This week is National School Choice Week, a time to celebrate expanding educational choices around the nation, inform communities and support efforts to help more families choose the educational environment best for their children.
Senior Advisor of Policy and Research for the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) Dr. Matthew Ladner recently answered five questions from Amplify Choice about school choice, including what it is and why it works. Read the article below to learn more.
5 Questions with Matthew Ladner, Foundation for Excellence in Education
By: Josh Kaib
January 28, 2015
Matthew Ladner is the Senior Advisor of Policy and Research for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Prior to his current position, Dr. Ladner worked at the Goldwater Institute and the Alliance for School Choice.
1) Can you summarize the meaning of school choice in one sentence?
Parental choice programs give parents the ability to choose the education that best fits the individual needs of their child.
2) What more can be done to expand school choice across the nation?
We are only getting started in expanding choice. School choice 2.0 is moving beyond just choice between schools to include choice between educational methods. Account based choice programs of the sort we now have in Arizona and Florida allow parents to customize the K-12 education of their children utilizing a number of different service providers- certified tutors, community colleges, universities, online programs, special education therapists, private school tuition, individual public school courses-controlled by parents.
Parents have an incentive to seek maximum value for each dollar spent because these account based programs allow for saving for future higher education expenses. Charter and voucher programs were the rotary telephones of our movement- an awesome technology that did one amazing thing. We are heading in the direction of iPhone choice programs- they still do that one thing well, but they also do a lot of other things.
3) Why does school choice work for students?
The secret magic of parental choice lies in the ability of parents to match the needs of their child with the strengths of a school- the good fit. One size does not fit all. This matching of the needs of students and the strengths of schools is an inherently decentralized parent driven process and a source for improvement that cannot be duplicated through any centralized process. The education system can improve in many ways but it will never reach its full potential unless we give parents as many options as possible to seek the best possible education for their child.
4) What advice do you have for parents who want to bring school choice to their part of the country?
Frederick Douglass said it best that “if there is no struggle there is no progress.” We have very powerful groups wedded to the 19th century factory model of schooling who, more out of misplaced fear than anything else, will oppose the updating of the public school model every step of the way.
5) Is there an aspect of school choice that you think is often overlooked, or doesn’t receive the attention it deserves?
Public funding for K-12 education is guaranteed in every single state constitution and is strongly supported by the public- it is here to stay. That does not however mean that the best way to organize such a system is through geographically defined attendance monopolies overseen by a bureaucracy governed by a board seated in ultra-low turnout elections. That may have been a state-of-the-art governance technology for Prussia in the 1800s but a number of more reasonable models beckon for 21st Century America.