Bill Cosby and Dick Morris presumably disagree about most things, so it's instructive to note that both have officially endorsed "School Choice Week," which began yesterday with a series of rallies and events around the country celebrating the idea of parents being able to decide where their children go to school. Indeed, school choice seems like such an obviously good idea that the most interesting thing about School Choice Week is why it exists at all.
That school choice is valuable is beyond dispute. That's why there's a multi-billion dollar private school industry serving millions of students. And it's why there is a much larger system of school choice embedded in the American real estate market. While some parents pay school tuition directly, many more pay it through their monthly mortgage and property tax bills. Anyone who has deliberately purchased a home in a "good" school district is, by definition, a beneficiary and supporter of school choice.
Because school choice is so dependant on financial means, students from well-off families are much more likely to attend schools that have both high overall levels of quality and are tailored to their specific educational needs. These are the same children who, studies have shown, also experience much more enriching educational environments outside of school than their less privileged peers. In combination, this goes a long way toward explaining the persistent educational achievement gap between rich and poor children that haunts American education.
At its best, the school choice movement is dedicated to leveling the educational playing field by giving more parents access to choices they can't afford in the free market. Who could object? Plenty of people, as it turns out. This disagreement is a major impediment to achieving education justice in America. School choice is a perfect example of a fundamentally sound public policy idea that has been corrupted by a combination of ideology and naivete.
The birth of the school choice movement is usually dated to the publication of Milton Friedman's 1955 essay "The Role of Government in Education," in which he proposed:
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