Behind the Headline: The Education Issue We Should Debate This Election Year: School Choice

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The Education Issue We Should Debate This Election Year: School Choice
Wall Street Journal | 2/17/16

Behind the Headline
Schools of Choice: Expanding opportunity for urban minority students
Education Next | Spring 2016

School Choice Rally

In the Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley laments the fact that the only education issue getting any air time at all in the debates among presidential candidates has been the Common Core.  He writes

The bigger problem with even the modest attention given to Common Core in the campaign is that it detracts from the much more important discussion about school choice. Jeb Bush spends time defending Common Core that would be better spent promoting his stellar record of expanding education options for parents when he was Florida’s governor. Instead of pouncing on Mr. Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio might explain to voters why Barack Obama has spent his entire presidency trying to shut down a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., that gives poor black and brown children access to private schools and, according to the Education Department’s own evaluation, improves their chances of graduating by as much as 21 percentage points.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have nothing to add to this discussion other than a promise to spend more money propping up traditional public schools. This system has ill-served poor people in general, and underprivileged minorities in particular, for the better part of 50 years.

Riley writes

Stanford economist Eric Hanushek notes in a new article for Education Next magazine that the black-white disparity in math and reading scores among 12th-graders today is not only significant but, even more disturbing, not much different from where it was a half-century ago.

He also notes

These days, the political left is obsessed with income inequality and mass incarceration but has little use for education reforms that are helping to reduce both. In the same issue of Education Next, Harvard professor Martin West describes some of the more recent school-choice research.

Students at Boston charter high schools “are more likely to take and pass Advance Placement courses and to enroll in a four-year rather than a two-year college,” writes Mr. West. Attending a charter middle school in Harlem “sharply reduced the chances of teen pregnancy (for girls) and incarceration (for boys),” and “a Florida charter school increased students’ earnings as adults.” Mr. West concludes that “attending a school of choice, whether private or charter, is especially beneficial for minority students living in urban areas.”


The article by Eric Hanushek is “What Matters for Student Achievement,” from the Spring 2016 issue of Education Next

The article by Martin West is “Schools of Choice: Expanding opportunity for urban minority students,” also in the Spring 2016 issue of Education Next.

Both articles are part of a new Education Next series commemorating the 50th anniversary of James S. Coleman’s groundbreaking report, “Equality of Educational Opportunity.”

– Education Next

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