School Choice: Does It Put Students First?

Posted on: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 09:00

For many years, advocates for “school choice” have argued that competition will improve public schools and that students living in poverty will have opportunities to attend better schools. How are these policies working across our country?

As an educator for nearly 4 decades, my passion for education is no secret. My love of public education is well known. In recent years, many have questioned if I am for or against school choice. The answer is simple: I am FOR students, and therefore, I evaluate a policy or practice based on whether or not it benefits students.

Frederick County Public Schools embraces three public charter schools that offer choice to students and parents—and were established by parents who supported the instructional methodology of the school. These charter schools are part of the public school system and are held accountable to the same standards as every other school in FCPS. We have successful partnerships with the charter schools’ governing boards, but the local Board of Education’s governance over charter schools ensures accountability for the learning and success of students. And because the students at our public charter schools are successful, our local Board of Education has continued to renew the charters of these three schools. That works for me, and that is why I support the current laws and policies that Maryland has developed for charter schools.

Unfortunately, different states have different laws and policies that govern how school choice works. The policies that have worked in Maryland and Frederick County aren’t in place across the country. That means that in many places across the country students aren’t succeeding.

I can’t and don’t support school choice laws and practices that fail to serve students well. I am also distressed at the lack of oversight in many states regarding the academic progress of students and the appropriate use of public funds. When public dollars are spent for vouchers or charter schools without an honest accounting for how the money is used and how students perform, the impact is twofold. First, students are hurt. Second, public funding that could support successful and effective public schools is lost. This hurts the public school system, which leads to – you guessed it – more calls for school choice.

Since the school choice policy debate continues across the country, I will share some of what I have learned about the impact of school choice policies in other states in future blogs. This debate is an important one, and I urge educators, parents, business leaders, community leaders, and our elected officials to study the research so that the decisions we make are FOR students first!

I judge school choice based on student success. What criteria do you use to evaluate school choice? Please share your thoughts with me on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether you agreed with this post or not, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.