School Choice, Where Do You Stand?

As a generally controversial topic, school choice has made it’s way around the news. And recently, we have seen it even more so as President Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos have been avid supporters of school choice. Those who argue for school choice, will tell you that all parents have the right to send their children to any school they want.  And using public funds, parents are able to receive financial aid towards private school tuition. An article from the Washington Post follows the story of a Sociologist and Professor as she wades through the complex and trying school choice system.

As an educated, middle class, white women who she describes as “a university professor with good income, flexible hours, reliable transportation, and a strong parent network” she was surprised at how difficult it was to enroll her daughter in the schools of their choice. She warns others that this “ideal” system of being able to choice the perfect school for your child isn’t as easy as people make it out to be. And this is why so many people argue that school choice only benefits a select few. If a mother of this demographic had a difficult experience, then one could only imagine what a less fortunate family would have to go through. Therefore, those who are anti-school choice argument have examined the connection between school choice and the achievement  gap growth between rich and poor students. Along with this there are several other arguments made against school choice such as: voucher programs will take away funds from public schools (as if the funds aren’t low enough), allow for public funds to go towards religious institutions is a violation of separation of church and state, not all students will benefit from vouchers as each school has the right pick which students they admit and therefore can lead to discrimination, and this system will send the better students away from public schools which will contribute to the lower test scores.

On the other hand, those who advocate for school choice, have several reasons for doing so. Betsy DeVos has been very vocal about her support for publicly funded programs that fund families who choice to send their children to private schools. DeVos has also shown a large amount of support for religious education, taking a backseat when it comes to holding private schools accountable, and privatization. All of these come together to form an overall end goal for education. These fall in line with the arguments behind supporting school choice, such as: freedom to choose what is right for your child and their unique needs, vouchers will eliminate costs for parents, our current public school system is failing and students are falling through the cracks, a voucher system would increase competition and therefore raises standards, and using vouchers may allow for low-income students to have the opportunity for a better education.

There more research I do, the more torn I am on this issue. Quite honestly I see validity in both sides and see the fault in both as well. I am drawn toward the argument for school choice regarding the increased opportunity for lower-income families to receive vouchers to be able to send their children to a place of better education. However, I also see the issues with school choice when it comes to taking funds from public schools, no guarantee for all students to receive vouchers, and the inevitable discrimination that students will face. Where do you stand?

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