Why School Choice Got Quiet

Why School Choice Got Quiet
September 18, 2013

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

School Choice Weekly, Issue #8

The Common Core controversy seems to have sucked the air out of an exploding school choice movement. The Wall Street Journal labeled 2011 “the year of school choice” because 13 states adopted new choice programs, while 2012 saw five new voucher or tax-credit scholarship programs and a few expansions (figures from the Friedman Foundation). So far this year looks on track to mimic 2012, with three new choice states and eight expansions. The growth is significant, but AEI’s Rick Hess suggests Common Core has become a distraction:

“[T]he Common Core has bitterly split conservative supporters of school reform. Just two years ago, conservatives were starting to regain their footing on school reform and were looking to build on important state-level victories won by Republican governors in places like Louisiana, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Now, conservative reformers are deeply split, resigned to spending enormous time and energy in a bitter back-and-forth over the merits of the Common Core.

Certainly the media has finally caught onto Common Core--the topic has exploded this year. It will probably be fair to call 2013 “the year of Common Core.” The question is whether this controversy is an utter waste of time.

That all depends, of course, on whether Common Core critics are right in charging the initiative damages school choice by standardizing curriculum and tests. As Dr. Jay Greene wrote this spring, “To become something meaningful Common Core requires more centralization of power than is possible under our current political system. Pushing it forward requires frightening reductions in parental control over education and expansions of federal power.”

It appears likely school choice momentum didn’t go away in 2013 and 2012, but has been flanked by another anti-choice initiative under the guise of “higher, clearer, fewer” education standards. This is why those who care about education freedom must also care about Common Core.

SOURCES: Rick Hess Straight Up, JayPGreene.com


School Choice Roundup

  • NEW JERSEY: A poll finds 52 percent of minorities support vouchers, while 65 percent of voters overall think giving parents vouchers would lead to a major or minor improvement in education. Republicans, men, and those with less education were more likely to support vouchers in the poll.

Common Core Watch

Education Today

  • ARKANSAS: The first randomized study of field trips to an art museum finds they increase students’ tolerance, historical empathy, thinking skills, and art knowledge. The study authors say they hope to bring more attention to the benefits of civic and cultural education because many consider education test-score-based job prep.
  • WISCONSIN: A federal judge upholds contentious collective bargaining limits embedded in the infamous Act 10. He ruled the law does not infringe on employees’ rights. The state supreme court hears another case against the law in October.
  • SPENDING: A report claiming 34 states have reduced education spending since the recession leaves out local spending. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report has been popping up in state and local news stories this week, but Census Bureau figures show a nationwide increase in education spending over the past five years.

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)