Somebody's Children: Expanding Educational Opportunities for All America's Children Author(s): Diane Ravitch Source: The Brookings

Review, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Fall, 1994), pp. 4-9 Published by: Brookings Institution Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20080502 . Accessed: 01/04/2014 23:02
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Somebody's

.?:::: Expanding

Children Educational Opportunities for All America's Children

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LAST
on the "State

FEBRUARY,
of American card. to Some Education," schools, for he Secretary said, are of Education

IN
Richard some are

A
Riley

SPEECH
gave America's some have schools schools the re

Diane fellow

Ravitch,

a nonresident

senior

in the Brookings program, at New

Governmen is a senior York

tal Studies a mixed markable report capacity "excellent, improving, never be

research fellow called at all." University. She

change

the better."

Some,

though,

"should

is the author, most Standards

That last phrase is chilling: schools that "should never be called schools at all."Who schools? African-American
ably, many Somebody's headed by a are

attends these

recently, of National in American

Education: Guide article (Brookings, is adapted Children," for Children,

and Hispanic
single parent

children, probably; children from very poor families, prob
to make would ends meet. condemned?to attend schools that most

A Citizen's 1994). from This

struggling

children

compelled?some

say,

"Somebody's Policies

teachers shun, if they can, in neighborhoods
dren go Vice to those schools. Gore's. 5 Not Not mine. the Not

that people of means avoid, if possible. Somebody's chil
Not Secretary mayors or Riley's. school Not President Clinton's or teachers. nor

in Social

edited by IrwinGarfinkel, Jennifer
Hochschild, and Sara McLanahan 1995).

yours.

President

children

of urban

superintendents

(Brookings,

FALL1994

BY HAROLDFEINSTEIN PHOTOGRAPHY

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During
"What

the course of his speech, Riley
and wisest parent our wants for

invoked John Dewey:
his [and, may our I say her]

the best

child, that must be [what] the community wants
dren. Any into other ideal for schools . . . destroys

for all of its chil
democracy."

What would
zoned schools they children

the best and wisest parents do if their children were
that are unsafe could?move into private children and educationally bankrupt? to a different neighborhood is what schools. That the president They or put did.

Arguments
The strong objections

for Means-tested
many people

Choice
choice

would?if their

have to school program.

But who

do not apply to a means-tested are the primary Diane Ravitch's objections response

choice raised

somebody's don't have

Following put

their

by choice

opponents?and

to them.

stay there motivation makers

are to go to those schools. Parents required to move to a better or to the money neighborhood into a private child school been told that they must have no matter how bad the school is. If they are parents with are told and energy, officials and policy they by school they must stay right who for tell even a where they this would are because they their are the

that

1. A CHOICE public that would school if choice were

PROGRAM system. available education

WOULD

DESTROY of choice

THE fear

kind of parents who might
school. The in that child For day" sition. people school

someday help to improve that dreadful
them day. not keep own

Opponents to all children, altogether.

huge numbers Such fears are of school school.

leave public

and policymakers be appropriate. may Parents wait have around

groundless. Teaching parents

A Carnegie poll found

Foundation

for the Advancement of all public to a private families, public

cannot or

toward reform "some working it is an outrageous for parents propo children who live today, here and now. They to see whether in five the school will get better academics, But we must our for our own chil passion as love their children They

that only

19 percent

would

like to send system,

their children many of these The

In a means-tested would probably of today's school not qualify enroll

ten years. As Dewey dren's welfare much as we

suggested, onto those love ours.

project

of course, would

for scholarships. or more

schools

80 percent

of all students?instead destroyed, because the public itwould be

90 percent.

Far from being be strengthened

how they know not be expected schools their failing not thus sacrifice

parents. desperate about their children's future?and worry They much the odds are stacked them. should against They to wait for the eventual transformation of the patiently children own our are required children. Why to attend must each they? day. We would

system would

able to shut down

bad schools.

We Can't Walt
hat

for "Someday"
can we do?and do quickly?for states, or the children now

2. THERE STUDENTS PRIVATE Not true.

IS NO TO OR

PRECEDENT USE

FOR

ALLOWING FUNDS FOR w ernment may Pell grants of their is believed in the at use to

attending schools that should not be called schools? The
best solution I see provide to send them independent, The needier should be the means-tested their or gov who families, scholarships needy to the school children of their choice, be to is for cities, the federal

GOVERNMENT

RELIGIOUS years

INSTITUTIONS.

