In U.S. News & World Report I take a look at the opportunity Donald Trump has on school choice – and all the ways it could go off the rails:
Donald Trump didn’t say a lot about education during the presidential campaign, but he did make clear he favored school choice. His selection of Betsy DeVos, a longtime choice advocate and funder, to be secretary of education seems to indicate this is a policy area where we should, at least for now, take the president-elect both literally and seriously.
A Trump school choice push could be as disruptive as the rest of his unconventional approach to politics. Let’s be honest, there is a comfortable class of education mandarins living in exclusive suburbs enrolling their kids at so-called “public privates,” working out arrangements to send their kids to that one special school that allows them to claim public school parentage while sidestepping the problems other parents face, or taking advantage of private schools while nonetheless fighting tooth and nail to deny poor parents the same options. It’s gross, considered rude to talk about and widely normalized in an education world focused on what’s OK for other people’s kids.
On the other hand, all choice is not good choice. A quarter-century of school choice initiatives show pretty clearly the design of choice programs matters as much as their availability. DeVos should face some tough questions about her role in Michigan’s uneven charter school sector and her views on choice and accountability regulations more generally. If confirmed, she’ll then confront tough choices about how to design a school choice initiative that can both get through Capitol Hill and do some good for parents desperate for better schooling options.
This is where things get interesting…