By Pedro Noguera
NBC News Education Nation:
The problem with using vouchers as a means to expand access to quality schools for poor children is that it is based on the premise that parents are the one’s who do the choosing. The truth of the matter is that schools are the ones who choose and not parents.
When a low-income parent shows up at a private school, especially an elite school with few poor children of color, there is no guarantee that their child will be chosen for admission – even if the parent has a voucher. This is particularly true if the child has learning disabilities, behavior problems or doesn’t speak English very well. As we’ve seen with many charter schools, such children are often under-served because they are harder to serve and possession of a voucher won’t change that. Many private schools maintain quality through selective admissions and vouchers won’t change that either.
Moreover, choice assumes that a parent has access to information on the choices available and transportation. Neither of these can be assumed. Many parents choose a school based on how close it is to their home or work, rather than the school’s reputation. Many are unwilling to send their children to schools in neighborhoods far from their homes, particularly if transportation is not provided.
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