November 9th, 2011

WATCH: Shopping For Schools In Indiana

As consumers, we’re used to choices — Mac or PC, Toyota Prius or Ford Fusion, Nike or Adidas? Competition is said to produce better products and services.

Could schools use a dose of that too? Traditionally, the public school you are zoned for has enjoyed a monopoly — you have no other choice — unless you happen to live in a place like Indiana.

The Hoosier state has done more than any other to give parents alternatives to their neighborhood school, including private religious schools, online schools, and charters. And like businesses, these schools must attract students and their state dollars or they will close.

Does any of this improve education? Reporter John Tulenko traveled to Indiana — home of some of the most sweeping school choice legislation in the country, circa April 2011 — to find out.

Download transcript (PDF)

This program is made possible by the following funders:
Grade Level Reading Fund of the Tides Foundation, The Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.


DiscussionIs School Choice Good Or Bad?

So … is school choice a good thing for American education? We convened a few experts to discuss the matter. Check it out — and then weigh in yourself. Read and comment!

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One does wonder if, because some of the matching money going to the “choice” schools in Indiana is inevitably, somehow, somewhere mingled with federal funds, whether I have standing to sue those who would have children learn that Darwin was wrong or Hitler was right?

A parent’s right to choose the kind of education their child will receive is a fundamental principle and human and civil right. The fact that competition ensues in the wake of choice is a secondary benefit to the system. Choice brings not only competition, choice also brings collaboration and mutual learning. The war between reformer and the status quo will abate when we begin to frame educational choice as a parental civil right and principle of freedom and democracy rather than an yardstick to make the average, hard-working teacher look bad.

And, if parents choose a anti-Darwin school? If the national tests included a science component, then the school would not be able to continue to operate if the science scores dipped too low for too long.

Nazi propaganda? If one actual example exists of a public - or even private - school in America, at this time, that offers pro-Hitler propaganda to students, let’s look at it in the light of hate speech. Otherwise, why solve a problem that does not in fact exist?

state-initiated, state-funded segregation

The top 5 Indiana voucher-recieving private schools are all at least 95% one race. As America becomes more diverse, do we really want to create more opportunities to divide our citizens? I hope that voucher parents are seeking better education and not running from something.

to lovemystudents: Segregation is when you live on the wrong side of the tracks and cannot go to the good school on the other side because your parents cannot afford to rent (or buy) on the other side. If there ever was a post- civil rights era social justice issue in America, this is it.

Did you notice, 85% of the initial enrollees benefit from free or reduced lunches as well? Who do you think this program helps most? The wealthy can afford private schools anyway and are already free to segregate themselves as much as they want. Finally, poor parents will no longer have to struggle to pay tuition to the landlord in good school district.

Or maybe standing strong with teachers’ unions to avoid competition is more important to you than improving education and lives.

It?s hard to come by knowledgeable people for this subject, however, you sound like you know what you?re talking about!

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