Criticism of School Choice

Some critics against the idea say that if parents are given a choice, it is likely they will pick the school their child is attending in attempts to improve it. Others think better schools could become overcrowded if most parents send their kids there, making it unfair to local parents of the better school. Supporters of school choice point out that it is unlikely this will happen since it is the publicly-run schools which are currently the sole providers of education to the poor. Choice, they argue, would mean that there would be reduced overcrowding since students would be spread out over the schools that best meet their learning styles and needs.

Even if privately-run schools are not allowed to participate in a school choice program, critics note, this might prompt a two-tiered publicly-run education system, in which those students with motivated parents leave for good schools, while other students languish. Critics tend to prefer the current two-tiered system which educates our white middle classes, but not our minorities in the lower classes. Supporters often point out what they see as hypocrisy in critics who claim that they fear a two-tiered system due to the languishing of some students, since they tend to prefer the current system, which forces all students to languish, regardless of parental concern.

Critics also ask how the poorer parents will get their kids to a school of their choice without a public school bus system? Many parents start work around that time in the morning, and driving their children to a school farther away might not fit into busy work schedules. Supporters of school choice point out that most schools have transportation available and if they do not, the parent is left in the same situation as before—without a choice. The difference, they argue is the problem of a lack of choice after the implementation of school choice programs (a lack of transportation) is much more easily fixed than the current problem (being trapped in a failing school).

One of the things bothering critics may be their view that the entire movement is really part of the general movement for privatization. With the assumption that parents are not educated enough to make intelligent choices, a portion of school choice opponents believe that the wording (school choice) lures voters by playing with their parental fears, but that in the end the big winners will be a small handful of rich business merchants. Some school choice proponents question the motives of those who put forth this argument, since it seems to focus on not helping a certain class of people, instead of focusing on how best to educate children.

Critics also ask, why, if business is so successful in running schools without government help, did government need to create public schools in the first place? Supporters of school choice would argue that the answer is quite simple: not everyone could afford it. School choice would fix this problem.

Many critics propose a different solution that does not taking away money or force schools to struggle against each other. They say if incentive is what is needed, it already exists: the school board is elected by direct popular vote. They say that instead of government forcing school choice, citizens and parents need to become more aware of who runs the schools, and for laws to help improve that awareness. Any head of the school board who values their position will likely do everything possible to ensure the school runs better, if citizens are more active in deciding who stays or goes. Supporters of school choice sometimes point out that even if the school board were perfect, one school, generally, cannot educate the myriad of different students anymore than one company could meet the needs of all consumers. Supporters also point out that this "solution" has always existed, yet has failed to fix our failing schools. This, they say, proves that there needs to be another solution.

Some also note that private schools are not obliged to take just any students; many have entrance exams and admit only those who score well.Thus there is some concern that private schools would take the best students, leaving the most disadvantaged in a school system unable to improve itself and saddled with the hardest children to teach. Supporters counter that while there are few private schools for the urban poor, this would be fixed when the means to attend private school are provided to the poor. Many say it is obvious that one would not open a private school targeted to students who's parents cannot afford such a school. Providing the financial means to these parents would increase the proliferation of private schools that are not targeted solely at the white middle and upper classes, which are currently the only classes that can afford private schooling. Supporters also contend that this argument and many others against school choice is not saying school choice won't help solve the problem, but merely that it won't be perfect. Supporters point out that legislation rarely if ever is perfect. The question, they say, is whether it is better than the alternative.

Another concern arises when converting schools into businesses that struggle against each other: what happens when one of them goes "out of business" or bankrupt? Do the children get shuffled around to other schools? And what of the teachers they're used to, and the lessons they'd be in the middle of? Critics believe that the school choice crowd have no "plan B" for the many things which may go wrong. Many critics prefer the current plan, where no schools go bankrupt due to the monopolistic structure. Supporters counter that no school would ever go bankrupt if they are providing a good education and point out that the schools most likely to go bankrupt are the failing public schools. This may explain, supporters often reason, why teachers unions generally oppose school choice.

There are several critics who oppose the idea for school choice because of its being advertised to Christian organizations with promises that many of the students would end up in their religious schools, and because of possible conflict with the separation of church and state.

Some critics believe that when schools are in bad shape, it is partly because of some lawmakers who they claim are against public schools. They believe that this is the reason for the failing of public schools and not because there is no incentive to properly educate children due to the monopolistic structure of the public school system, which demands more money no matter the results.