James V. Shuls

Over the past few weeks, I have discussed four reservations some parents have about private school choice programs.

Reservation number 1: School choice may hurt traditional public schools.

Reservation Number 2: School choice gives the public less control of the school system.

Reservation Number 3: School choice may lower the quality of private schools.

Reservation Number 4: School choice does not solve the larger problem of concentrated poverty.

For each of these concerns, I noted there was some inconsistency in the thinking behind them. Often, critics of school choice set up straw-men arguments or hold school choice programs to an impossible standard.

During my study, I didn’t push parents on these issues. My goal was to hear their concerns. But a funny thing happened as parents took turns speaking; several parents recognized their own apparent hypocrisy. They sent their children to private schools, but wouldn’t support a program that would enable families with less means to do the same.

The truth is, these parents are not alone. We regularly see people opposing school choice while sending their kids to private schools. Politicians, even those who oppose school choice, often send their children to private schools. Recently, actor Matt Damon was taken to task for the same thing.

While there may be a place and time to call these “hypocrites” out, I worry that name-calling and hand-wringing will do little to bridge the divide and win people over. It is not hypocritical to want the best for your child and to want a robust public education system that effectively serves all children. All of us want this.

That’s why it is so important for school choice supporters to effectively make their case. We need to show how school choice can provide a quality education system for all kids while also providing opportunities we want for our own children. This blog series was written for this purpose, and I hope it has provided useful responses to some of the important reservations held by parents who oppose school choice. 

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls
Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.