For many college resulting

government-provided to attend of higher and most

it public,

religious. For the neediest, the grant. larger to the state average ex per pupil

The
come. the grant

have enabled choice. by most world. tended The

students system

the school education pluralistic

size of the scholarship should vary in relation to family in
the child, at least equal

people The

to be the best does student

government

not care whether is public, private,

the school or religious Eighty

penditure, possibly larger. Children with disabilities should receive the full amount of financial aid to which they would be entitled un
der state and federal law. Since funds will necessarily be limited,

by a Pell grant

highest priority for such scholarships should go to children who
now in enrolled the district. controlled in schools The identified number

are

as long as it is accredited percent because would already of Pell students they hold cost in K-12

and approved enroll in public ones.

by its state. institutions, The

no doubt

less than private education.

same dynamic schools children

strictly

In addition,

religious

receive

public

funds to educate centers.

handicapped

and size must quences?though render the program meaningless. is not new. Others This have made proposal ever, For choice. new years Unlike the public But First for me. I could not make

by public the number

as the worst authorities by public can be size of such and scholarships to gauge authorities the cost and conse not be so small as to

it before.

It is, how

and to run Headstart

some

3. THE

IT WOULD

BE UNCONSTITUTIONAL TO not true. FINANCE It would

FOR RELIGIOUS

ward

about the issue of school up my mind no animus to I of harbor choice, supporters I attended in Houston, schools. schools Texas, public

GOVERNMENT Again,

for 13 years. I consider myself
cation. several and choice. of

a friend and supporter of public edu
have

schools. only if a public

be unconstitutional

authority

provided

funds directly to religious

reforms?have

overcome hesitation about my things wave wave is that many foremost after years?and the most passed, inner-city leaving desperate

schools fundamentally
schools, Certain but the worst personal

unchanged.
are untouched. were

Trying harder has helped
also decisive. While

some

experiences where

in London

in the fall of 1992 I visited
schools?schools parents 6

one of Britain's
have voted

"grant-maintained"
the jurisdiction REVIEW

to leave

THEB

ROO

KINGS

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of the local board of education
from Catholic racial dress, the national girls' minorities. as were government. most school, The the nun

and receive public funding directly
The school I visited were around once was a Roman of street lo schools. school Financial of their aid that goes to parents not violate 1971 court to spend the principle at the of sepa a students me that had members was gone in

of whose who showed money

teachers.

The

to the

cal school board (about 15 percent of the school's budget) now went directly to the school. The added funds helped build a new science
laboratory, make long-deferred repairs, and hire more teachers. For

choice would and state. A to determine

the first time in its history, the school was allowed to select its own food supplier. No longer the last link in a bureaucratic chain, the staff
in the I saw school made their own decisions. for In classroom after classroom in an at I vividly teenage girls preparing that was orderly, mosphere comment: recall the guide's the national examinations

ration of church three-prong tion affecting secular advance test

ruling established of

the constitutionality statute must

legisla

church-state purpose;

issues. The its principal and itmust with

have a neither "an exces law that

cheerful, "You can

and well-maintained. always

legislative nor

effect must not foster religion." schools, A

tell a grant-maintained

inhibit religion;

school by the smell of fresh paint." Separation That of Church and State? visit raised some questions. In the United States opposi tion to funding nonpublic schools, especially religious
is powerful. Admitting any demonstration of reli

sive governmental grants all three upheld

entanglement

funds to parents, requirements. the grant of state

not to religious

would

meet Court a

In 1986 a unanimous aid to a blind student

Supreme

attending

schools,

gious faith into the public school is anathema. We have been told for years that using any public funds in a religious school violates the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.Why? No other developed democracy that shares our ideals has such a
state aid nation other Western provides Every separation." for Denmark's to schools. and other government, private religious can exercise so that nonstate schools funds parents directly example, "wall of

Bible college Court guage In both had made

in preparation school

for being a minister. district could provide

In 1993 the a sign lan

ruled a public interpreter cases

for a deaf student

in a Catholic

high school.

the ruling turned

on the fact that the parents

the choice.

religious

and political

freedom. Only
such schools.

a tiny minority?about

5.6

4. A CHOICE ABLE and would Itwould children BURDEN local

SYSTEM ON budgets.

