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Opinion | “School choice” is a scam designed to hurt the most vulnerable students

We know the answers to fixing struggling schools. But a lot of people would just rather take the money and run.


The other day, I took my daughter to the local public park, and boy, were we ever disappointed. The swings were out of date, the slide looked dangerous, the climbing wall didn’t challenge her and some of the local kids were being too rowdy for her to even concentrate on what she was doing. 

So, I did what any good parent would do – I packed her up and we went door to door explaining to our neighbors that they needed to chip in on the cost of taking her to a private trampoline park down the road. 

My neighbors, a bunch of commie libs apparently, called me insane and slammed their doors. These people don’t care at all about parental choice, I guess. They just love the socialism of Big Parks. It’s a real shame what the park workers unions have done to public parks. 

This is the lunacy of “school choice” in a nutshell. 

A bunch of entitled, selfish people want me and you to pay for their choice to duck out of the local public schools. They want to suck funds away from struggling schools. And they’re perfectly fine with leaving tens of thousands of the most vulnerable kids in our state drowning in underperforming schools that are losing even more resources and personnel. 

And somehow, to watch these people lose their minds red-faced screaming about their “choice,” they have managed to convince themselves that not only do they deserve to have us pay for it, it’s actually the right thing. 

It’s insanity. 

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And honestly, I’m tired of everyone pretending that these people have a point. They don’t. Not even a small one. 

Look, if you want to send your kids to a private school, knock yourself out. I don’t judge you for it. I don’t think less of you. It’s your CHOICE as a parent to do so. 

But public education isn’t about parental choice. It’s about citizens’ responsibility to build an educated society because of the scores of benefits that come from doing so. 

In this state, though, we’ve taken a wholly different approach. An approach that was designed by racism. 

That approach: Run. 

It started in the 1950s when Black children were allowed to attend the separate-but-equal white schools. Immediately, a lot of white families made the first school choice – to run to private schools or to exclusive schools in white suburbs. And they’ve been running ever since. 

To the breakaway school districts. To the charter schools. To the magnet programs. 

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All in an effort to avoid solving the problems with the solutions that we all know work. Because despite what people pretend, creating quality public schools isn’t a mystery. It takes adequate funding, proper personnel to address all student needs, parental involvement and a variety of educational paths for students to choose. 

The answer to a poor performing public school isn’t everyone running away, which seems to be the school choice crowd’s response. It’s everyone running to it. With funding and resources and assistance. 

Somehow, Alabama’s funding structure for schools seems to indicate that the state believes providing struggling schools – almost all of which are in high poverty areas – with less funding is the answer to solving their problems. It’s not. It hasn’t ever worked a single time. 

What it has done instead is leave scores of children – usually learning disabled students – in the worst possible schools and with no hope of ever climbing out of the poverty that holds them down.

And now the “school choice” crowd wants to do it on a grander scale. Do you honestly think a $7,000 tax rebate is going to help Alabama’s poorest, most at-risk kids? If you do, you need to go back to school. 

First of all, almost no private school’s annual tuition is $7,000 or less. Second, transportation isn’t included. Third, they haven’t eaten yet. 

  It’s such a dumb solution to the problem that it’s almost comical. Like something you’d see on a sitcom where the clueless, ultra-rich antagonist tries to solve a working man’s problem with a Rolls-Royce solution.  

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If you want to fix the education system in this state, try the Costanza approach and do the opposite. Instead of sucking dollars and resources away from struggling schools, try flooding them with resources and money. Divert money away from districts with high income levels that can afford to chip in more in local taxes and instead push that funding to the worst performing schools – for personnel and security and adult classes and workforce training and free breakfast and lunch programs and after-school care. 

And if you want choice, try this: Allow students within a county to attend any county or city school within that county, and provide the free- and reduced-lunch kids with transportation funding. 

Most of all, stop pretending that “school choice” in its current form is anything other than a scam perpetrated by the greediest scumbags among us as a way to get their slimy fingers on all that sweet, sweet public school money. Because that’s all it is. 

And they’re perfectly willing to throw away the lives of poor kids in their efforts to get that cash. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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