Don Gale misses the point on school choice
Last Saturday, Don Gale wrote an op-ed in the Deseret Morning News in opposition to school choice. This should surprise no one, considering Gale's consistently liberal positions. For those of you too young to remember, Gale was KSL's editorialist during the 1970s and 1980s.
In the past, we've heard Gale describe conservatives as reactionary and resistant towards progressive change. Ironically, opponents of school choice are the reactionaries, and some of the old definitions of liberal and conservative don't apply to this issue.
Fortunately, Gale did not repeat the erroneous "draining money from public schools" and "fixed costs" arguments nor did he cite the illogical "vouchers are subsidies for private schools" argument, but he did make some unfounded accusations against parents who want school choice and students who are beneficiaries of school choice.
Below are some excerpts (in italics) with our commentary. When reading these statements, keep in mind how American higher education -- which is the epitome of education choice where students are not assigned to a particular college or university based on their residence and where many students receive vouchers (Pell Grants) -- would look if Gale's sentiments regarding K-12 education prevailed in higher education.
- Truly special children perform well academically whether or not they are in special schools, but they become better human beings if they experience a real-world school environment.
Nearly everyone knows that students have different learning styles and that one particular method of instruction cannot possibly be the best for all students. For some, math is easy. For others, math is hard, unless it is taught to them in a particular manner (and there are several ways to teach math). To expect any school -- public, charter, or private -- to teach all students effectively using one particular instructional approach is unreasonable. The math controversy in Alpine School District demonstrates this point. Some parents realize that Alpine's math program is not good for their children and have enrolled their children in one of the many charter schools located in northern Utah County. However, other parents realize that Alpine's math program is great for their children and have decided to keep their children in Alpine schools.
- "Choice" students will grow up thinking they are elite and should associate only with others like themselves. . . [T]he parents want to take their "special" children away from schools where mere ordinary folks congregate.
Unfortunately, Gale plays the elitism card here. However, since the rich can already afford private schools (vouchers are targeted towards low income families) and/or live in neighborhoods with high-achieving district schools, elitism is not the issue. Gale erroneously maintains that the real motivation for these parents is making sure that their children don't associate with the masses of the great unwashed when their real motivation is much more pure and praiseworthy: making sure that their children get the best education possible.
- And proponents either do not understand or do not care that children in every classroom need the academic pacesetters and student leaders who are part of the school choice exodus.
Gale falsely assumes that only the high achievers will go to private or charter schools. The high achievers are actually the most likely to stay in public schools because they are already receiving a good education. Most school choice proponents acknowledge that many students are currently receiving a great education in district schools. School choice is targeted towards those children who are not achieving their academic potential. Moreover, vouchers are targeted towards children in low income families, generally the most difficult and expensive children to educate (that's why Title I funding exists).
- School choice is not the issue. The issue is community involvement.
Actually, the issue is what's best for the individual student. Individual student needs should not be sacrificed on the altar of so-called "community involvement". Parents will actually be more involved in their schools if they have a financially viable choice as to where their students attend school.