MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

With or Without Betsy DeVos, "School Choice Has Achieved Escape Velocity" [Reason Podcast]

Jay P. Greene, TwitterJay P. Greene, TwitterDonald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is one of his most controversial cabinet picks. The Michigan-based philanthropist and school-choice activist is expected to redirect federal policy to a full embrace of school choice, of giving parents and students more options when it comes to K-12 education. For that very reason, DeVos has met with a firestorm of protest and pushback from teacher unions and their supporters in Congress. Democrats such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who was once a strong supporter of exactly the charter-school and other reforms pushed by DeVos, are now saying that she is unqualified for the office and that school choice doesn't work.

For Jay P. Greene, a leading education-reform researcher at the University of Arkansas and a strong proponent of school choice, the battle over DeVos is largely beside the point. Yes, he grants, it matters if the secretary of Education uses a bully pulpit to promote school choice. But the feds only supply about 10 percent of funding for K-12 schools and most of that is doled out via predetermined formulas. Most education policy still gets set at the state and local levels, he says, and school choice has "achieved escape velocity," rising from essentially zero students 20 years ago to over 3 million today. Whether in the form of charters, vouchers, or education savings accounts (ESAs), parents of middle- and upper-middle class students are now demanding more and better options for their kids. The political power of such constituents is impossible to turn back, says Greene, who runs a lively and data-rich group blog on education.

TwitterTwitterIn the newest Reason podcast, Greene talks with me about how school choice is reshaping the experience of millions of kids in positive ways, why John Oliver's anti-charter school rant is flat-out wrong, and why he thinks many education reformers are wrong to push the social-justice aspect of school reform. Yes, low-income children benefit most immediately from access to better schools, he says, but the path to universal choice in education requires the political muscle of self-interested, politically powerful parents demanding the best for their own kids. Greene also assails the denigration of the traditional liberals arts in primary, secondary, and higher education, arguing that without thorough exposure to history, literature, philosophy and related subjects, we are minimizing the ability of children to fully participate in their own self-creation and the larger world.

Greene offers a powerful and uplifting libertarian vision of the role of education that firmly rejects not only centralized control but also stultifying conformity. If you want to get a sense of not only where education policy is headed but the role it can and should play in a truly free society, listen now.

Produced by Ian Keyser.

Subscribe to the Reason Podcast at iTunes and never miss an episode. Click below to listen now at SoundCloud.

Follow us at Soundcloud.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Subscribe to Reason magazine for just $15 a year!

National School Choice Week runs from through January 28. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice—charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans.

As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radically altered and made better by letting more people have more choices when it comes to learning. For a constantly updated list of stories, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • See Double You||

    Hurr hurr durr durr grizzly bearz.

  • Sumio Mondo, Jr.||

    why John Oliver's anti-charter school rant is flat-out wrong

    John Oliver should have this thrown in his face at every opportunity.

    This was his attempt at face-saving. Kind of funny, but the whole "comedians doing news" thing needs to go away.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Why? John Oliver does good work much of the time and occasionally does excellent work.

  • Sumio Mondo, Jr.||

    Could you point me in the direction of some of that good work? I'm not snarking here; I'd like to see an example of what you're talking about.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    Civil asset forfeiture.

    He's a douche, but he occasionally gets things right.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Police Accountability

    Municipal Violations

    We're limited in the number of links we can add, but his thing on Trump's wall is also pretty good. He doesn't get everything right, but he delves deeper into issues that most media outlets don't even bother with.

  • paranoid android||

    I'm not a regular viewer of the show (there's just something about a smug British guy that makes me reflexively want to oppose him, but I'll admit that's not entirely rational and says nothing about the quality of his opinions), but do you ever get the feeling that there's an implication behind his reporting (even on libertarian hobby-horses like asset forfeiture) that he's trying to say, "Oh, but all these problems would be solved if only you Americans elected more Progressive top men to save you from yourselves"? It could be that I just assume too much about his opinions because of the smug Brit thing, but I dunno, what do you think?

  • Hugh Akston||

    He is harder on Team Red than he is on Team Blue, but he rarely if ever advocates voting for one party over the other. He usually focuses on "this is the kind of reform that we need to address this problem." And the problems he tackles rarely have paternalistic solutions. On his food waste segment, he suggested enacting a permanent tax deduction for restaurants and grocery stores that donate old food and loosening standards for what constitutes aesthetically pleasing produce.

  • RAHeinlein||

    Public school boy...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What, dear readers, do we suppose is the Democrats' reason for holding desperately onto a public school monopoly on education tax dollars? Is it the teachers union lobby and voting bloc? Is it the belief that they can keep a hold on educating/indoctrinating the next generation to think - and vote - correctly? Or is it a sincere belief that, despite evidence to the contrary, minority students will be left to flounder in underfunded public schools once education dollars become mobile?

  • Drake||

    I live in NJ where education is one of the excuses for a gigantic, bloated, corrupt money game. The highest property taxes in the country and income tax-dollars get commingled and doled out as political favors. Armies of Assistant Principals and Guidance Counselors are hired on as patronage jobs.

    Why would you want to interrupt this finely oiled machine with this talk of choice and quality?

  • Microaggressor||

    The more I read the hysteria, the more it comes off like a cornered animal fighting for its life. When the evidence-based facts are against them, they invent their own reality and declare the evidence-based facts to be alternative facts. The Teacher's Union racket is their livelihood.

