A Coronavirus Case for School Choice

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A Facebook post by state Senator Gordon Rogers (R — Coventry, Foster, Scituate, West Greenwich) points out the significance of a maneuver by Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

Remember last week after the governor said schools will be opening back up to give students the three options

  1. in school instruction
  2. a hybrid of virtual and in school
  3. virtual instruction

Shortly after last weeks conference and the statement on schools opening the city of Warwick teachers (union) said nope that’s not gonna happen!!!!

Then a few other towns hinted the same.

So did you see the slick check mate statement made at today press conference from the education Commissioner “they were gonna allow students in community’s with school that do not open to be allowed to go to communities that do! Check mate

Kinda a brilliant move to force those districts to rethink that option because remember the money follows the children and the transportation costs are covered by the town the child comes from!

As always, it’s helpful to state the underlying truth of what has happened.  The governor wanted the decision about the mode of education to be up to families.  An entrenched special interest group pushed back on that directive.  The incentives for school districts are heavily weighted in favor of the special interest, rather than the families they serve, so the governor created some incentive for school committees and administrators to stand up to them.

This, in direct application, is the case for school choice all the time.  When families just have to follow along with what their city or town’s school department decides, they are effectively captive.  Yes, they can vote for the school committee and/or mayor, but that power is limited by the number of candidates and the large mix of issues to consider.  Moreover, the incentive structure is against reform:  The benefits of being on a school committee are pretty meager and, in any event, pale in comparison with the attacks and discomfort a member will face if he or she attempts to change the system in a significant way.

So: school choice.  It pits the pressure of the special-interest-dominated system against the incentive that parents have to secure a better education for their children (and that taxpayers have to get value for their money).  School committee members then have to make decisions understanding that they can deal with problems now or later, in worse circumstances.