School Choice Is a Fact of American Life

Normally you can go a whole year before you see two “buzz-worthy” stories on public education, but we’ve already had two in 2006. On the heels of the Wall Street Journal’s highlighting the financial disclosure report of the National Education Association (NEA) came a report by ABC News’ John Stossel called “Stupid in America: How Lack of Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of a Good Education.”

Stossel’s message board received almost 24,000 responses, including one by someone who posted an internal NEA e-mail to its activists that tries to tie Stossel to The Bell Curve. When it comes to webs of conspiracy, NEA needs lessons from these guys.

Evidently when NEA gives money to People for the American Way or the Council on Foreign Relations, it is merely a grant to groups “who share NEA’s commitment to public education and to the human and civil rights of all Americans.” But when Stossel delivers a speech to the Cato Institute, it is evidence of “his personal ties to right-wing organizations” and “lack of objectivity.”

The Education Intelligent Agency will leave it to others to thrash out the story’s implications. But let us note Stossel’s decision to place in a school quality/school choice story the issue of school district boundary enforcement. Stossel detailed the stories of people lying about where they lived so that their kids could attend better schools, and the efforts of school districts to stop them, including the hiring of private investigators. Stossel even referred to this as a “black market” in school choice.

Where have we heard this before?

August 27, 2001: “The Black Market in School Choice

March 18, 2002: “Districts Hunt Down Out-of-District Students Like Common Criminals

May 20, 2002: “Connecticut Schools Have Their Own Border Patrol

September 16, 2002: “Baltimore County Makes Latest Attempt to Snuff Out Black Market in School Choice

September 23, 2002: “School Choice Black Market Dragnet Nabs Teacher

November 25, 2002: “The Return of the Black Market in School Choice

December 2, 2002: “Florida Union Defends School Choice for Member

August 11, 2003: “School Choice Black Market Revisited

September 13, 2004: “Upholding the Law in Public Education

February 7, 2005: “Black Market in School Choice: Teacher Edition

School choice — the concept, if not the voucher system by which it is best known — is a fact of American life. Rich people exercise it by moving to the suburbs. Poor people exercise it by pretending to move to the suburbs. Fighting it is like trying to prevent waves from reaching the shore.