Playing the prophet for choice

“The wisest prophets make sure of the event first.”

Letter to Thos. Walpole, Horace Walpole

Such good advice notwithstanding, let us assume that the state of Montucky adopts an across-the-board system of school choice – vouchers of substantial amount for all. Participating schools, public and private, are free to choose two-thirds of their admissions, the rest to be decided by lottery among the unchosen.

Other regulations ensure that all parents have access to relevant information, assistance in navigating the process, and the schools’ commitment to fair treatment for all those admitted, including due process for cases of dismissal for scholastic failure or misbehavior.

Schools may teach religion but without requiring affirmation by the dissenter – and so forth.

With such assumptions the question becomes: What will be the social, civic and intellectual effects of such a scheme?

Any forecast is just that and no more, but today’s parental dissatisfaction and the advent of broad state systems of choice invite our speculation regarding the effects of liberating the lower-income parent (or perhaps all parents) to choose like the rest of us.

Here, then, is my own broad and basic forecast of a few major effects.

  • Most middle class and wealthy parents will choose to stay with the same public school they have already chosen when deciding upon their residence.
  • Lower-income parents in the city will, in considerable number, shift either to a different public school or to one of a growing number of participating private schools in this neighborhood.
  • Most inner-city public schools will learn to compete in the new market, the bulk of these becoming sufficiently popular to survive or even to flourish.
  • The inner-city child will begin to experience parent and family as a center of dignity and authority which determines important matters for their children.
  • Lower-income parents will, at last, experience self-respect in their role as responsible citizens; gradually they and their children will take their proper place as equals in our society and will behave as such.

For three or four years, there will be occasional chaos as schools and parents learn to adjust. Some new schools will have brief lives, either for want of student applications, failure to satisfy the choosing parents, or termination by the state for violation of the rules.

America will gradually emerge as the true friend of family and freedom.