“School Choice Week,” January 22-28, 2017

Free market fundamentalists in most respects are people who hew closely to Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic: “A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” There is and has for some time been an aggressive movement afoot in the United States to privatize public education. The forces driving it, with both ideology and money–which comprise its marketing–are corporations whose interest is primarily in monetizing this social good.

Mark’s Text Terminal is not a particularly political blog; that said, this blog is a member of the Educational Bloggers Network. The people in this association know a great deal more about educational policy than I do, and I intend, in this blog entry, to provide a compendium of their work as part of our collective endeavor to raise awareness of what the term “school choice” means–and exactly the costs to communities it entails.

Let me reiterate: I have neither the education not the expertise to perform policy analysis. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who do, so to them I now turn.

Any perusal of education policy issues starts with a major figure in the field at Diane Ravitch’s Blog. Dr. Ravitch has been dealing with educational policy issues for fifty years. She has a wide bibliography, has served in two presidential administrations, and is a research professor at New York University. To put it simply, she knows whereof she speaks.

A nice summary of issues related to school privatization and choice, with a map to other sources, is this entry from the radical eyes for equity blog. Over at the BustED Pencils blog you’ll find this post on the lack of research evidence for privatizing schools in the United States. In a similar vein, Chris Goering, who is a professor of education at the University of Arkansas, and who keeps a blog with his colleague Jason Endacott, posted this report on the failure of charter schools in New Orleans. At the Education Opportunity Network blog, analyst Jeff Bryant outlines who most profits from school “choice”. I think Edushyster is one of the best policy analysis blogs going, and its author, Jennifer Berkshire, here scrutinizes Nevada’s “universal choice” program and its shortcomings. To add a little leavening to this, I submit Edward Berger’s optimistic forecast that public education will survive the depredations of mindless, free-marketeering vandals. Here’s a nice post from the Restore Reason blog on legislative support, borne of ignorance and an idolatry of ideology (as Bruce Cockburn once so perfectly put it), for school choice.

Lately, here at Mark’s Text Terminal, I’ve been reblogging a variety of posts from Diane Ravitch’s Blog about the current nominee to the post of Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. You may have had a chance to catch some of her smirking, self-satisfied testimony before the Senate Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Over the years, her family has donated millions to the Republican Party, including some to the very Senators who now assess her fitness for the office to which she is nominated. At Electablog, a blog operated by  Chris Savage, and an excellent compendium of information about public policy in Michigan, where many of the looniest “free market” ideas are tested (think the Flint Water Crisis, for example), Mitchell Robinson, a professor of music education at Michigan State University, contributed this post on Ms. DeVos and her deleterious impact on public education in Michigan. Another blogger to weigh in on this disastrous nominee is Jan Resseger who brings a compelling faith-based perspective on Betsy DeVos to this discourse. Another blogger who wrote on Betsy DeVos early on is Mercedes Schneider at deutsch29: she wisely, in this post on the nominee, uses Ms. DeVos’s own words to skewer her.

Ms. DeVos has pushed hard in Michigan for the theory and practice of school vouchers in spite of a paucity of evidence on their effectiveness in raising student achievement or improving school quality. Nancy Bailey, in her policy blog, reports in this entry just how vouchers fail children. At the School Matters blog, author Steve Hinnefeld reports on the the negative consequences of school choice, which Betsy DeVos’s voucher schemes have kicked into high gear in Michigan. A favorite talking point of the nominee, and other Republicans, is that federal, state, and local governments enjoy a “monopoly” on public education.  Steve Singer, at the Gadfly on the Wall blog, punctures this bag of hot air in this blog post. Similarly, Stu Bloom at Live Long and Prosper… posted this article on school choice; he followed it up a second part of his assessment of school choice and its discontents.

Finally, here is an article on the intrinsic problems of school choice from the venerable magazine The Progressive, published in my home city of Madison, Wisconsin. It calls upon many of the analysts whose work is cited above to discuss why education is a public good, and not a commodity subject to the often brutal and–in spite of what many arch-free marketeers insist–inefficient laws of market economies.

That’s it. As I say regularly, Mark’s Text Terminal is not a political or policy analysis blog. The writers and analysts linked to above are much better at that kind of work than I am. You’ll of course find links to other blogs in these sites. All are worth visiting.

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