ALL OF THE REFORMS DISCUSSED SO FAR seek to promote the individual and collective goals of education by improving public schooling—making schools and classrooms more racially integrated, more equitably funded, more academically challenging, more focused on student learning. The most vehement critics of public education, however, look at the forty-year history of reform in this country and conclude that pursuit of the American dream through public schooling is bound to fail. They believe that the current system of public education exists for the adults who work in it and eats money, that the public has invested more than enough time and resources in trying to make the system work and should try another approach. In the words of a mother and choice advocate from New Hampshire, the public system is about “Power and money! The public school system is a powerful monopoly. The people running this monopoly fear change. They fear the resulting demise of their power.” To her mind, only by fighting this “chokehold” can we promote collective as well as individual goals of schooling: … If the school system doesn’t live up to our standards, we should have the right to “save” our children. . . . Any child not educated to be the best that he can be is heartbreaking to most parents. Any child not educated to be the best that he can be is of less value to the community he lives in. . . . This is where the concept of “school choice” becomes so important as a civil right…. Advocates of choice believe that public schooling cannot work and dooms poor children. “The combination of monopoly in the public sector, significant profitability for those who serve the monopoly and the unique ability for the wealthy to choose the best schools has translated into a nightmare of predictable results for ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’” says Lisa Keegan, the former superintendent of public instruction in Arizona:… Public education in the United States should be that in which the money necessary for an education follows a child to the school his or her parent determines is best. . . . The nation cannot abide a system that is blatantly unfair in the access it provides its students to excellent education. This battle for the right of all children to access a quality education is the civil rights movement of our time, and it will succeed.
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