It’s National School Choice Week, which is not easy to forget if your e-mail queue is graced each day with messages that have subject lines like the ones below. There are, according to the week’s Web site, “3,600 events and counting!” to celebrate school choice, which has become one of the primary focuses of school reformers in America today.
(Video from kickoff of National School Choice in Phoenix and the Whistle Stop tour from Los Angeles.)
There are now some 6,000 charter schools with 2.3 million students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. That is up from the 5,300 charter schools in 2010–11, according to the National Center on Education Statistics. With nearly 50 million students in public elementary and secondary schools, charter schools educate about 4.6 percent of American students. Other forms of school choice include vouchers, homeschooling, online education and tax credits.
Many reformers say that school choice is the answer to the very real problems of urban education, although there is no research that shows that any of these are systemic answers. In fact, though research is not conclusive, most charters don’t do any better than traditional public schools, and many come with a host of problems, including high executive pay, young and often inexperienced teachers who turn over at high rates, and management companies that have profit as a chief motive. Vouchers use public money to allow students to attend private schools, including religious schools that teach creationist belief that the universe is no more than 10,000 years old and that humans co-existed with dinosaurs. The term “school choice” makes it sound like families have many options, but in fact, in places where neighborhood schools have been closed and a charter school is filled, family options become more limited than ever.
Still, it is School Choice Week, and here six of the e-mails I have received so far this week that stand out for, well, you’ll see:
Breaking News Alert: Celebrities lend star power to school choice rally, new K-12 scholarship plan announced … in which we learn that ” A women’s basketball titan and a celebrity White House chef are sharing their star power with the fourth annual Georgia School Choice Celebration and Rally, which will draw a crowd of more than 2,000 people to the state Capitol this week.”
Background: Notable Public Figures Speak Out on School Choice … in which people including former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Michelle Rhee wax poetic on the joys of school choice.
Dispelling the Myths of School Choice … in which the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which was founded by the conservative Koch brothers, attempts to dispel what they say are myths about school choice but really aren’t. The e-mail also helpfully tell us about a new study, which the foundation itself funded, that says “charter schools help more students achieve higher results.”
Celebrating School Choice Week In a new video, [House[ Speaker[John] Boehner – a longtime school choice advocate – says he’s “all in” for National School Choice Week and talks about how “parents are best equipped to know their children’s needs.”
Liberty on the Rocks Plans Happy Hour to Celebrate National School Choice Week 2013
Reason Foundation Plans Happy Hour to Celebrate National School Choice Week 2013
You may also be interested in reading this story by my colleague Emma Brown about an event in Washington, D.C., where leading reformers debated charter schools.