WOULD

PUT

AN

INTOLER STATE

percent?choose

to attend

ALREADY

STRAINED

Why do we alone adamantly refuse any public funding for chil dren who attend religious schools? And why only at the primary and young woman from an im Mary Jones?a secondary level?Why is for public funds when she is an 18 poverished family?ineligible at senior St. yet eligible for a federal Pell Academy, Mary's year-old
Is at St. Mary's freshman she is an 18-year-old College? grant when con to needy whose citizens it fair to deny free education religious

A means-tested predictable, no more and

choice

program

involve measurable, cost the public schools. program U.S.

limited spending. now spend for

than states

in public

A full choice capital

may

actually

be a money-saver

on

victions make it impossible for them to send their children to secular state schools?Why is public funding available only to schools that ex clude religious values?Why is there free speech in public schools for all controversial views except religious ideas? the rise of the American common school during the Although
19th century is often traced to efforts to create secular schools, in fact

expenditures.

school

enrollments to grow

are again on the in grades make schools a or

rise. By 2004 K-8, choice:

they are expected in grades invest billions facilities. system that 9-12.

13 percent must

24 percent either

Public officials

of dollars Officials iswell existing

to build new can do the organized, public well

the goal of the evangelical Protestant reformers behind the move ment was to deny public funds to Catholic schools and to assure that
public funds went solely to nondenominational Protestant schools.

use fully all existing through vised, a choice

latter super

and coordinated

with

schools.

And they succeeded. Well into the 20th century, students in nonsec tarian public schools read the Protestant Bible, sang Protestant
hymns, European recited Protestant prayers, and learned a Protestant version of history.

5. A CHOICE BEST THE

PROGRAM

WOULD

"CREAM

OFF"

THE WITH

STUDENTS, POOREST

LEAVING AND choice MOST

PUBLIC DIFFICULT

SCHOOLS

As historian Lloyd Jorgenson notes in The State and the Nonpublic common school reformers did not claim that it School, ?825-1925, was unconstitutional to spend public funds in Catholic schools. In stead, they passed state laws to prevent it. They did not invoke the principle of separation of church and state.Rather, they charged that
Catholicism curbed." In was short, a "menace America's to republican common institutions school ideology and must be is rooted

STUDENTS. would schools. be Good choice Their they are

In a means-tested given only schools program; students getting

program, students

scholarships in the worst

to the poorest

in big cities will they are

not be hurt by a means-tested applicants. know

likely to get many more to leave; their parents

do not want a good

firmly in anti-Catholic All Our Children The
years

bigotry.

education.

resulting theory of public education developed
is unnecessarily Yet 7 what constricted. Public education, us

over the
in cur

rent theory, happens only in schools operated and controlled
by the government. should concern is the education of

FALL1994

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6. A CHOICE GATION tested dents in

PROGRAM big-city

COULD districts.

WORSEN Providing and Hispanic inner-city make

SEGRE means stu

the public?all
education school of or not.

the public. And what
children who are at risk,

should concern us most
whether they go to a

is the
public

scholarships enrolled reduce

to African-American segregated It cannot

in completely segregation.

schools

The best way
dren in urban

to provide educational opportunity
is to make available means-tested

for poor chil
scholarships

areas

may well

itworse.

with
term

priority for children who
record

are enrolled
used

in schools with
in the schools many will open

a long
of their will supply

7. A CHOICE FUNDS BIZARRE This potential TO

PROGRAM SUPPORT

COULD SCHOOLS AND

USE THAT

PUBLIC TEACH IDEAS. Schools that hatred

to be of poor performance, are generous If the scholarships choice. welcome and new students, scholarship the demand for good education. Even young poverty, ness, the people teen violence. best schools from pregnancy, Even the cannot pressures and do

enough, schools

schools to

RELIGIOUS problem would

RACIAL

be easy

to solve.

