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Read Dr. Larson's earlier Community Columns below or here.

As citizens, we need to be wary and vigilant as we hear Betsy DeVos and Washington continue to champion charter schools and school choice as the cure-all for our challenges in education. While competition and free markets are core values that have grown and made our economy strong, we need to think more thoughtfully and cautiously if we expect these values to be ideal for all public institutions.  A public school system, designed for the public good, cannot be engineered by government to mimic a market.   Let’s take a look at key reasons why:

Markets always have winners and losers.
In the private sector, when a business fails, the impact on the public is not always as significant as when a public school is defunded – or worse, closed. For example, in Detroit (where Betsy DeVos played a large role advocating for school choice), many years of competition has led to reduced programming and school closures.  Taxpayer money has been channeled to for-profit charter schools.  Economically disadvantaged parents, often facing the closure of their beloved neighborhood school, have worse options with no increase in student achievement. Detroit now has "educational deserts" where parents and children must travel significant distances for children to attend school.  
Market Competition Contributes to Growing Inequalities
Schools competing for students opens the possibility of a vicious cycle in which communities with low performing schools are punished and wealthy communities receive greater funding advantages.  We cannot achieve equity and equality when schooling is organized around a model of "the more you win, the more you get, and the more you lose, the less you are given.” As money is pulled from under-performing schools and funneled into succeeding ones, the state can redistribute wealth up the socioeconomic ladder. This competition is contributing to our country's growing inequalities and diminishment of the middle and lower classes.
Public Education is a Shared Good
The idea that education is just another commodity to buy and sell on the market is flawed thinking. It is a shared good that we all contribute to and support. If we believe student funds are portable based on consumption choices, then what would prevent the growing number of taxpayers without children in school being able to redirect more of their tax dollars outside the education system toward other public services, such as the library, dog parks or public golf courses? For local public institutions to serve their constituents well, they need allegiance and support from all citizens.
Federal Interference in Local Public Schools Doesn't Work.
Historically, our public schools were designed to be governed locally. Our local public schools, overseen by locally elected boards, have been the bedrock of democracy. DeVos should take note and stay true to her administration's original mission of reducing federal interference in education. Let local communities decide how to run their schools.  
If DeVos and Washington want to really improve local public schools, they just need to follow the proven factors that improve and strengthen public schools. These factors include:
  • Investment in early childhood programing
  • Rigorous high standards for all students
  • Strong professional development for teachers and
  • Resources channeled quickly and efficiently to the neediest students.
Supporting and advocating for these key elements will lead to beneficial outcomes for all. Education is about our most important community asset –  our children – not a commodity to buy and sell.  

David F. Larson, Ed.D.

Read Dr. Larson's earlier essays below

2016-17 Community Columns

Public schools benefit from richness of diversity here

Be wary of snake oil salesmen in education here

Characteristics of Strong Education Systems here

Leveraging the election for growth here

Glenbard emphasizes importance of service to others here

Challenging courses prepare teens for college, careers here

High School Parenting is Gardening, Not Carpentry here

Fight the Summer Slide here

2015-16 Community Columns

Equity in Advanced Placement here

Growth Mindset Makes a Difference here

Send Consistent Message Opposing Underage Drinking here

Hold Hands and Stick Together here

The Value of Rigor in the Classroom here

Studying the Arts Enhances Student Achievement here

Parent Involvement is Important here

Making America Great Again here

Property Tax Freeze Would Harm Students here

Teachers Advance Their Craft During Summer here.

2014-15 Community Columns

Be Wary; Education Cuts Never Heal here

Increasing Responsibilities of Public Education here

The Governor's Playbook for Compassion here

Important Partnership here

Strategic Planning Key to Success of iPad Implementation here

The "Year of Over Testing" here

School Funding Reform Act Senate Bill 16 here

Watch the Screen Time here

2013-14 Community Columns

Attack Season here

Impressive Community Support here

Referendum Focus here

New Year's Resolution here

Celebrating Diversity here

Shrinking Middle Class here

Future Ready here

Fight Summer Learning Loss here

2012-13 Community Columns

Public Education is Inclusive, Diverse here

Transparency Builds Community Trust here

Technology Will Transform Learning here

High Levels Of Communication here

Pension Reform Observations here

Key Habits of Fiscally Responsible Districts here

Doubly Impressive here

High Expectations For All here

Democracy here

Those Special Teachers here

Football Start here

Freshman Transition here