Judith Stein: School Choice is Better Than No Choice

For all its flaws, school choice is better than no choice

By Dr. Judith Stein, National Institute for Educational Options

Dr. Judith Stein, Executive Director of the National Institute for Educational Options

Dr. Judith Stein, Executive Director of the National Institute for Educational Options

From vouchers to charters to virtual schools, parents have never had more options for educating their children, but many families are still unaware – or have the wrong ideas – about those alternatives.

Arguments against choice rely largely on myths. Let's debunk the most common ones.

Myth #1: Schools Make the Choice

School choice really means ‘parental choice.' Parental choice means parents are aware of their children's educational options and make the best choice for them. Although there are some exclusionary programs – such as magnet schools, which may require auditions for admission – in most cases, families choose the school, not the other way around.

Myth #2: Public School Isn't a Choice

Don't overlook your local public school. School choice doesn't mean your other options are better; it just means you have other options. There are wonderful choices in public schools, but families should know all their options.

Myth #3: School Choice Is Only for the Privileged

Wealthy families – who can afford to send their kids to private schools or move to a better school district – have always had a choice in their educational options. School choice is for families who can't afford other options. There are numerous resources, programs and scholarships for low-income and special needs students. The opportunities are there if parents seek them out.

Myth #4: School Choice "Creams" the Best Students from Public Schools

Successful students are unlikely to leave their current school. School choice is intended for students who aren't succeeding in their current school but can't afford to move to an institution that might provide a better educational fit.

All educational options – magnets, charters, private schools, boarding schools, military academies, home schooling and more – have redeeming and countervailing aspects. More options do require more knowledgeable consumers. We're accustomed to choosing from a variety of automobiles or apparel, but school choice is still new. But ‘choice' is always better than ‘no choice.'"

Dr. Judith Stein is executive director of the National Institute for Educational Options at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She is the former executive director of Magnet Schools in America, Inc. and author of the book, "Magnet Schools: Voice of Public School Choice."

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.
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