits pour money into advertising and marketing ​to promote charter schools as well as vouchers and other programs in which the public pays for private and religious school tuition.
School Choice Week coincides with the confirmation drama of President Trump’s nomination of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary, who has said the public education system in the United States is a “dead end,” and who is seen by critics as a supporter of privatizing public education. DeVos stumbled at her Senate confirmation hearing last week, displaying a lack of understanding of key education issues, and Democrats have sought — unsuccessfully — a second hearing before the Senate education committee votes on whether to Parent: Why school ‘choice’ doesn’t mean the same thing to me as to Betsy DeVos - The Washington Post:

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