School Choice in the Real World: Lessons from Arizona Charter Schools

By Robert Maranto; Scott Milliman et al. | Go to book overview

A comment offered in the mid- 1980s is still relevant today: "[T]he choice debate reflects a 'crisis of faith' in the 'unofficially established national church'--the public school" ( Wagoner 1986). Improving public education would help secure its status as a public good, as would a concerted, thoughtful, and sustained effort aimed at informing the public about the role of education in democratic society. What citizens need to see is a government committed to improving the public schools. They also must be able to use their (political) voice effectively, meaning that government must listen to its constituents ( Gutmann 1987; Henig 1994; Hirschman 1970). Henig observes that government can be "an attractive partner" in improving the public schools because of "its ability and willingness . . . to mobilize resources, manage them effectively, and engage in a dependable system of cooperation" ( Henig 1994: 188). Informing the public about the purpose of public education and its importance for democracy might help citizens to understand why it is--and should remain--a public good. Twenty years ago, R. Freeman Butts noted ( 1979: 9) that discussion about the societal purposes of education was "all but missing," and he suggested there is a need "to reeducate the public about the civic role of public education." Retaining its purpose and image as a public good might prove to be the major challenge facing public education for the foreseeable future, particularly if charter schools and vouchers continue to grow in popularity.


Notes
1.
Other schooling options and circumstances also might play a role in reinforcing or introducing the characterization of education as a private good. School vouchers, public school choice, and housing location decisions include the element of choice. They also could include a private element in the cases where parents are seeking to increase or change the private benefits of schooling for their children ( Levin 1987; 1991). These parents see education as a private good or prefer that it be configured in this manner. The point is that parents whose children are not in a charter school also could experience, through their child's schooling, the idea that education is or can become a private good.
2.
The rest of the community also might be influenced by the presence of charter schools. As the benefits of the program are touted using language from the market--choice, competition, increased efficiency--and as a portion of the student population is dispersed among independently operated schools, some of which focus on or attract a particular culture, other members of the community might begin to think of education as a private good as well. In Phoenix (and later Tempe) Arizona, the ATOP Academy advertises itself as a school whose mission is to develop African-American leadership, and Gan Yeladeem of Scottsdale, Arizona, has a strong Hebrew language program.
3.
Whether parents who enroll their children in a charter school already view education as a private good or make this determination based upon their

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School Choice in the Real World: Lessons from Arizona Charter Schools
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: Real World School Choice: Arizona Charter Schools 1
  • Notes 15
  • References 15
  • PART ONE Theoretical and National Perspectives 17
  • 2: And This Parent Went to Market: Education as Public Versus Private Good 19
  • Notes 35
  • Notes 36
  • 3: The Death of One Best Way: Charter Schools as Reinventing Government 39
  • Notes 55
  • References 55
  • 4: Congress and Charter Schools 58
  • Notes 65
  • Notes 67
  • 5: Charter Schools: A National Innovation, an Arizona Revolution 68
  • Notes 92
  • References 92
  • PART TWO Social Scientists Look at Arizona Charter Schools 97
  • 6: The Wild West of Education Reform: Arizona Charter Schools 99
  • References 114
  • 7: Why Arizona Embarked on School Reform (and Nevada Did Not) 115
  • References 127
  • 8: Do Charter Schools Improve District Schools? Three Approaches to the Question 129
  • Notes 139
  • Notes 140
  • 9: Closing Charters: How a Good Theory Failed in Practice 142
  • Conclusion and Recommendations for Policy Makers 156
  • Notes 158
  • References 158
  • 10: Nothing New: Curricula in Arizona Charter Schools 159
  • References 172
  • 11: How Arizona Teachers View School Reform 173
  • Notes 184
  • References 184
  • PART THREE Practitioners Look at Arizona Charter Schools 187
  • 12: The Empowerment of Market-Based School Reform 189
  • Notes 197
  • References 197
  • 13: A Voice from the State Legislature: Don'T Do What Arizona Did! 198
  • Notes 210
  • References 210
  • 14: Public Schools and the Charter Movement: An Emerging Relationship 212
  • Notes 220
  • References 220
  • 15: Whose Idea Was This Anyway? The Challenging Metamorphosis from Private to Charter 222
  • Notes 233
  • References 233
  • PART FOUR Lessons 235
  • 16: In Lieu of Conclusions: Tentative Lessons from a Contested Frontier 237
  • References 247
  • About the Editors and Contributors 249
  • Index 253
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