The Power of Choice

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When I hear public school advocates (PSA), mostly current and former union leaders, and teacher organizations rail over school choice efforts, I know why. Simply put, they are afraid of losing their jobs. I can understand that, who wants to lose their job?

However, PSA’s tell us that it’s all about the students and not them. That position is often masked by gross inconsistencies grounded in current reality and polarizing politics. We are also told to choose sides in this school choice dilemma and that our identity and credibility as a rational thinking person depends upon which side we choose. (Twitter is currently a flurry with this guilt and shaming phenomenon regarding school choice.)

PSA’s remind us that public education is the backbone of our democracy that prepares young people to become productive citizens and lifelong learners.Several of these selected words appear in vision or mission statements in schools across America. Many believe this, many no longer do or never have.

PSA’s tell us that without public schools, our children would suffer. They abhor public charter schools and look down their noses at alternative schooling efforts as sub-par; homeschooling and unschooling being the most notable.

We are told that funding diverted away from public schools will hurt the very children it’s supposed to be helping. They say that is it a matter of equity for all. Instead of funding following the exiting child, it needs to be kept at the local school to ensure great programs. If students leave their local public school for any reason, it’s on them to find a way to be educated.

PSA’s often purport that public schools are the best choice on the menu and they fight to keep caps on the expansion of charter schools. Case in point, the Massachusetts Charter Cap Bill. This quote is taken from the Massachusetts Teacher Association Website posted on March 31, 2016.

“Commonwealth charter schools are causing grave harm to the real public schools in Massachusetts, taking hundreds of millions of dollars from our students and communities and putting these vital funds under the control of private entities. Given this reality the state should not move to expand their reach.”

The bill was defeated in the November 2016 election, and Massachusetts voters spoke to keep the existing cap on any further charter expansion. Opponents say that those who are most in need of choices are not being served. Those who believe that public schools should prevail are pleased with the results and motivated to continue the fight for less choices.

The almost laughable, if not so sad, are the portions of the quote above that are highlighted and underlined… real public schools and our students.  Are we to understand that students who remain in real public schools are “worthy” of millions of dollars but those who choose an “unreal public charter schoolare automatically disqualified? This is quite an interesting take on the matter of equity for all.  What PSA’s really mean to say is equity for all those who follow our agenda.

There is also another significant but rarely mentioned matter that under girds the need to keep or increase funding for “real” public schools… that being teacher unions, salaries and benefits. Every dollar that is siphoned away from this effort is deemed inexcusable to those in “real” public schools. Many charter schools do not have teacher unions. This is also deemed inexcusable, except to all those independent, bright and innovative charter school teachers who choose to work there.

Trillions of dollars are appropriated to public schooling in this country. I have seen how those dollars are spent, some more wisely than others. Even in a faulty federal funding formula that often makes one wonder who actually wrote these bills and signed them, schools are receiving the lion’s share of the annual federal budget. Apparently this is still not enough. Will it ever be?

The average person rarely visits the Federal Department of Ed website to see actual appropriations for federal dollars flowing to public schools, so I have included it here for your convenience and general information. While this budget proposes a slight reduction in spending for 2017, it still provides the reader with dollar amounts that are staggering.
U.S Dept of Ed. Budget Link

The next time you hear public school advocates complaining about school choice, asking for more federal funding, or assuming that alternative schooling choices are inadequate and harmful to children, pull up this funding page and ask yourself a few questions.

  • How do public schools spend their money?
  • Why after trillions of dollars spent, public schools still fail to serve a large portion of its students?
  • Why do so many parents and students seek alternatives to public schooling?

Remind yourself that “…choice is always good. Choice brings freedom. Choice liberates and educates.” (Learning Unleashed pg. 121.)

There are many ways in which one may choose to become educated…public, private, charter, homeschooling, unschooling, and apprenticeship type programs. Choose wisely for your child or yourself and don’t be bullied or shamed into a one-size-fits-all model. It has to work for you not against you. The stakes are incredibly high but thankfully you have the POWER OF CHOICE!

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