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The week in school choice: Breaking through the noise

In the wake of the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, and amid the political tensions that remain, a few key points should break through the noise.

Understanding the teachers union politics that drove the Senate confirmation vote.

Three lessons reformers had better learn from the battle. Here’s what the new education secretary could actually do. What she doesn’t do may matter most.

A sharp point from Vox:b

If done with integrity, however, this diversification of primary and secondary education is clearly a threat to the privileged status of public schools. In objecting to Betsy DeVos on the grounds that she is insufficiently committed to the public schools above all other deliveries of education, her opponents are maintaining a narrow and disappointing status quo, whether they realize it or not.

DeVos says all systems are still go for federal school accountability.


Charter schools are more diverse than people think.

Simple talking points on segregation don’t tell the whole story.

Education savings accounts are on the move in the Virginia Legislature. Will they see a different result than last year? Nevada’s state treasurer comes under fire for his handling of ESAs.

Matthew Ladner tries to referee school choice’s internecine “accountability” debate.

I’m pro-testing. I’m pro-accountability. It’s test-driven accountability I’m not so sure about.”

Lessons from Canada: “Good public schools don’t require uniformity.”

District-charter collaboration helps improve schools in Lawrence, Mass.

Could school buildings become part of a federal infrastructure plan? This, too, could be a district-charter collaboration opportunity. Charters definitely feel the pain.

School choice can save communities billions of dollars.

A rural North Florida school district could soon convert all (both) its traditional public schools to charters.

Context: Here’s how charter conversions worked in federal school improvement programs.

In higher grades, the turnaround model (firing the principal and half the staff) and the restart model (converting to a charter school) produced better results than the commonly used transformation approach. However, according to the study, the charter conversion gains seemed to be largely because the new school took on a more advantaged student population, not because the school was much better.

More bad voucher history. This time it’s from Sen. Tim Kaine.

The new definition of public education, as debated in 2003.

Pushback of the Week

The Washington Post reports rural public-school administrators are wary of school choice. They fear most schools of choice are too far away for their students to reach. They also fear an exodus of students to choice options would rob them of already-tight funding. Neither of these fears is unfounded, but they are mutually exclusive. Either students have options, and they’ll leave public schools when school choice programs come online, or they don’t, and they won’t. There are more, and better, private and charter school options in rural America than many people assume. See here, here and here for examples from Florida.

Quotes of the Week

“There will be no relationship with Betsy DeVos.”

– Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association.
“Jefferson Academy is a public middle school on the rise and a great example of the successful collaborative innovations occurring within the D.C. Public Schools system. Focusing on their students and families is at the heart of Jefferson Academy’s approach, and that’s exactly what I believe is at the heart of providing an exceptional education. Great teachers and leaders help make great schools, and I was honored to speak with Jefferson’s team about our shared commitment to strengthening public education.”

– DeVos, from a statement on a school visit that almost didn’t happen.

Tweet of the Week

The Week in School Choice is our weekly compendium of news and notes from around the country. Sign up here to get it in your inbox, and send links, tips, pushback or feedback to tpillow[at]sufs[dot]org.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at)