Parent advocates for school choice
To the Editor:
We're lucky to have people like [Ari] Klein in our city and in our school system. His passion for education is evident. However, as a parent who opted out of the public system, I see a few details differently.
My view is that, in general, parents are the best advocates for their children. Parents that opt out are not draining resources, or "starving children," in Mr. Klein's dramatic words [Heights Observer April 2016 issue]. They're being conscientious parents! Without these [opt-out] programs, when parents aren't satisfied, the only other choice might be to move away.
I hate to be so blunt, but money spent on private schools was never the district's money. Taxpayers hand money to the district to be used to educate our children. You could say it's the children's money in the sense that they're the beneficiaries. We have a public education system because there are economies of scale, but the district is not entitled to a monopoly on public funding.
There are going to be failed private, parochial and charter schools, and even outright charlatans. But insisting that everyone participate in one system or move away is not the right response.
The right response for education professionals is to help parents be expert consumers, and then respect their choices, not make them feel guilty about them.
Mr. Klein compares public education to building roads, and says public funding for private schools is like paving roads for private use. Here's my problem with that: private-sector firms compete for contracts to build and maintain the roads. In other words, the situation that he's fighting—public funding of private educators—is the same model as how our system of roads and highways operate. This is also how Medicare works, how food stamps work, and many, many other public goods work.
It is too early to say if encouraging competition between schools will improve the situation, but it is clear that parents are dissatisfied with the status quo. As I said earlier, in general, I believe that parents make the best choices for their children. If those choices harm the interests of the school district, then the school district has work to do.
[Wilson is a FutureHeights board member.]