Background on Education Inequality


America loses hundreds of billions of dollars each year when young people drop out of high school because of lost productivity and tax revenues. The nation is decreasingly competitive in the world economy. In addition, those most directly affected by inadequate education are less and less civically engaged.

What are the issues of educational reform?

What’s the main point?

School choice is a widely debated movement focused on affording parents the right to choose which school their child attends.

Types of School Choice

  • Intradistrict Choice: System that allows parents to select among schools within their home districts.
  • Controlled Choice: System that requires families to choose a school within a community but choices can be restricted so as to ensure the racial, gender, and socioeconomic balance of each school.
  • Magnet Schools: Public schools that offer specialized programs, often deliberately designed and located so as to attract students to otherwise unpopular areas or schools.
  • Charter Schools: Publicly sponsored schools that are substantially free of direct administrative control by the government, but are held accountable for achieving certain levels of student performance.
  • Voucher Plans: Federal funds that enable public school students to attend schools of their choice, public or private.


Many believe that privatization of our education system will produce positive results.

  • If schools are run like businesses, principles of competition will force the schools to provide higher quality education. Schools will be held accountable by the parents and students who choose to attend. If the schools do not meet their needs, the schools risk losing their "consumers" or student body.
  • Market based policies will spur innovation and improvement in the school system. These programs will empower teachers and administrators to change the system with minimal interference from the government.
  • School choice will provide better opportunities for economically disadvantaged students who are trapped in failing schools.

Why not?

The traditional public school system should be responsible for education in the United States.

  • Introducing market-based principles undermines the democratic nature of our school system.
  • School choice only provides a band-aid solution to the problem by providing an out to a very small number of students – tackling each student’s situation individually rather than the issue as a whole. To change the problem, we must address the current system’s failure instead of starting from scratch.
  • Schools will have no incentive to follow national guidelines and meet national expectations because they will have too much freedom to address their personal goals. Schools across the country will not be providing an equal education for all students.

PBS Frontline
Framing Issues in the School Choice Debate
Teachers College of Columbia University