In many ways, poverty is the absence of choices. No one chooses to send their kids to bed hungry; no one chooses to freeze all winter without heat. Poverty leaves people without options, without agency. But there are certain things we’ve agreed as a society you should have regardless of your ability to pay. Clean air. Clean water. Public education. These things will be there for you and your kids no matter how bad everything else gets. Or so we said.
What if you heard that there were going to be “water choice” communities? You could choose to go to whichever part of the city you wanted and your tap would dispense the water you chose. Isn’t that great?! Freedom!
“Your water has lead in it? Well, you should’ve chosen better water.”
Introducing “choice” into a system that is supposed to benefit all equally introduces inequity; it creates winners and losers. It also allows the controllers of that system to claim a level playing field. This is how we get to blame those in poverty for simply making poor choices rather than acknowledging the system’s complicity in perpetuating poverty in the first place. “School choice” has long been one of the ed-reformers’ buzzwords, and it’s one of the stepping stones on the path to privatization. Unsurprisingly, a new cottage industry has “choice” to thank for its growing profits.
NPR’s love affair with the privatization of education continued this week with a new piece on public school choice “coaches” for hire:
“Erin Roth faced a tough choice in 2015. She needed to select a school for one of her two daughters. And in Washington, D.C., where she lives, she faced a dizzying array of traditional and charter schools from which to choose.
So in her search for a public school, Roth did what parents seeking to get into the best private schools have done for years: She hired a consultant.”
The added italics was really helpful of “nprED” (as their new all-education section is called). Erin’s “tough choice” was to use private resources to get the most out of a system supposedly designed to serve everyone equally. And what allowed to her to use her private wealth to get a leg up on kids who are ostensibly offered the same exact education? School choice.
Of course, NPR’s penchant for privatization should come as no surprise given their funders. Check out The Walton Foundation’s 2016 Grant Reports, wherein you’ll find just how much it costs to buy journalism. Hint: it’s expensive!
As one executive director of an ed reform nonprofit stated, this consulting gig is “a new frontier” in the world of education-based-businesses. Even if we somehow ignore the word “frontier” and its association with a privileged few eradicating or subjugating native populations in order to enrich themselves, this is still pretty disturbing. Executive directors are developing market strategies that rely on the expansion of school choice to make money – and people have demonstrated their willingness to do just about anything to keep growing a revenue stream. Not that it’s ever been about kids…but this is blatantly not about kids. So even if school choice ends up a failed experiment for kids and families, its extreme profitability will inspire many a billionaire-funded think tank to publish “research” singing its praises.