Gambling on National Security

If policymakers want to play a bit of poker, they should save their gambling for the card table and keep it out of education reform. In a Huffington Post column, Schott Foundation President and CEO John Jackson calls the weak hand of the policymakers who are pushing for more privatization in our nation's public schools. 

In particular, Jackson tackles a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations, written by Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice, that argues that failing public schools could spell disaster for our national security by not adequately preparing students to maintain our nation's economic vitality and international competitiveness or to staff our military and diplomatic corps. 

These are high stakes we're playing with, but as Jackson notes in his column, more privatization isn't the answer:

"But simply encouraging more competition, choice, and privatization within our nation's schools, as Klein and Rice advocate, does not constitute the systemic, scalable or sustainable solution that our country needs or that the report claims to present. The dissenting opinions included with the report criticize the authors' policy recommendations for promoting a reform agenda that is based on inconclusive evidence and that fails to address the serious issue of inequity in education funding and opportunity.

In her dissenting opinion, Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond notes that "the nation's largest multistate study on charter schools found that charters have been, overall, more likely to underperform than to outperform district-run public schools serving similar students." Voucher programs perform even worse in empirical studies.

More importantly, charters and vouches siphon badly needed resources away from our public schools and thereby undermine the institution at the heart of our nation's democracy. By neglecting to mention the negative consequences of school privatization, the report is pushing an agenda that encourages us to forsake our public responsibility to education and to deny public schools the resources they need to educate all of our children."

Instead, Jackson argues, we would do well to follow the equitable funding example of the Department of Defense. The DoD's K-12 schools, which serve the children of armed service members, are miles ahead of public schools in academic achievement, racial integration, and closing the achievement gap between students of color and their White peers. And they've done all this without implementing any of the hallmark policies of the privatization agenda. 

Check out Jackson's full column here

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