Blurred Lines: Public School Reforms and the Privatization of Public Education
45 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 13, 2016
This Article critically examines the rise of market-based public school reforms. It argues that market-based public school reforms result in quality public education being normatively conceptualized and treated as what political economists call a private good rather than a public good. While public education is admittedly not a pure public good, it is widely recognized as a quasi or impure public good that benefits society as a whole in many ways. Yet market-based public school reforms situate public education as a private good by diminishing public education’s ability to truly bring positive externalities to society as a whole. They do so by situating the positive externalities associated with a quality public education in ways that do not benefit the greater society. Instead, market-based public school reforms allow a shallow subset of people to take advantage of market-like exchanges to select — rather than be assigned to — a particular school that they believe will provide a quality public education for only them. Little regard is given to the overall quality of education received by students collectively. Instead, market-based public school reforms allow students to individually improve their own lot, while failing to address systemic issues that plague many low-quality public schools. For these reasons, this Article makes a normative argument in favor of re-thinking market-based reforms as the primary vehicle for improving educational opportunities for poor and minority students.
Keywords: Public Education, Class, Race, Private Good, Public Good, Privitization, School Reform, School Choice, Vouchers, Charter Schools, Magnent Schools
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