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October 21st, 2017

The “School Choice” Gambit

Editor,
From all the militant ranting concerning “school choice,” one gets the feeling that difficult objective circumstances have left most people so without choice in the essential areas of their lives, that they’re clinging to the one thing that gives them a sense of freedom. Which is a shame, because it diverts attention from the only educational issue that has any real meaning and social value: the centrality of free public education to our democracy, and the need to maintain it at the highest levels. This means well-trained, well-paid teachers, and the provision of state-of-the-art facilities and technology across the board and equally to every public school in the state.

As a transplanted New Yorker, I have through experience a perspective denied many Vermonters. I raised seven children who today have seventeen degrees between them virtually all attained through free public education. Grammar school and intermediate school left no choices; you went to the school in your district, period. High school offered a handful of specialized schools for which one had to qualify. Failing that (if one even applied), you attended the high school in your district, period.

When it came to college, the City University of New York (CUNY) provided many schools that were, back then, virtually free and that, even today, charge a tuition that at $6,330 a year is a fraction of what most colleges demand.

So stop being conned by the “choice game,” and put your efforts into free, quality, equalized public education for all Đ right through college. It’s completely doable if the public focuses on the core issues and wills it. If you look closely, you’ll find that the “choice game” is being promoted by those who have a money interest in education, and who, as with Trump, would like to see the entire system privatized. For an indication of the disaster that would be, take a hard look at charter schools those privatized schools subsidized by taxpayers. Most perform no better than the public schools, many worse, and those that show improvement do so through selective registration i.e., denying admission to low performing and impaired students, which public schools are not permitted to do by law. You’ll also find that the movement to privatized charter schools is heavily endowed by billionaires such as the Walton and Gates families Đ all of whom struggle to pay their workers the lowest possible wages and provide minimal benefits. Such is their concern for the public!

Defense of school choice and the privatization of education can take the most disingenuous forms. For example, a former educator recently declared that, “local town taxpayers ‘approve’ of us (a private school) through their annual property tax payments” (Manchester Journal, 12/23/16). This is akin to saying that Americans, by paying their federal taxes, approve of U.S. military aggression, the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, and an outrageously over-bloated “defense” budget.

Education is not like choosing and automobile. It should offer only one model: the best and most advanced Đ and free for everyone.

Andrew Torre
Londonderry, VT

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