Charter School Advocates Demand That Everyone Fend for Themselves

Promoters of privately-operated charter schools that intensify segregation and siphon money from public schools idolize the law of the jungle where the “strongest survive.”

This backward view assumes that everyone is nothing more than a consumer and that education is mainly a commodity. Such a discredited outlook is a direct assault on the modern principle that education is a basic human right and that schools must be fully-funded, publicly controlled, high quality, integrated, and available to all for free in every community. No one should have to worry about which school to send their child to. Government must take up its social responsibility to provide the right to education with a guarantee in practice. There is no reason not to have a great school with many programs in every neighborhood in America.

The “free market” consumerist approach to education was recently on full display at the 2020 “School Choice Fair” in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina. Not surprisingly, the “Fair” overwhelmed and confused many parents trying to figure out how to “choose” the “best” school for their child.

Some direct quotes from a brief October 30, 2019 news report on the “School Choice Fair” reveal the absurdity of “school choice” consumerism:

“As options expand and competition intensifies, parents can find the scene a bit overwhelming.”

“It’s just confusing to navigate what happens with the lottery, trying to get them into a program … and if we don’t get them into a program where do we go from there?” said [parent] John Mielke of Huntersville.

“I think the hardest thing is making up your mind,” [parent] Niraj Bhatt said. “It’s like walking into a store and figuring out what you want to order.”

The “shopping mall” approach to education is inconsistent with the requirements of a complex society based on mass industrial production. The extended reproduction of society cannot be based on the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.” Telling parents that they need to go out there on their own, compete with others, and figure out how to get a “good” education for their kid is riddled with problems and not the way forward.

Unless parents have spent weeks investigating everything thoroughly, usually on their own, their children may end up in a “bad” school, which might then cause parents to feel anger or remorse.

In this context, parents naturally feel like there is no guarantee of getting their child into a high quality school. More importantly, parents and the public at large are being socialized to think that competition and consumerism in education are normal and healthy, and that a modern conception of education as a right guaranteed by government is somehow bizarre and something no one should expect or demand. In this way, people are being deprived of the outlook needed to advance their interests.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.