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Will Public Schools Survive the Era of School Choice?

Yesterday Betsy DeVos was tapped as the Secretary of Education by the Trump administration. Tonight many educators in traditional public schools are cringing and bracing for the worst because DeVos is known in Michigan for her support of school vouchers and charter schools.

The charter school topic can be a very controversial among educators, especially when it comes to discussing funding. For decades the public school system has enjoyed a kind of funding “monopoly” with regard to school funding. Until now the public school system has never had to share funding with anyone.

A Competitive Market

As an current educator in a public school system and entrepreneur my view of the current state of public education is very different from most educators. I tend to look at the educational field as a market. I know many educators reading this will say education can’t be run as a business. I agree to a certain extent. The current playing field of education has changed and is now a competitive market, partially due to the public school system’s inability to fix its own

The students and parents have changed but you know what has NOT changed, the way that the public school system operates. Public school leaders continue to operate the public school system based on a model that does not meet the needs of students, parents, or teachers. So now you have philanthropists and businesses interested in turning the public school system into a market where the parents are the consumers.

The New Playing Field

I had the opportunity to work at a charter school and the one thing that I noticed that they do differently is they aggressively pursue the students that attend their schools. Whether you agree with it or not public school systems are going to have to change the way that their business offices operate if they want to survive the Trump administration or any other administration. In a competitive market a brand has to fill a need in the market. Charter schools have become relevant because school districts became comfortable with being the only rodeo in town. Low income students were trapped in public school systems with nowhere else to go until charter schools moved into their neighborhoods. So now you have rich people and business exploiting poor parents by dangling the carrot of school choice through for-profit charter schools that benefit no one except for the businesses that finance them.

I, like most educators know that Besty DeVos is NOT qualified to be the Secretary of Education. The question that continues to pop up in the back of my mind is how can public schools survive the era of school choice? The only answer that I can come up with is to level the playing field by implementing the same business tactics that are being used to lure students away from the public school system. Public school systems can position themselves as a competitor by:

  • creating a brand that is respected by all stakeholders and not fueled by nepotism
  • addressing the needs of all students through Community Schools
  • providing access to STEM programs for all of its schools
  • retaining, training and supporting teachers who work at high needs schools
  • choosing leaders of high needs schools who are not ladder climbers and are invested in the community/school
  • seeking students for their schools instead of allowing students to leave the school without finding out why
  • educating parents on choosing programs that are right for children
  • creating a safe environment for students and staff members by addressing student discipline

Will Public Schools Survive?

Public schools still have the lion’s share of school funding but if they continue to ignore the needs of its high needs schools they will continue to lose students and funding to charter schools. I’m really rooting for the public school system because I would really hate to see public school system be remembered like Blockbuster Video because it could not find a way to stay relevant. I know educators do not like to view public education as a business but you know, “When in Rome you do as the Romans do.”

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