In Lieu of Conclusions: Tentative Lessons from a Contested Frontier
ROBERT MARANTO, SCOTT MILLIMAN, FREDERICK HESS, APRIL GRESHAM
Schools embody our highest hopes and our worst fears. We want them to be places where our children are raised to be virtuous and capable citizens, but we fear they may be places where our children are exposed to nefarious influences and permitted to founder. We have a mythical conception of public schools as anchors of the communities, or as places where communities together settle upon shared values and invest for the common welfare, but we too often see schools as riddled by inattention and neglect, or by conflict and gridlock.
Against a backdrop of hopes and fears, school choice plans have won widespread attention in recent years. Although numerous scholarly works have explored school choice, the work has been of necessity either theoretical or speculative, with much of the latter based on small-scale choice programs or on statistical speculations based on private school enrollments. In Arizona, for the first time, a state has implemented relatively comprehensive school choice through charter schools. The works in this volume represent the first published examination of a large-scale, comprehensive school choice system in the real world.
In Arizona and across the nation, the frontiers of school choice are sharply contested terrain. As in Rashomon, different observers see very different events. Still, it is our contention that a careful reading of the works in this volume presents several lessons for policy makers, educators, and citizens in other states.