everything that threaten abuse, cannot get a

to protect at-risk them?from homeless end are

violate would schools their

civil rights

laws or that teach to receive public public

racial or religious scholarships. would And

drug the best

alcohol

AIDS, by

schools do not

themselves education

not be eligible that accept students

scholarships

have to prepare assessments at

poverty?although to endure likely by themselves the violence on

children a lifetime create the

who

to pass state

subject-matter public

cannot of poverty. Even schools or or stop conditions jobs improve housing can and must streets. nurture But schools and

good the best

rates no worse

than comparable

schools.

guide the young with peril.
STUDENTS Students With meet dren The hallmark

people who
comprehensive education endangered support names and have

are growing
high for most

up in a milieu
school, of this in the They for

fraught

8. NONPUBLIC WITH special

SCHOOLS

MAY

SHUN

anonymous of American the needs of

example?a chil that

HANDICAPPING needs should can best will

CONDITIONS. for a scholarship If the scholarship to meet has already the needs

be eligible be met.

to go where is large enough, of these chil of ed it.

need

individual

youngsters and nurturance.

century?cannot cities. Those need schools

their needs new schools

work
adults absent, and

closely with
know know their when

their families. They
care a about they to their or

need
them, think

schools where many
know when their they are about future,

be created Court have

dren. The disabled ucation

Supreme students

ruled that parents financed provide

the right to a free publicly sector if the state cannot

talk frequently Whether public Theodore

parents

private, Sizer calls

problem, or guardian. the most successful

urban

schools

share certain characteristics. Paul Hill
character." them

in the private

calls them "high schools with
"thoughtful places." In their

9. HOW PUBLIC will find

CAN schools it easier

PUBLIC

AUTHORITIES

HOLD

NON

recent book about Catholic education, Anthony Bryk, Valerie Lee, and Peter Holland describe the caring community created by
Catholic schools. All have in common a sense of purpose, a a mission,

accountable? to ensure schools the accountability under leverage them They

Public authorities of both nonpub choice

an identity of their own. And
knowledge the school. There and assent of parents to create

all function
who welcome

in locoparentis, with
partnership One

the
with

lic schools program. schools.

and public They

a means-tested over

now have no cannot punish worse.

are

failing public that

two ways

more

such children,

schools.

vide tend

means-tested any school

They

by taking away money; have tried?without over or to send suc in

scholarships that accepts and

to poor public

accountability

allowing for

them

is to pro to at

educational

only makes

matters

standards and civil rights laws. The other is to promote
charter contract schools by special-purpose parents, considered and institutions,

the spread of
under school

cess?threatening monitors. trapped those choice

to take the schools could offer itwould

schools public managed teachers. The charter

Ifauthorities in terrible

scholarships give them

to students leverage over

movement
a dozen

is spreading rapidly. It has already been adopted in nearly
states, is being by nearly a dozen more, and has

schools, protecting

schools system,

while

the students.

In a means-tested schools

if nonpublic

schools

and public charter officials public

fail to meet their charter

their contractual or their eligibility

obligations, to receive

can revoke scholarships.

been endorsed by the National School Boards Association. It is a po litically practical strategy that avoids the inevitable constitutional problems that will accompany any choice plan that includes private
and Rather, religious they One schools. are But the two ways for creates schools. complementary demand strategies to create are not alternatives. diverse, plu a more

ralistic system of good schools from which
10. IT IS SOCIALLY TO ATTEND DIVISIVE SCHOOLS divisive TO WITH ALLOW STU choose. ing creates scholarships, spread of special-purpose the other

parents and students may
schools by by supply the encouraging

DENTS values. occur

DIFFERENT conflicts values decisions

special-purpose a new supply

Actually, because we

our most impose

school-related

Both
children. state

strategies would

expand educational opportunities

for poor
non will

a single

set of state-defined boards make

on everyone

in public

schools.

