Denisha Merriweather has a powerful school choice story, as told by Alexandra DeSantis on National Review Online. And it has made an advocate of her:
In her view, education policy ought to be a bipartisan issue, and she thinks the strength of the school-choice movement lies in its inclusive mindset. “I do feel like the public-school advocates or the teachers’ unions always want an ‘us or them’ mentality. In their minds, you can’t have both,” she explains.
“And we on the school-choice side are not saying that at all. We’re saying, ‘Let’s all be productive, and let’s all serve our children.’ That’s one thing that really sets us apart from those who are pushing for the public-school system,” Denisha continues. “Why can’t we have more choices, and all the choices? [The unions] can’t understand that we do want to keep the public schools. We just want all of these other choices, too.”
In some respects, she’s incorrect about that. The unions, and the rest of the education establishment, have a different vision of what government schools should be — namely, the monopolistic control of all education, with only the exceptions that the very wealthy can carve out with their own money. That’s what “both” means to them.
Where poor performance and high cost become so outrageous that a somnolent public begins to wake up to the problem, the establishment will concede very limited reforms, perhaps to the degree of setting up a private school system within government itself (that is, charter schools). To rephrase Merriweather, it’s not that the establishment doesn’t believe that we can have both a public school sector and a healthy private school sector; it’s that the establishment doesn’t want both to exist.