When Choice is Not a Good Thing

There is an attempt in our community to hijack our public school system and bring in more privately run schools and implement a voucher system. It’s being touted as school choice.

It sounds good. We like choices. Especially Americans.  And any good parent wants to do what is best for their child. Why shouldn’t parents be able to choose the best school for their child?

There are many reasons vouchers are not a good idea (you can read about them here) , but my main objection to the vouchers is what happens to the kids whose parents aren’t going to make any choices for them.

Kids whose parents can’t take off work to fill out and turn in the necessary paperwork
Kids whose parents own level of education prevents them from accessing all of the options.
Kids whose parents are too drunk or stoned to care where they go to school
Kids who don’t have parents and are living in foster care with people who may or may not care (or have time to worry) about their education
Kids whose parents are scrambling so hard to make sure that the family doesn’t end up living in their car that the concept of school choice is not even on their radar

These are the kids we need to make sure get the very best education. Education is their ticket out of poverty, out of dependence on government subsidies, out of neighborhoods where children sleep in bathtubs to protect against stray bullets.

But if all the parents who have the time, the education and the inclination put their children in all the best schools, where do the kids whose parents make no choice end up? The kids who most need the best get the worst.

And if you think it’s not your problem, think again. The kids whose existing disadvantages are coupled with a sub-par education will grow up to be the adults that you will support with your tax dollars.  They will bear children that you will need to feed. They will become the criminals who jack your young college student’s car.

If we want a better world for all of us, then we need to make sure that the kids who start off life with the least opportunities get the best education.  Certainly all kids have the right to a quality education, but the school voucher program puts our most disadvantaged kids at an even greater disadvantage.

Disclaimer: my own child attends a public arts and science magnet school. We did “choose” that school in as much as I went down to the district offices and filled out a form stating our desire for our child to attend the school. We were put into a lottery and were fortunate enough to get a place.  So my child does indeed go to a school where every child has someone in their lives thought their education was important enough to make a trip and fill out a form.  I acknowledge my complicity in the problem, but still maintain that school vouchers and privately run “public” schools will make our education system worse and not better. 

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