(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)
Opponents of school choice frequently claim that the sky will fall if a school choice program is enacted. For example, the School Superintendents Association (AASA) claims that choice programs would “‘starve’ public education of critical funding” because so many students would leave their assigned district school in favor of alternatives.
Leaving aside how such concerns treats kids as mere funding units, choice opponents making this claim fail to take into account why families want other alternatives. Indeed, as the Cato Institute’s David Boaz has pointed out, such arguments reveal “the contempt that the [education] establishment has for its own product.”
Perhaps it is a new modicum of self-awareness that prompted a spokesperson of the AASA to abruptly (if unpersuasively) reverse course in a recent interview with EdWeek:
“Conservative think tanks are trying to solve problems that families and communities aren’t asking them to solve through school choice,” said Sasha Pudelski, the advocacy director at AASA, the School Superintendents Association. “When you talk to stakeholders, you don’t hear, ‘Please provide our families with more educational options;’ they want their own schools to be better. They are not looking for an alternative. It’s a solution without a problem.”
So which is it? Either no one is looking for alternative education options, in which case educational choice programs pose no threat because no one will use them anyway, or a significant number of families are looking for alternatives, in which case the district school establishment needs to explain why they shouldn’t have any (or, at least, why those options should only be open to children whose parents can afford them).
In case you were wondering about the answer, I’ll let 100,000+ low-income tax-credit scholarship students in Florida do the talking:
Image: “Rally in Tally” to support school choice on March 24, 2011. h/t Step Up for Students
Similarly, all school expenses are fixed when school choice bills are being designed, but variable when public school budget bills are being designed.
^ Yes, exactly! That’s one of my favorites. Back in 2012, when NH was considering a tax-credit scholarship program, the lobbyist for the superintendents association made the “all our costs are fixed” argument. The bill’s sponsor was on the Senate Finance Committee, so he replied, “Well, if all your costs are fixed, then we really shouldn’t be paying you extra when your enrollment increases, right?”
The lobbyist began stammering that, well, of course *some* costs are variable — at which point he completely lost the argument.
I recall when WI’s Tony Evers made a similar “fixed costs” case, only in a more ridiculous fashion:
“You lose two or three kids, it doesn’t mean you can lay off five teachers,” Evers said. “It will have major negative impacts.”
On the JayBlog, I cited the inimitable WFB in response: “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.”