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The week in school choice: Becoming the man

Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education has a must-read on how her quest to find an appropriate school for her son changed her views on educational choice.

I’m an education researcher and policy analyst, and before that point I’d been firmly opposed to school vouchers, for all the typical reasons: their track record, concern about government money going to religious schools, equity issues and a sense that private schools weren’t accountable to parents in the same way public schools are. The voucher debate has long been cast as one between opponents and supporters of public schools, and I was – and still am – in the latter camp: someone who has always believed that public schools matter, should be funded better and have the potential (and duty) to serve all students well.

But my husband and I started adding up the money being spent on our son, between the various aides, teachers and central office staff. If the district had given us half of what they were spending, we would have been able to afford a good private school that would work well for our son.

This exercise was theoretical – the district wasn’t going to give us money, not without a lawsuit. But it made me realize that I could no longer oppose vouchers on principle. If I would have gladly accepted one, how could I oppose others getting the same opportunity?

Lake understands all school choice options must be accountable to the public — and has, at times, pushed voucher advocates on this point. It wouldn’t hurt to have more people with that outlook inside the private school choice tent, helping to make voucher programs better.

Becoming ‘the man?’

Everyone’s take going into the National Charter Schools Conference focused on the difficult political moment.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos showed up and delivered what may be her best speech since taking the post.

Underrated line: When she called access to a quality education a “basic human right.”

Democratic Congressman (and Colorado gubernatorial hopeful) Jared Polis had criticisms for DeVos before her speech. He was a no-show for a panel talking bipartisan support for charters.


Here’s an anti-voucher talking point that isn’t going away: The idea private school choice undermines democracy.

How DeVos’ personal history shapes her views on education.

What Success Academy wants to do after winning the nation’s most prestigious charter school award. A new study of charter school networks suggests its Broad Prize is well-deserved.

Rural lawmakers remain skeptical of the school choice agenda. Their communities can benefit, too!

More money really can lift student achievement. Increased funding and early learning can work great together.

Everyone’s talking about personalized learningincluding national teachers unions.

Girls outnumber boys in charter schools.

Oh, just another story about how a shot at private education changed someone’s life.

In the states…

A Kansas school spending plan would expand tax credit scholarships.

Indiana voucher schools win accountability reprieve.

An online charter is ordered to repay the state of Ohio millions.

Teachers unions help draft anti-charter school resolutions in California.

Tweet of the Week

Quote of the Week

The debate about school choice is over; it’s here. It’s going to expand.

– Lake County, Fla. school district consultant Jim Hamilton, as local officials discussed a sweeping reform plan.

The Week in School Choice is redefinED’s midweek update on news and notes from around the country. Please 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)