By Rogelio Saenz, For the Express-News : October 23, 2013 : Updated: October 23, 2013
Rogelio Saenz is the dean of the College of Public Policy and Peter Flawn Professor of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“School choice in Texas a matter of civil rights,” Other Views, Sunday:
Jeff Judson argues that school choice legislation helps students “escape bad schools,” which Attorney General Greg Abbott views as “the civil rights issue of our time.” Diane Ravitch, in her recently published book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” provides much-needed perspective to understand the motives of efforts to advance school choice and high-stakes testing. Ravitch, a former U.S. assistant secretary of education, once was an advocate for charter schools and high-stakes testing. She no longer holds these views. Ravitch describes a movement aimed at diverting public school funding to charter and for-profit schools under the guise of “civil rights.” Replete with a war chest funded by the well-heeled likes of Bob and Melinda Gates, the Koch brothers and Alice Walton of the Sam Walton family, the school-choice movement has used all means at its disposal to demonize the public school system and its educators. Ravitch argues that “these attacks create a false sense of crisis and serve the interests of those who want to privatize the public schools.” Ravitch also points to a lack of evidence that charter schools outperform public schools. And, generally, charter schools are less likely to enroll groups with special needs including students of color, the poor and students with disabilities. When it comes to the privatization of public schools, we need to be clear on whom proponents of school choice are advocating for — students or investors? In the context of the Texas Legislature failing to treat public education as a priority when the majority of Texas students are Latinos and African-Americans, we need to be leery when people associate efforts to divert public education funding to charter and for-profit schools as “the civil rights issue of our time.”