    Gotta give props to Rick Steves, though, for coming up with one of the best scams (PR stunt?) to profit off the stupidity of useful idiots.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    I said I'd give a dollar to the @ACLU for every dollar spent at http://ricksteves.com on Inauguration Day

    Pretty strange way to make a profit

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Is it the teachers union lobby and voting bloc?

    Yes.

    Is it the belief that they can keep a hold on educating/indoctrinating the next generation to think - and vote - correctly?

    Not so much. See #1.

    Or is it a sincere belief that, despite evidence to the contrary, minority students will be left to flounder in underfunded public schools once education dollars become mobile?

    See #1, if education dollars become mobile, that means mobile away from the unions.

    Here in Washington, the State Supreme Court ruled that the schools were not "adequately funded" and ordered the state to come up with the plan or fine itself $100,000 a day. (I guess that money goes from the left pocket into the right pocket or something).

    The plan getting the most attention is a plan to give teachers an eleventy thousand percent raise. That's it. Adequately funding public education means buying a ferrari for every teacher. Problem solved.

  • The Other Kevin||

    I think it's mostly the teachers unions. They are extremely powerful and very noisy. But I think another thing is that they are going to reflexively defend any government program, because they truly believe to their core that government is the best solution to any problem and the only thing keeping the country from descending into chaos.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    It's the teachers' unions. By a long shot. They make up some of the most consistent donor pools and sources of grassroots labor their party has.

  • ||

    And it's not just the teachers, it's all those other public school jobs as well - cafeteria workers, bus drivers, teachers' aides, administrators, support staff, maintenance personnel. In many localities the schools are the biggest single government enterprise. It's patronage, pure and simple.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    The proggies screamed bloody murder that there wasn't enough diversity in Trump's cabinet picks. Now they call one of his picks "unfit." Misogynists.

  • Sumio Mondo, Jr.||

    Sen. Cory Booker, who was once a strong supporter of exactly the charter-school and other reforms pushed by DeVos, are now saying that she is unqualified for the office and that school choice doesn't work.

    Let's not just blithely assume that he did this for rank partisan reasons just because that's exactly why he did,

  • commodious rebrands||

    parents of middle- and upper-middle class students are now demanding more and better options for their kids, which is why progs will clench their death grip around poor families ever more tightly.

  • ||

    ^This.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    According to what I have learned from reading comments attached to NYT articles, the job of the Secretary of Education is to promote and expand the role of the federal government in the current public education system.

    Nobody gives a shit about the students.

    Also- one particularly precious comment I saw postulated the propensity for wasteful spending not directly related to academic performance (teh JEEZIS!) by private or charter schools; that person has apparently never driven past a high school football venue, or the multitudinous other "sports complexes" appended to public schools.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    The metric is money. Money is a proxy for power. The metric is power.

  • Microaggressor||

    The metric IS money to the Teacher's Union racket. Follow the money and that statement is a sobering proof of accidentally revealed preferences.

  • ||

    ^This

  • Chips&Salsa||

    I am the walrus?

  • robc||

    I have asked people before (to general befuddlement):

    Do you support public education or public schools?

    Because it is possible, in fact probably necessary, to oppose the latter and support the former.

    Now, I only consider school choice and vouchers as a step in the right direction, not the ultimate goals, but it is a step.

    What the guy in NC that reason ran multiple stories on this week is taking bigger steps.

  • cavalier973||

    Several of my Facebook acquaintances are strongly urging people to contact Senators to oppose her appointment.

    Trump should threaten to shut down the department if the person he thinks is qualified to run it isn't confirmed.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    The proggies my wife works with think that public education will literally come to an end entirely if the DoE is shut down.

    They don't even know what it is or does.

  • ||

    Yup. I'd like to know how many actually believe that and how many are just repeating it to virtue signal. Some of them have to know better, right?

  • DesigNate||

    They don't.

  • Drake||

    He should shut it down either way. If they don't confirm her, he really should nominate the most infamous corporate ax man he can find.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Would would would wouldn't would.

    No, I am not into the "young Harold Ramis" look.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If they don't confirm her, he really should nominate the most infamous corporate ax man he can find.

    This makes me think of the Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs the matador swirls the cape away as the bull charges, to reveal an anvil.

  • timbo||

    That would make you a an animal hater and one who assigns roles to anvils??

    In a way, I kind of liked the insanity of the past 8 years. It was so comical.

    I trust that what is to come is going to dwarf that ridiculousness in every scenario.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    escape velocity

    Does this mean it's being jettisoned into space?

  • ||

    Everything you need to know about public schools and teacher's unions is seen in their fierce resistance to being held accountable for the quality of their work.

  • ||

    They don't even know what accountability actually is. One of our local, fortunately unsuccessful, candidates for school board had the word "accountability" plastered all over his campaign literature. But when you dug deeper, none of his proposals said anything about actual accountability; OTOH, his literature offered many promises to "preserve funding, stop elimination of teaching positions" and other business-as-usual crapola.

  • Mainer2||

    Is there any other profession that praise themselves as much as teachers do ? Cops, I suppose.

  • DesigNate||

    Actors, bar none.

  • Warren||

    JESUS FUCKING CHRIST EATING A BAG OF DICKS.

  • Warren||

    I'm so fucking sick of the soundcloud player shitting the bed every time you try to pause it.

  • Fileorg||

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online