…Yet the principles listed above are necessary, if not sufficient, in themselves: marginalized families can’t have a chance if they get the last pick of everything and their learning is constantly disrupted.
The five principles have been clear for more than 20 years, and some district leaders have tried to put them into practice. But progressive interest groups keen to right wrongs against marginalized groups have largely ignored—or in some cases attacked—these principles, as they often worked against their vested interests. (The exception, Education Trust, picked up on transparent pupil-based budgeting and got a form of it written into California law).
Why has the progressive left looked the other way? Three reasons. First, there are juicier targets, like inequitable state school finance systems, that can be attacked more cheaply through litigation and can swing impressive amounts of money even if their results are often disappointing. Second, attacking institutionally-racist practices inside school districts would pit progressive groups against teachers unions and middle-class parents, who are key funders and allies in other matters. Third, a successful propaganda operation has cast parent choice and performance-based oversight as intrusions of market thinking, and steps toward taking the public out of public education—i.e., privatization.
The third reason is the most harmful. It implicitly asserts(link is external) that the institutional biases identified above are part of a seamless web of arrangements that make up public education, and that any challenge to them threatens the whole. This can’t be true, since with these practices school districts can’t serve their core purpose of educating all children effectively. In other words, this is a failure to distinguish between the purposes of public education and the means or delivery system created to achieve those ends..
This does, however, raise the often-discussed question among many reformers, why can’t a politics of pro-school finance reform and pro-structural reform emerge, since a lot of people, myself included, support both and school finance is remarkably inequitable. But perhaps the question answers itself.