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Presidential Choice; School Choice; Forced Choice.

July 13, 2016

America’s choice for our next president illustrates a truth about school choice and choice systems in general:

Choice is often little more than talking oneself into going with the perceived better among selections that one does not want at all.

Clinton and Trump. I endorse neither for president. But I will vote, and I will do so by deciding which one I like less and casting a ballot for the other while actively preventing my mind from focusing on how much I also dislike my “choice.”

I wonder about the outcome of a national poll in which voters are asked, “If you had to vote today for America’s next president and “neither” were a viable option, would you choose Clinton, Trump, or neither?”

I would be in the “neither” category. But when it comes to electing a president or choosing a school, “choice” actually means “forced choice.”

I also wonder how America would react if we changed voting to include a lottery component (a feature of school choice in many locales). I envision this as similar to a lottery scratch-off ticket, where one decides to not vote Clinton or Trump and instead settles for an unknown who is not Clinton or Trump, but with the unknown coming from a set of possible knowns, with anyone who wanted to be included as a “scratch-off” candidate allowed to sign up by a certain deadline. In this scenario, the person casting a “scratch-off” vote discovers after the vote how his/her particular vote was cast.

Perhaps Republican National Party would be more inclined to support a “scratch-off” feature in the 2016 presidential election since it is aghast at the likes of Donald Trump being their official nominee. Since the Democratic National Party appears to have who it wanted as its 2016 presidential candidate, I don’t believe including a wild-card option among presidential choice would suit it.

The Democrats are aware that many Republicans are troubled by having Trump as the official Republican choice; perhaps this knowledge prompted the Democratic National Party to change its platform concerning charter schools.

If the choice is between Trump and Clinton, and the Republican National Party is stuck with Trump (and therefore in a tizzy), why not shake up the officially-Democratically-endorsed school choice language?

Still, in many respects, the Democratic language on school choice is an attempt to challenge from the middle of the road. Democrats use the familiar trademarked language of “high quality,” as in “high quality public school options” and, of course, “high quality charter schools,” even as it avoids the reality that charter school presence presents a competition for public school funding that can only divest traditional public schools. Thus, this sentence from the polished Dem lingo is utter nonsense:

We believe that high quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools.

Unless charter schools first and foremost have a completely separate system of funding, one that does not touch the funding of the traditional, community school, then trying to walk that middle road of “we like both school choice and traditional, community schools” is a farce. However, even with completely separate funding, it would still be possible in states that lack of a charter school cap for there to be saturation of so-called school choice to the degree that there too many schools are allowed to open given the number of available students.

The Dems aren’t really thinking the issue through, and I am sure their vision is clouded by the need for both votes and money.

On to another recent Dem platform modification:

Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.

The idea that the only danger to “making a profit off of public resources” comes from for-profit charters reads like safe language– an attempt to be seen as challenging the school choice idea while pacifying it.

Though it might not seem to be connected to school choice, the recent Dem declaration to support parental rights to opt out of standardized testing actually is. The school choice movement would lose momentum without a constant flow of test scores available to show how terrible schools that are not them are doing based on those scores. And the more power allotted those standardized test scores, the better it is for school choice. Failing students, teachers, and schools feeds the push for an ever-churning proliferation of more “high quality” charter schools, including cheaper, temp, alt-cert “teachers” workshopped into the narrow skill set of producing high English and math test scores.

So, school choice advocates are not likely to find palatable the following Dem declaration on testing because it does interfere with the business of charter school proliferation:

We oppose high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners as failing, the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools, and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a practice which has been repeatedly rejected by researchers. We also support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or their school.

Of all of the Dem platform revisions, I think this one is the gutsiest precisely because test scores are the life blood of modern school choice.

Now, the question remains concerning to what degree Clinton will actively promote the revised Dem platform. How far is she willing to publicly go in sounding critical of school choice and standardized testing?

There is no “scratch-off” option in this presidential election, but there are a scores of would-be Republican voters who will likely vote for her, not because they want to, but because they see her as the lesser of two poor choices in a forced-choice situation. She is already trying to walk that school choice line.

School choice. Forced choice.

Gotta love choice.

scratch off


Just Released– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

 Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. permalink

    Can’t get past the fact that Clinton is a criminal. She has violated the Constitution, put our national security in danger, was careless with the lives of our military and is involved in (and/or cause of) countless other crimes.

    I’m disgusted that the nation and leading education experts are seemingly able to overlook these.

    Clinton has already proven to be untrustworthy, careless and capable of crimes against our country. Put her at the helm? Put her plan for our children and parental rights in place?

    Absolutely not.


  2. On the ways that opting out hinders growth of charters, there may be an interesting corollary: Some civil rights groups that oppose opting out also oppose charters. Could it be possible to build their concern about charters to overcome their worries about opting out?

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Enjoyed this exercise on choice, especially since I spent the morning reading your new book. Really important work. If I were teaching teachers, it would be required reading.

  4. Zorba permalink

    I’m not expecting Hillary Clinton, if she wins the presidency, to pay any attention to any of the Democratic Party platform. Most of the past platforms have been ignored by the presidents once they got elected, after all.
    And I’m getting damned sick and tired of voting for “the least bad alternative.” Or voting third party for a candidate who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning.
    My husband has long thought that there should be a “none of the above” option on the ballot, and if “none of the above” gets the most votes, there must be a new election, with different candidates (the previous two not being allowed to run again). Sounds good to me.

  5. Michelli, Nicholas permalink

    Honestly, I am not interested in reading anything by someone who would even consider voting for Donald Trump. Please remove me and my students from your mailing list. If they later choose to enroll individually fine.

    Nicholas M. Michelli Presidential Professor Ph.D. in Urban Education Policy Analysis The Education of Educators and Middle Eastern Studies 365 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10016 917 882 7670

    • I did not write that I would vote for Trump.

      I do not add or remove anyone from following this blog. Readers add themselves, and readers choose to discontinue following.

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