Tony On School Choice

Tony Lucchese’s a money blogger who, content-wise, doesn’t have a clue what he’s about. He lily-pads from topic to topic, refusing to pin himself down. ¶ Who cares. ¶ Fantastic post today, one which concisely and clearly argues both sides of school choice. ¶ “The choice model is patterned after good old-fashioned natural selection. Whether you prefer the metaphor of a biological system or the business world, the simple fact is this. The vast majority of species and businesses that have ever existed have failed. They are extinct. They caved under the competitive pressures.” ¶ Awesome.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Agreed… amazing post.

    I’ll add another thought that has long rankled around in my brain. I’ve spent my entire teaching career in two large urban districts with a great deal of school choice through public, charter, private, parochial, etc… And I have long thought that creating regulated choice in the urban public arena was a good thing. The more we allow students to educate themselves on the kinds of learning environments in which they will thrive and then gravitate toward them, the better. Moreover, if we stop thinking about schools as an absolute ranking of “best to worst,” and instead embrace that — in the parts of our country that are densely populated — we can create schools that have very different missions and visions so that more and more kids can find schools that speak to how they learn, the better.

    All great… except one thing:

    Even if that works beyond our wildest hopes and dreams, what do we do about the rest of the country?

  2. Here’s a problem with Tony’s argument… it’s based on the faulty assumption that the “choice” happens instantaneously and the public schools close just as fast. This is neither plausible nor a natural model in business, nature or almost anything of that magnitude that I can imagine.

    Choice happens over time. It’s already happening and has been for some time. Private, parochial, charter schools and homeschooling are effectively “choice”. When the forces of the market dictate that the “consumer” has more options (both students and teachers can effectively shop around), public schools may lose students (which in overcrowded schools with unmanageable classroom sizes could be a blessing).

    When it eventually reaches the point that students (their parents) chose something other than public schools it’s not that the public schools would have been blind sighted. There would have been options along the way such as a)adjust to the “market” by studying successful models and implementing visionary change, allowing dynamic teachers more latitude as to how they educate, etc. or b)decide your product will never be good enough. Hopefully, most schools choose ‘a’. If they don’t have the moxy and vision to adjust to the needs of their students then they have no business teaching. As a dedicated, inspired educator who believes in what you do, you probably would rather be teaching somewhere else too.

    One problem with choice as it stands is that limited pockets of people have it.

    1- Most people are destined to a particular public school based on zip code and district zoning. You should keep in mind that choice doesn’t exclude public schools altogether. It also means that as a parent I should be able to chose public school X over Y. Choice is not necessarily the sure death of public schools, only those that are not effectively educating our children.

    2-Choice is limited to those in districts/states with a number of state-sponsored charter schools. I realize that many of these charter schools aren’t up to par but so many are. Over time, successful models (like KIPP) will be abudant.

    3-Right now choice is limited to financial means. Many families go to great sacrifice to send their children to private or parochial schools. They pay a dear price (for some more a burden than others) to educate their children.

    This isn’t the perfect model of choice but this is the reality of the “marketplace”. Times are changing and schools, public or otherwise, need to change along with them. We need to change because EVERY child deserves a quality education not just those with the right zip code, enough money or outside resources.