The parent problem
Suburban parents aren't buying what school reformers are selling, argues budding conservative writer RiShawn Biddle in The American Spectator. "For middle-class parents, vouchers and charters are unappealing because they have already exercised choice--in the form of buying pricey homes in suburban neighborhoods. The idea of poor students flooding their schools is therefore unappealing." Nor are these affluent parents overly concerned about academic rigor. Biddle points to this Education Next article by Brian Jacob and Lars Lefgren to demonstrate that many affluent parents want to coddle their children instead of challenge them. So what's the solution? Many choice advocates are focusing their efforts on communities where parental dissatisfaction with public schools runs high--i.e., poor, inner-city neighborhoods. Biddle instead suggests pairing academic offerings with "lifestyle" goodies such as after-school enrichment programs to woo middle-class families. Perhaps the editors at the Spectator wouldn't let him say it straight: "universal" choice--in the form of widespread vouchers and charters--just isn't appealing to many parents. With all respect to the late Milton Friedman, it might be time to accept that fact and move on.
"No Parent Left Behind," by RiShawn Biddle, American Spectator, November 15, 2007