Why do so many good leaders and groups push “Choice”?

“Choice” has become popular – the easy and quick answer to “fix” education but many who know the details of the programs under the banner of “Choice” and have experience with education policy realize it includes some programs that are dangerous to freedom and is spreading so rapidly because it is being marketed heavily with big financial support.
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If you just listen to television, radio and follow what your usual trusted state or federal officials say, you will think Choice is ALL wonderful. You will think the only people who oppose it are the political left. You will be wrong.
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There are many on the political right, conservatives, Christians who do not support everything being pushed as “Choice”. As with all state and federal legislation, “Choice” must be looked at closely, studied and researched while always knowing the “devil is in the details”.
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Almost everyone has heard it said that “Choice” is about giving parents the choice to decide and about freeing children who are trapped in horrible schools. I know and understand the concepts that attract people. I am not against Charter public Schools in certain inner city situations. But did you know:
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  • Charter public schools do NOT have elected school boards that give parents the legal right to participate in the governing of the school, as “regular” public schools do.
  • Charter public schools include a network of schools affiliated with a highly controversial Turkish muslim leader named Gullen.
  • Charter public schools may eliminate most teachers and use computer based curriculum and or students teaching each other in groups.
  • Charter public schools are often run by corporations for profit and which do not have to comply with the FOIA – Freedom of Information Act that is required of government agencies to open their records for finances and other information the public should know, but “regular public schools” do.
  • Charter public schools are promoted as “better” in academics and graduation rates than “regular public schools” but are not always.
  • Charter public schools do NOT have the same regulations or requirements that “regular public schools” must comply with and cannot be compared honestly as competing on a “level field”.
  • Charter public schools have been “incentivized” in some legislation by paying the founders a guaranteed percentage of the government funds, taken off the top each year.
  • Charter public schools turn away students but “regular public schools” do not and cannot.

So…. Charter public schools operate with tax dollars but are not held to accountability like “regular public schools” and cannot be compared as though they were on an equal or level field yet “regular public schools” are being evaluated and set to close down if they do not perform. They are responsible for all students that come to them regardless of the problems the students bring with them or the extra cost involved. Regular public schools are criticized and condemned by many who do not realize that they don’t have all the facts needed to make a comparison.

Another “Choice” program is Education Savings Accounts -ESAs. A current effort is underway to pass legislation to give ESAs to homeschools and private schools. This is a very dangerous move, which will take away their freedom from government control.

Don’t buy the idea of free government money. It does not exist. IF you take ESAs you take government money and then you get regulation. This is a fact. All government money is “our money” first….. then it goes to the government…. once the government has it… it only comes back in programs with strings/regulations. Homeschools and Private Schools will be regulated by the government IF they take government ESA money!

I will end by saying, I know many of the state and federal officials who are pushing legislation to expand “Choice” programs. I know most of them have very good intentions and they think they are helping parents and students, which is their goal. I do not attribute bad intentions to their efforts. There are a few of them, however, whom I have heard say we should eliminate public schools and replace them with these Choice programs. Folks this is an absolutely wrong headed idea.

There are many reasons it won’t work which include the above that I have already listed. We must study, research, discuss and debate the issues and details involved in making changes to our education system. We are and have been suffering for years from too much experimentation now. We should not jump into ideas and start trying them out without thorough research FIRST!

Linda Murphy, Oklahoma Educator http://www.lindamurphyoklahomaeducator.wordpress.com

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