By Andrew Pillow
School choice, unfortunately, remains a controversial and divisive subject in education circles. There are a number of reasons for this. Some of them legitimate. Some of them not.
One of those not legitimate reasons comes from allowing people with no stake in the fight to frame the debate. Principal among these are the anti-school choice parents, that send their kids to private schools. There are no shortage of these types. They typically proudly proclaim themselves “pro-public” while omitting the fact that they send their own kids to private institutions. (By the way, this is where I feel the need to remind you that charter schools ARE public schools)
Let me be clear. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending your kids to private schools. As a matter of fact in many cases, and for many kids it is the best option. That is why people are fighting so hard to extend that option to everyone.
Now while there is nothing wrong with sending your kids to a private school there is something almost objectively wrong with sending your kids to a private school while simultaneously denying others that opportunity. This is one of those issues that appears fuzzy when we apply it to school choice but when you apply this logic to other areas of life it becomes transparently silly:
Imagine someone telling you that the public hospital that they refuse to send their family to, is good enough for you.
Imagine a distant politician telling you how great a crime-ridden public housing project is from behind the fence of their gated community.
Those aren’t even exaggerated comparisons. They represent exactly the same concept and idea that many of the anti-school choice zealots espouse: “Public options aren’t good enough for me… but they are good enough for y’all.”
This doesn’t make every single criticism that these people levy against school choice inaccurate. Nor does it make their voices less important. But it DOES make them less credible and it does shift the tone of the debate from community-based to outsider driven. (You know the same thing school choice advocates are accused of doing all the time.)
This is not an anti-public-school rant. The public school down the street from your house may be a safe, high-quality academic institution. But in the event that it is not, you deserve an opportunity to send your kids somewhere that is.
So when Matt Damon drops his next anti-school choice project and tells you that you should be comfortable with whatever public option you have in your neighborhood, remember that he’s not even comfortable with the public options that he has in his neighborhood and he sends his kids to private schools.