Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination

67 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2013

See all articles by Osamudia R. James

Osamudia R. James

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: March 26, 2013


Despite failure to improve academic outcomes or close the achievement gab, school choice policies, advanced by education legislation and doctrine, have come to dominate public discourse on public education reform in the United States, with students of color disproportionately enrolling in voucher programs and charter schools. This article moves past the typical market-based critiques of school choice to analyze the particularly racialized constraints on choice for marginalized students and their families in the public school system, the blame-placing that occurs when the individualism and independence that school choice and choice rhetoric promote fails to improve academic outcomes, and the ways in which choice merely masks racial subordination and the abdication of democratic values in the school system. Students of color and their families may be opting out, but their decisions to do so neither improve public education nor reflect genuine choice. This paper ultimately argues that the values underlining school choice and choice rhetoric, like privacy, competition, independence, and liberty, are inherently incompatible with the public school system. The paper concludes by suggesting an alternate legal and rhetorical framework acknowledging the vulnerability of minority students, as well as the interdependence between white students and non-white students in the system, and advances strict limitations on school choice, even, if necessary, in the form of compulsory universal public school education.

Suggested Citation

James, Osamudia R., Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination (March 26, 2013). Iowa Law Review, Forthcoming, University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2239954

Osamudia R. James (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

160 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
United States

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