School-choice proponents should be swinging from
the rafters, as voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs are finding their
way into more and more states’ statutes—several of which offer aid to middle-class
families, not just impoverished ones. But fissions are emerging among the
ranks. Some, including Howard Fuller (a diehard voucher supporter and key
architect of Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program), see this as a distinct shift
away from the social-justice mission of vouchers. No longer will vouchers “help
equalize the academic options for children from low-income and working-class
families,” warns Fuller. Yet others, like John Norquist, see this expansion as
a way to keep middle-class parents in socio-economically integrated
neighborhoods even as their children grow to school age. Instead of fleeing to
rich suburban districts (often with “private”
public schools), these parents would remain in their integrated
neighborhoods—stymieing the “system that rewards concentration of the rich in
exclusive suburbs segregated from the poor” (Norquist’s words). A sticky debate
indeed. While Gadfly supports the expansion of school choice to families in
higher income brackets, he can’t help but wonder if the Year of the Funding
Cliff is the right time for this idea to come of age.
Choice and Urban Diversity,” by John Norquist, Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2011.
“Keep intact the
mission of choice program,” by Howard Fuller, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, April 23, 2011.