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America's #1 Choice When it Comes to School Choice? Still Public Schools!

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Next week (Jan. 27-31) is National School Choice Week, a campaign whose sponsors include proponents of vouchers, charters, magnets and other schools, though the real focus is on vouchers. When it comes to school choice and vouchers at AASA, we are deeply committed to supporting and strengthening the nation’s public schools, and have an absolute belief that public dollars are for public schools and equally strong opposition to vouchers.

We are very engaged in advocacy efforts to oppose federal education policy supporting vouchers. AASA is involved with the National Coalition for Public Education, a coalition of more than 50 education, civic, civil rights and religious organizations. NCPE brings these groups together in their common belief that maintaining strong public schools, which are open and nondiscriminatory in their acceptance of all students, is essential to preserving critical American values and ensuring our nation’s future economic prosperity. AASA’s Assistant Director for Policy & Advocacy, Sasha Pudelski, is co-chair of NCPE.

As part of School Choice week and as part of their ongoing efforts to push back on pro-voucher messaging, NCPE has assembled a set of anti-voucher/pro-public school resources that you can use:

The debate on school choice is about more than just opposing vouchers and our efforts center on supporting policy that strengthens public schools. Public school choice can be a good thing. The opportunity for choice to further strengthen schools only comes when all schools receiving public dollars—including charter and magnet schools—face the same reporting and accountability requirements as traditional schools. Conversely, any flexibility afforded to ‘choice’ schools taking public dollars should be available to all public schools: if it’s onerous and burdensome for charter schools, odds are it’s burdensome for traditional public schools.

Returning to the point of this post, though, I want to broaden the conversation on school choice and highlight that the nation’s public schools remain the top choice when it comes to educating more than 50 million students each year. Our public schools remain safe, neutral zones where all students can learn free of discrimination, schools that are open and committed to all children and accountable to tax payers. Bottom line, our public schools work.

The most recent PDK/Gallup Poll on the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools (August 2013) found that 70 percent of Americans oppose private schools vouchers, the highest level of opposition to vouchers ever recorded in the survey. Public school parents continue to give very high grades to the schools their children attend, with nearly 75 percent of parents giving their school an A or a B. These parents agree that their children have a higher level of well-being because of the school they attend, that schools are doing a good job helping students strengthen relationships with family and friends, and that schools prepare students to be healthier and more engaged in their community.

In 2006, the National Center for Education Statistics found that public school students do as well as or better than their private school and charter school counterparts. These findings extended to students from low-income families. Among students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, public school 4th graders outperformed their charter school counterparts in reading and math.

NCES also reported that the high school dropout rate fell from 6.1 percent in 1972 to 3.4 percent in 2009. Between 2005 and 2011, there was an 11 percent reduction in the rate of students not graduating from high school in four years.

As the debate on school choice heats up next week, I share this post as a voice in support of the nation’s public schools, which remain the number 1 choice, a great option for families and communities across the country. There’s a reason more than 50 million students attend public schools every year, and its related to the important reality that public education is the cornerstone of democracy. Every student has the right to be educated, and that right cannot be infringed by race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, economic status or any other factor granted to them by the U.S. Constitution. Education is a civil right and superintendents, the schools they lead and the students they serve are uniquely positioned to prepare future generations for the opportunities before them.

This post originally appeared on AASA Connect. Reprinted with permission. Views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

Image by Jonathan Billinger [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


This is a great position.

This is a great position. However, in Minnesota where we have choice, many wealthy suburban schools, most of them exemplary, have actively poached students from the inner cities thereby bleeding off many of the students whose parents have the resources for transporting and supporting their kids. The competition may be good for the wealthiest districts, not so much for the less so and very detrimental for districts like St. Paul and especially Minneapolis.

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