This week’s reading took a political turn as Jason Blakely wrote the article “How School Choice Turns Education Into a Commodity”. The article talks about how different states across the U.S. are opting for a new concept called “school of choice”. “School of choice” is a system where local or state governments can give parents the education tax dollars so that they can fund different programs that they feel will best suit their children. Arizona was one of the first states to put this plan in place. The concept and ideology behind “school of choice” has been backed heavily by many politicians, especially Betsy DeVos; the United States Secretary of Education under the Trump administration. DeVos is a firm believer in neoliberalizing education. Blakely writes “The legislation signed by Governor Doug Ducey allows students who withdraw from the public system to use their share of state funding for private school, homeschooling, or online education.” (Blakely 1). The idea of neoliberalizing something is centered around “free market trade, financial markets, mercantilism and the idea of shifting away from state welfare”. Blakely illustrates how DeVos has spent “millions of dollars” and has “devoted herself” to the idea of school of choice. He goes on to say that “failure to do so, [DeVos] warned, would be the stagnation of an education system run monopolistically by the government”. (Blakely 1). From the outside, this plan may seem like a great idea, it allows students to choose their own own curriculum and their different activities that they get to participate in. However,under this shiny, new exterior are some things that could have the possibility to damage the community in more ways than one.
Blakely uses the city of Detroit as an example of how this new idea of neoliberalizing schools can become damaging. He states, “two decades of this marketization has led to extreme defunding and closing of public schools; the funneling of taxpayer money toward for-profit charter ventures; economically disadvantaged parents with worse options than when the neoliberal social experiment began; and finally, no significant increase in student performance.” (Blakely 1). This supports the idea that neoliberalizing education and the concept of “school of choice” only benefits those who can afford to send their child to a private or charter school. In my opinion, what politicians like DeVos and Governor Doug Duecy of Arizona fail to understand is that public schools can play a significant role in the general improvement of their respective communities. They can operate as a major platform for enhancing child welfare in the community as well.
When presenting my current connection, I decided to have an open ended discussion about why my peers thought public schools were important and what they thought about the idea of privatizing education. Although the U.S. constitution does not say that students and families are entitled to free education, public education is a free option for many families. In the U.S alone, almost 51 million (90%) students attend public schools, and out of those 51 million students, 12.6 million live below the poverty line. For many families, such as those struggling in poverty, a free education is the only way their child/children will ever have the opportunity to become educated due to one reason or another. However, the duty of public schools does not just stop at teaching.
Public Schools also assist families outside the educational aspect who might not be able to fully provide for their children. In 2018 14.7 million students participated in the school breakfast program. This is where students who may or may not live in impoverished areas have access two a consistent meal five out of seven days of the week. Along with free breakfast the national school lunch program average daily participation serves school lunches to approximately 29.6 million students each day this includes 20 million free lunches in 1 million reduced-price lunches each student with a reduced price lunch pays $0.40.
Public Schools also have a unique opportunity to help parents as well as the children attending classes there. Some schools started offering night classes for parents to help them learn English and other important parental skills that can assist them in caring for their children. Many of these same schools encourage teachers to improve school parental ties by visiting students’ homes and instructing parents on how to offer a Better Learning environment for their child at home. These practices can be especially beneficial to families that may have emigrated from other countries and have not yet grown accustomed to the American education system.
Neoliberalism and education is a concept that I was not familiar with prior to reading Jason Blakely’s article “How School Choice Turns Education Into a Commodity”. After reading about what School of Choice is and how it connects to neoliberalism ideas I can say that I firmly disagree with this policy. Neoliberalism and the privatization of schools is hardest on those of lower socioeconomic statuses and it just proves that market choice favors those who already have the education and wealth to be able to adapt to this new privatized way of schooling, and if schools can’t adapt, they close. This has the potential to leave those 12.6 million students under the poverty line at a disadvantage. It shows that parents who can’t afford to send their children to these newer, “better” schools, have no other choice than to put their kids education on the backburner, which without a doubt hurts the child, but the child has the possibility to become caught in the cycle of hunger as well because it was at his/her public school (that is now shut down due to lack of funding) that they were getting the necessary, healthy meals that they needed. In short, I find that the neoliberalism concept, which is good in theory, is doing more harm than good when enforced.
65354, et al. “The Role of Public Schools in the Advancement of the Communities.” The Edvocate, 20 Apr. 2017, http://www.theedadvocate.org/the-role-of-public-schools-in-the-advancement-of-the-communities/.
Blakely, Jason. “How School Choice Turns Education Into a Commodity.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 17 Apr. 2017, http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/04/is-school-choice-really-a-form-of-freedom/523089/.
Riser-Kositsky, Maya. “Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools.” Education Week, 16 June 2020, http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/education-statistics/index.html.