School Choice Could Resolve the Reopening Crisis

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my column on why school choice is the way to handle the school reopening crisis. My school board decided to give me the perfect hook for the piece by . . . well, just read:

In my community, our public school board reversed itself twice, in August, on the question of whether schools would reopen for in-person learning in September. The start date was also delayed by two weeks, throwing parents’ plans into further confusion. And as I write these words, the board has planned an emergency meeting to consider whether or not to reverse itself a third time.

Who knows how many more positions they’ll have staked out by the time you read this article? Perhaps we’ll turn over management of our public schools to Erwin Schrödinger. Then they can be both open and closed at the same time.

Got to admit, I’m proud of that line. 🙂

This isn’t such a tough problem because school boards are stupid and evil, it’s because the government school monopoly forces us into a one-policy-fits-all nightmare:

If everyone has to go the same way on every issue, you will have constant battles over which way everyone should go. Sometimes you can resolve those battles with a compromise that people can live with (although no one will be very satisfied with it). But sometimes you just can’t. Life doesn’t always offer you splittable differences; sometimes it offers you hard choices.

And it’s important to notice how the monopoly makes education hostage to an adversarial system. The immediate problem on any given day is the crisis over how to resolve issue X (whatever “issue X” happens to be today—the pandemic, reading pedagogy, race and American history, etc.). But the ongoing problem is that every day is a crisis because all big decisions about all important issues are made through conflict. They have to be, when you’re trapped in a monopoly.

Let me know what you think!

6 Responses to School Choice Could Resolve the Reopening Crisis

  1. LIV S FINNE says:

    I think this is brilliant. I love your line “they can be both open and closed at the same time.” You describe exactly what is going on here in Seattle, and in many districts across the state. They’ve concluded the easiest way to avoid all this conflict is to do nothing, and call it “continuous learning.”

  2. sstotsky says:

    I am confused about what is intended by “school choice.” Straighten out first what is intended. Meyer says it is a structural reform. That means to me a different building and governing body. What many parents want to be involved in are discussions about policy changes (who is to decide the change is a reform?). I think getting rid of “reform” would begin to help us out. I doubt most complaining parents simply want different buildings and governing bodies. They want involvement in content matters (what their kids read, write about, and can study in high school). Textbooks matter and large meetings with real content experts, including knowledgeable teachers at that level, should be able to highlight what is significant in a textbook. Classroom org schemes matter, too, and they should be discussed. Parents then make informed choices with regard to content and pedagogy/classroom org (but not from an unlimited range of possibilities). That’s what USED and other bureaucrats or educators have tried to control. It hasn’t worked.

    • Greg Forster says:

      In the article, I reference a survey on school choice that defines it as policies that give parents the right to use public funds dedicated to their child at the school of their choice, whether public or private, and (in the case of ESA policies, which are the best design we have) also allows them to use the funds for other educational services.

      That is what I always mean by “school choice,” and it’s a pretty standard definition.

  3. sstotsky says:

    There’s nothing wrong in advocating for school choice so long as it is clear what is intended. I am confused about what is intended by “school choice.” Meyer says it is a structural reform. That means to me a different building and governing body. What many parents want to be involved in are discussions about policy changes (who is to decide the change is a reform?). I think getting rid of “reform” would begin to help us out. I doubt most complaining parents simply want different buildings and governing bodies. They want involvement in content matters (what their kids read, write about, and can study in high school). Textbooks matter and large meetings with real content experts, including knowledgeable teachers at that level, should be able to highlight what is significant in a textbook. Classroom org schemes matter, too, and they should be discussed. Parents then make informed choices with regard to content and pedagogy/classroom org (but not from an unlimited range of possibilities). That’s what USED and other bureaucrats or educators have tried to control. It hasn’t worked.

  4. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

    Markets and federalism (subsidiarity) institutionalize humility on the part of State (government, generally) actors. If a policy dispute turns on a matter of fact (such as, the risk that the Wuhan corona virus poses to children) competitive markets in goods and services and numerous local policy regimes will generate more information than will a State-monopoly provider.
    If a policy dispute turns on a matter of taste (such as, the acceptable level of risk risk that the Wuhan corona virus poses to children) competitive markets in goods and services and numerous local policy regimes will leave room for the expression of varied tastes, while the contest for control over a State-monopoly provider must inevitably create unhappy losers (who may comprise the vast majority; imagine the outcome of a city-wide vote on the one size and style of shoes we all must wear).

    Risk-aversion is a matter of taste.

    US covid deaths by age and sex
    CDC
    Table 1. Deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), pneumonia, and influenza reported to NCHS by sex and age group. United States. Week ending 2/1/2020 to 8/22/2020
    Covid deaths = covid d, male deaths = m(d), female deaths = f(d). population = p
    age 00 to 01 covid d = 17 m(d) = 12 f(d) = 5 p = 3,848,208
    age 01 to 04 covid d = 12 m(d) = 6 f(d) = 6 p = 15,962,067
    age 05 to 14 covid d = 28 m(d) = 20 f(d) = 8 p = 41,075,169
    age 15 to 24 covid d = 280 m(d) = 177 f(d) = 103 p = 42,970,800
    age 25 to 34 covid d = 1,257 m(d) = 844 f(d) = 413 p = 45,697,774
    age 35 to 44 covid d = 3,301 m(d) = 2,270 f(d) = 1,031 p = 41,277,888
    age 45 to 54 covid d = 8,648 m(d) = 5,933 f(d) = 2,714 p = 41,631,699
    age 55 to 64 covid d = 20,655 m(d) = 13,523 f(d) = 7,132 p = 42,272,636
    age 65 to 74 covid d = 34,980 m(d) = 21,606 f(d) = 13,373 p = 30,492,316
    age 75 to 84 covid d = 43,392 m(d) = 23,840 f(d) = 19,551 p = 15,394,374
    age 85 to 99 covid d = 51,710 m(d) = 20,485 f(d) = 31,224 p = 6,544,503

    age 00 to 04 covid d = 29 m(d) = 18 f(d) = 11
    age 05 to 18 covid d = 65 m(d) = 38 f(d) = 27
    age 19 to 24 covid d = 243 m(d) = 159 f(d) = 84

    Children are almost entirely immune. Otherwise healty working-age adults are marginally more susceptible than toddlers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s