Blurred Lines: Public School Reforms and the Privatization of Public Education

45 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2016

See all articles by Erika K. Wilson

Erika K. Wilson

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: December 13, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Erika K., Blurred Lines: Public School Reforms and the Privatization of Public Education (December 13, 2016). Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 51, p. 189, 2016, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2884878, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2884878

Erika K. Wilson (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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