Does school choice help or hurt students?

Last week over 10,000 schools and organizations across the country celebrated National School Choice Week with yellow scarves, marches on state capitols and a variety of independently planned events in all 50 states.

In some instances, these gatherings were met with resistance from teacher’s unions who accuse the organizers of the week of trying to create a hostile environment for traditional public schools by touting a family’s ability to choose other options. I don’t know the official motives of the week itself but it does bring up a point I’ve discussed before: Does the school choice movement hurt public schools?

Mississippi, which ranks last in student achievement in the nation, does not have charter school options just yet. It seems to me that any attempt to offer solutions to this cycle of student non-achievement would be welcomed, especially since public charter and magnet schools have shown some success in other low-performing states. On the other hand, by essentially privatizing education are we taking away precious resources from public school reform and hurting the students who stay in them?

National School Choice Week does not just emphasize magnet and charter schools. The official releases from the organization call it an all-inclusive “celebration of educational opportunity” that encompasses traditional public schools, magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, virtual schools and even homeschooling. No type of schooling is promoted over another and all positive celebrations are accepted.

By highlighting all the options, are parents more empowered (and students set up better for success) or are we undermining the great equalizer of our youth — the public school system?


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