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School choice: A practical, pragmatic response to school failure

Fix a problem now, or hope for a resolution a decade or more away?

The Atlantic magazine has a lengthy article about families in Detroit who use Michigan’s law (“schools of choice”) that make it possible for thousands of schoolchildren to attend a school outside their district.  The article talks about parents who spend a lot of time and trouble getting their children to schools.

Tough life? Certainly. Worth it? In her mind, yes. Here’s one parent:

“I told him, ‘We’re going through these extra steps and it’s a lot to get you to school, but if this is going to help better prepare you, not only for high school and for college, but for life, then it’s what we’re going to do.’”

The sophisticated version of an anti-school choice argument is an extention of the classic work, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: When people who care the most about changing an unsatisfactory status quo leave the system, they deprive everyone else of their power to make a difference.

Yet this argument assumes that parents who see a bad situation must wait years for improvements to come, and if they don’t, well, too bad. Michigan’s schools of choice program, as well as its charter school sector, provide parents in Detroit and elsewhere with options to improve their children’s situation now, not years down the road.