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School choice will revive the Jim Crow Era

Illustration of a child on the black board during class
Illustration by: Flor Barajas | Staff Illustrator

President Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been confirmed and will begin to propose changes to the United States’s education system. The most notorious of those changes will be the implementation of a school choice voucher system to compete with public education.

The U.S. should not implement a school choice system, because it will only widen the gap between poor students and wealthy students.

The idea behind school choice is schools would have better resources since funding is only limited to the amount of money people donate to it, rather than what the government can afford to give. School choice also introduces competition between schools, which means institutions will continue to improve curriculum to outdo the rival school, which is a direct benefit to the students.

Additionally, since private schools do not receive government funding, they are not subject to as much regulation as public institutions. Therefore, a student gifted in music can attend a school where most of the education is centered on learning music, rather than subjects they will likely never use.

While this may sound like a dream, there is one factor of school choice that is often left out of the conversation, and it is the issue of discrimination.

One triumph of the Civil Rights Era includes the desegregation of public schools. However,  poverty disproportionately affected black communities more than white communities, and left black schools with outdated hand-me-down tools.

Since the schools are privately funded, applicants are subject to whatever criteria and biases the admissions personnel may hold and what you have is a recipe for segregation and disparity in education.

Allowing private school administrators sovereignty over admissions opens the door for the wealthy to purchase the best resources for a school and place tuition at a price only the wealthy can afford. Thus, resulting in an ultimatum for the poor students and their parents. Either take out a loan for your primary and secondary education or settle for the school with the lesser resources.

Perhaps it is just me, but a student being in mountains of debt before they reach college sounds absurd to me. A gifted student with a great work ethic may miss out on opportunities and greater challenges simply because they could not afford it.

If we allow this kind of rift to grow between poor and wealthy people when it comes to education, then we risk creating a picture reminiscent of America’s dark past.

Education should not be denied based on unnecessary, or sometimes uncontrollable, variables such as immigration status, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality or income.

School choice has many more benefits and potential concerns beyond what is discussed. Secretary DeVos has yet to lay out any concrete plans for the implementation of school choice, but these are some major pitfalls I hope she will consider in the development of her education plans.

-Carrington Tatum is an electronic media freshman