School Choice... Whose Choice?

It has occurred to me in following the ascent of Betsy DeVos and other advocates of school choice that a deeply disturbing pattern is emerging, leading to an end game to deprive poor people of a quality public education. In many poor communities with bad schools, the parents are being motivated to support school choice initiatives which are not in their best interests. The goal of the public school system should be continuous improvement, no different than any other successful enterprise. This is a public enterprise, funded by tax payers. We should demand nothing less than excellence. The real question to be asked about "school choice" is "Whose Choice?"

In a series of articles at titled "Connecting the Dots...", Dr. Walter Farrell has detailed a pattern that does not bode well for the public education of poor urban dwellers -- especially people of color.

The advent of charter schools and the push for vouchers to permit parents to take their students out of "failing public schools" and attend the "school of their choice" has produced a sequence of unintended -- or perhaps intended -- consquences. The result has been an attack on teachers unions, reduced public school funding, a decline in student outcomes in urban public schools -- a downward spiral that leaves poor urban parents "looking for Superman" in their pursuit of a quality education for their children. The appeal is simple, but the massive funding of school choice by a cartel of wealthy patrons raises concerns about the real agenda of the advocates of school choice.

Some of the highly touted successful charter school networks claim to be examples of the outcomes of school choice. These represent the trojan horse that delivers a move to a voucher system that would allow public funding to be moved to any private school. While this choice seems to act in the best interests of parents and students, the "selective winnowing process" results in only a few students benefiting from so-called high quality charter schools (which are supposedly public schools).

One research example is the detailed study of the KIPP Charter Network by Gary Miron, et. al., a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), that revealed that forty percent of African American males were counseled and/or pushed out of KIPP charters between grades 6 and 8, dispelling the myth, purveyed by KIPP and its supporters, that KIPP has unparalled success in educating black and other students of color.

The real hidden agenda would allow public funding to support a move to private schools which have no accountability to the electorate. Then, we would encounter "selective enrollment" as well as allowing parents who are now sending their children to private schools to receive some level of public support for their "choice." The ultimate conclusion will be the destruction of public education as we know it. Our society will no longer be committed to a quality education for all of our children. Instead, we will usher in an era of "selective education" for the wealthy, and a utilitarian education at best for the poor masses.

School privitizaon initiatives are implemented via Democrat and Republican federal elected officials, majority and minority Broad Foundation-trained public school superintendents, and a comprehensive marketing and organizing strategy. This initiative is systematically increasing the number of charter school organizations; rapidly expanding the number of charter schools, virtual charters, and voucher schools; installing Broad Superintendents Academy (BSA)-trained and/or mentored public school superintendents (now numbering nearly 200 throughout the nation from diverse racial and gender backgrounds); raising state and federal funding for charter and voucher schools; and reducing budgets for traditional public schools in most of the fifty states.

What we are witnessing is a well-funded wealthy Cartel providing support of our publicly elected officials for the creation of a permanent underclass of citizens. Nothing less. For eight years, the Obama administration was often hostile to school choice. His goal was to turn around failing schools with initiatives such as "the race to the top grants." With the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, there may follow a devastating blow to public education. Only an engaged and aggressive community of parents, teachers, and education professionals at the grassroot level can prevent this hostile takeover of public education.

This trending development evokes the popular expression, "ARE YOU WOKE?"

Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. Read all of the articles in the series at .