Joel Klein and Condi Rice say parental choice is ‘No. 1’

At Jeb Bush’s National Summit on Education Reform in Washington, D.C. last week, two prominent education reformers from the center-left and the center-right joined to make a remarkable statement about parental choice. Asked from the audience to name their “No. 1 idea” to improve public education, former New York City school chancellor Joel Klein and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answered with a remarkably united voice.

Their three minutes of extemporaneous remarks are well worth your time, and are available through here.

In brief, Klein spoke of the way various types of learning options, including charter schools, have helped spur improvements in New Orleans and Harlem: “About a third of the kids in Harlem in the third grade are in charter schools. What’s amazing is the Harlem District went up, and this is apples to apples, went up dramatically from when we started this intensive choice process there to now. … Not only did the charter schools outperform almost everybody, but the public schools … actually moved up significantly themselves.”

Rice spoke to how competitive pressures have produced a “catalytic” effect in higher education, and noted that only wealthier families tend to have choice in a K-12 system where pupil assignment is determined only by geography: “So the only people stuck in neighborhood schools are poor people, and that’s the height of inequality. And that’s why I’ve called it a civil rights issue.”

Avatar photo

BY Jon East

Jon East is special projects director for Step Up For Students. Previously, he was a member of the editorial board and the Sunday commentary editor at the St. Petersburg Times, Florida’s largest daily newspaper, where he wrote about education issues for most of his 28 years at the paper. He was also a reporter and editor at the Evening Independent and Ocala Star-Banner. He earned a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.