School

I argue state and the case for choice both involving to all schools schools for two reasons. choice First, opening so as are to they willing comply It is not just to poor compel

rapidly expand the supply of places available. Second,
vate state and religious schools, is amatter long standards, of justice.

including pri
with chil

dren to attend bad schools. It is not just to prohibit poor families from sending their children to the school of their choice, even if that school has a religious affiliation. It is not just to deny free schooling
8 THE BROOKINGS REVIEW

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to poor

families

with

strong

religious

convictions,

any more

than

it

that are deeply are

offensive

to some

families. when

Those our

of us who side wins people to values program, of ways, so and

would
that parents

be just to prohibit the use of federal scholarships in nonpublic
like Notre is no realistic abandon Dame, way if they there Marymount, to close schools could. or Yeshiva. that students It is not and just their

liberal and secular when

feel comforted side wins.

universities

frightened who they

the other

Yet why their

must children choice

would

are not

liberal and secular Under

submit

find oppressive? should differ

a means-tested

What

a Means-Tested
hat difference

Choice Program
could

Could Do
choice program

schools

from each other the Constitution educational prove

a means-tested

in a variety and the

make
w most schools important,

in the life of children now
that it would should free never those be called children

compelled
schools? to move

to attend
First, and to better

long as they state

respect

laws of the Permitting

and satisfy

the state's

standards.

diversity

of values may well

less divisive

in the end.

or As the charter school move private, religious. schools?public, across to move ment the for students country, opportunities spreads are to small, A schools model school created increasing. purposeful was in Detroit oversubscribed. State University by Wayne heavily

11. HOW STATES IF THEY schools? traditional

WILL

NEWCOMERS TO OR

TO

THE

UNITED

BE ASSIMILATED GO TO ETHNIC new schools to most

THE

MAINSTREAM

Rice University
new record, lower schools. schools grams, school public school near especially dropout One

in Houston
its campus. with

was

inundated with
schools urban

applications

for a

RELIGIOUS will continue to choose

Catholic

have students,

disadvantaged rate and test scores than higher reason for the difference is that likelier of race or to be placed social class.

a strong track a who have

Most public

immigrants because parents.

in their peers public in Catholic students preparatory pro

they are free, convenient, Those who do not choose of the nation. attend non

and satisfactory public There public schools

are much regardless sophomores schools?were

in college In 1990,

do not threaten to believe

in Catholic on a

schools?and track. could

66 percent of high in 39 percent only the role

the stability

is no reason schools attend

that children who as adults

Second,

a means-tested

college-bound choice program Parent than

are any

less civic-minded

than those may not

strengthen

who

of families in the lives of these children by giving parents a greater
children's education. say in their in much schools Catholic greater participation in public schools participate in are is certainly it is and schools, twice as as

public

schools.

In fact, the public

schools

be the primary means American openness, freedom ment society

of civic assimilation

in our

society. its of instru and

itself?its

laws, its cultural

pluralism,

probably greater in "focus" public
schools. public at much act of and Parents school of parents levels children to in Catholic belong their

schools than in ordinary public
likely in the PTA. Par

its tolerance

for diversity,

its encouragement effective

to and

of expression?may assimilation. be strong Our

be the most commitment

ents of poor black students in Catholic
higher a school seems choosing more become involved. than

schools participate in the PTA
public feel more schools. The responsible

of social should who

to pluralism

counterparts to make parents

diversity separatists

enough

to tolerate

the few devout

do not wish

to assimilate.

means-tested Finally, schools where teachers of conduct. nurture Most Participating youngsters

help street. chical,

to attend will enable students scholarships and parents share values and agree on a code in a close, will consensual community and shelter them from the dangers of the now and operating on fail the basis of hierar as el to engage will scholarships students enable

public bureaucratic of a

schools, rules

members igible identity. begin adults actions. new many

students Only to see and

is focus, mission, where there and can students are now who alienated setting as themselves surrounded by participants, responsible are affected who other students their decisions and by in such a the current schools. schools. there system, In a choice program, is no the incentive incentive to establish is to create

community. to attend

regulations, Means-tested

a school

Under focus such

Everybody's
Perhaps value

Children
more than the freedom their own the people to choose, lives. of Americans nation, any other to make their own decisions, to

manage up in neighbor growing no one would cannot hoods their parents schools leave, attending a matter at all?about of enormous have no choice attend, willingly in their lives. consequence Children The goal of my proposal is to create a diverse, state pluralistic system

of schools with many different kinds of sponsors, all dedicated
ucating assuring offer the public and all monitored and excellence. both equity education by Nobody's to

to ed
for be

agencies responsible children should

compelled
equal

to attend a bad public school. A good school system must
opportunity 9 everybody's children.

FA L L

19 9 4

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