Rick Hess’s U.S. News and World Report op-ed, “The Real Promise of School Choice,” is really fantastic.
Here’s the grand irony: While choice advocates tend to talk mechanistically about the results of “randomized control trials” or the failures of “bureaucratic monopolies,” the real promise of school choice is its humane, empowering and organic vision of educational improvement. Now this will sound odd to those who routinely hear school choice pilloried as part of a “neoliberal corporatist” conspiracy. But bear with me for a moment.
You see, it’s vital to note that school choice is not an intervention. It’s not a pill you take. It’s more a chance to reach into the medicine cabinet and grab a bottle. Whether that will help depends on what’s in that cabinet.
If we’re being honest, the promise of school choice is not that, tomorrow, schools will magically be “better.” The promise is that, over the long haul, things like charter schooling, voucher programs and educational savings accounts will create room for individuals to innovate, problem-solve and build. They can empower educators and families to create and choose better schools.
Hess concludes, “In the end, the right way to think about choice is not as Dr. Pendergrast’s Miracle Salve but as an opportunity to empower educators, entrepreneurs and parents. And we should take care not to lose sight of that amidst our energetic debates over test scores and finances.”
Damn, that’s good stuff.