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Nov 9, 2020

American Education: The party of choice and the party of resources

Betsy DeVos has been a staunch advocate of the “party of choice” in American education. It believes that giving parents choice will lead to more innovation, and spur competition among all schools, making all education more competitive and more successful overall. Not only Republicans, but distinguished Democrats have been the supporters of this party in the past. The “party of resources” believes that improvement of K-12 education is possible with more resources, better paid and better trained teachers allocated to traditional public schools. Joe Biden’s pre-election platform sits squarely in the domain of the “resource party.” Both of these parties support accountability.

Why did the Democratic Centrists seem to abandon their support for the party of choice in education? For a trumpist, it is evidence of the Left wing taking over the Democratic Party. However, the answer is much simpler. With time passed since the Clinton administration, we have much more evidence. Effectiveness of charter school is still a matter of considerable debate (see a decent review in Wikipedia.) However, the debate is really about the margins. The revolutionizing effect of deregulation ma y people expected did not happen. I don’t think anyone disputes that now. Yes, some urban charter schools can be SLIGHTLY better than traditional public schools. However, the seem to increase racial segregation, and may actually hurt certain groups of kids more than help them. Again, these negative effects are also not very large. The overall outcome of the debate is very, very boring: charter schools do about as well as traditional public schools.

This is one of the few examples where social science may actually have made a real impact on policy. At least, there is a visible shift within the Democratic establishment. Thanks to numerous educational researches who conducted hundreds of studies that made this shift possible. Those of who enter into doctoral programs in education, should know this.

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