Sorry Diane Ravitch, but the people of Wisconsin (particularly Milwaukee) prefer school choice.
In a recent guest editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the highly-paid teacher union apologist Diane Ravitch calls for an end to charter schools and the private school parental choice program in Milwaukee.
“Yes, Milwaukee needs a bold vision,” Ravitch wrote. “It needs a reset. It needs one public education sector, not three competing sectors. The time for dual- or triple-systems should have ended in 1954, with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
“Milwaukee needs one public school system that receives public dollars, public support, community engagement and parental involvement.
“Vouchers and charters had their chance. They failed.”
Well, if the voucher programs and charter schools have failed, the people have not noticed.
In a new poll of 500 likely Wisconsin voters, commissioned by EAGnews.org, 61 percent of respondents said they would support “expanding Wisconsin’s school choice program to allow every Wisconsin child to attend the public or private, including religious schools, of their choice.”
The programs are currently limited to Milwaukee and Racine.
When the language of the question was changed somewhat, to double check for accuracy, a full 58 percent said they would oppose any effort to get rid of the private school voucher programs.
The poll also focused on Milwaukee respondents, who reflected the statewide opinion.
Sixty percent of Milwaukee respondents said voucher programs should be expanded statewide and the same percent would oppose the elimination of the programs.
Why do Milwaukee residents feel this way? Probably because only 32 percent of them gave their local public schools a letter grade of A or B in the poll. Statewide 62 percent of respondents gave their local schools an A or B.
The people of Milwaukee clearly want quality choices.
Why should these sectors grow
In her op-ed, Ravitch argues that charters and voucher programs have failed because their students supposedly perform no better academically than students in public schools.
“Gov. Scott Walker’s answer to the Milwaukee problem is to call for more vouchers and charters and for virtual charters,” she wrote. “But if the students in those programs are not outperforming the ones in the public schools after 20 years, why should those sectors grow”
Ravitch put her finger on a key question – why should these sectors grow
There’s a simple answer: Because the people want them to. They’ve been speaking with their feet, and the results are perfectly clear, even for tunnel-vision folks like Ravitch.
Nearly 25,000 Milwaukee students are attending private schools through the city’s voucher program, an increase of about 1,800 from a year ago and nearly 5,000 from four years ago.
Approximately 12,000 Milwaukee students are enrolled in charter schools that are not staffed by union teachers. That figure has increased about 60 percent over the past four years.
Based on those numbers, we think it’s safe to say that the voucher program and charter schools have clearly not failed.
Of course none of this means anything to Ravitch and her pro-union crowd. They look down their noses at the average people of Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin. They don’t believe they’re smart enough to make intelligent school choices on behalf of their children.
The educrats are perfectly willing to take school choice completely away from all but the few wealthy people who can afford private school tuition.
If charters and voucher programs are dissolved, as Ravitch suggests, most kids will again be trapped in their local public schools. If they’re lucky enough to attend a high-performing public school, good for them. If they’re stuck in a failing school, oh well.
That scenario would make Ravitch and the public schools very happy. They would once again be allowed to keep every penny of state aid that’s tied to every student, without having to compete for it. And the lack of competition would allow them to completely revert to their lazy work habits and lack of accountability.
The kids aren’t learning? So what. The schools and the unions have all the money they need, and for too many in the education establishment, that’s the bottom line.
Olson is Publisher of EAGnews.org, a news service dedicated to education reform and school spending research, reporting, analysis and commentary. You can also find him on twitter @kyleolson4