Program in Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The push for more school choice has been accelerating. Charter schools are one form of school choice. The first state to pass a law for charter schools was Minnesota in 1991. In 1996, twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws.
John O'Neil (1996) raises a number of critical questions about school choice:
Will choice result in more responsive, higher-quality schools and
happier parents? Or will the proliferation of options further sort
students and families by race, social class, and special interest,
eroding our traditional democratic notions of a common school
experience for all?
O'Neill cites the reasons people favor school choice:
* Choice offers a way out of a low performing school.
* Choice supports educational innovation because it supports alternatives to the traditional school day.
* School choice can match child and parent needs thus parents will be involved and more committed to the school.
There are also disadvantages, which O'Neill sites as:
* Schools of choice create inequities by taking the more desirable students.
* Students in schools of choice have fewer opportunities to learn from students of different backgrounds.
* School choice changes the focus from education for the public good to education for the private good. Education is no longer being seen as providing "some common experiences in common settings." Will those without children in schools continue to support education in light of this change?
We must pay attention to what is happening in charter schools, for the formation of charter schools sends a loud message that public schools are not meeting the needs of all of our students. We must examine what those needs are and how public schools can do a better job of meeting those needs. Public school educators must attend to this task before charter schools turn into vouchers for private schools.
O'Neil, J. (1996). New Options, Old Concerns.Educational Leadership, 54, 6-8.