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School Choice CP Answers

2AC — School Choice CP

1. Racialized Inequality DA — choice increases segregation and racial inequality.

James 14 — Osamudia R. James, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law, holds an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, 2014 (“Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination,” Iowa Law Review (99 Iowa L. Rev. 1083), Available Online at, Accessed 06-20-2017)

A. Race and the School-Choice Market

Choice rhetoric contemplates the sphere for reformed education as a market. The commodification of education in this way has prompted no shortage of critiques identifying the ways in which the conditions for a properly functioning education market are difficult—if not impossible—to dictate. Problems with an education market, however, go beyond the mere absence of ideal market conditions. Rather, the problems extend to the ways in which race and racism warp the market, undermining the possibility that an education market could ever genuinely optimize educational outcomes for marginalized students and families in that market.

As an initial matter, the choices of poor, working class, and minority students and their families in the education market are severely limited. Community bias against these groups, for example, is often reflected in local policies like zoning for multi-family housing that can limit access to particular schools—charter and voucher schools included. Input and influence of marginalized communities regarding charter school policies (including school offerings, the number of schools, location, and themes) is subject to the same limitations that undermine these groups in any political process.

Information asymmetry and unequal bargaining power also undermine the market for parents of color. Marginalized minority parents, in particular, often do not have ready access to the data and information that would enable them to make good schooling decisions. Moreover, minority parents are often on unequal footing when they engage with school systems, given the pervasiveness of cultural-deficit theories that demean and devalue minority parental participation in their children’s education.

The idea of the “rational parent” as an actor in the education marketplace, who is able to choose the best educational option for his or her child, is a mytheven if one assumes genuinely broadened options, better information, and increased bargaining power. Although parents assert that they care most about academics, studies suggest that even after controlling for educational programming and performance, parents use heuristics—namely racewhen making school choices. In one study, for example, an increase of more than two percent in the African-American student population correlated with a parental perception that school quality had declined, even when objective evidence contradicted that perception. Allowing parents to self-segregate within schools in this way is a “successful,” but undesirable, optimization of parental preferences. Moreover, a market in which parents select schools based mostly on racial composition, instead of objective measures of academic excellence, is not really an education market, but rather a racialized social market playing out in the sphere of public education. The education market, legitimate or illegitimate, is not an arena in which rational decisions about education take place.

2. Blame-Shifting DA — choice gives the state an excuse to neglect public schools. Makes all aff impacts worse.

James 14 — Osamudia R. James, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law, holds an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, 2014 (“Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination,” Iowa Law Review (99 Iowa L. Rev. 1083), Available Online at, Accessed 06-20-2017)

2. Private Responsibility for Public Education

In addition to problematically fostering competition in a context that should be collaborative, school choice also privatizes responsibility for public education. “Privatize” does not necessarily mean that school choice results in the enrollment of students at private schools, although private school enrollment is one aspect of the opt-out revolution in public education. Rather, here, the term “privatize” means the relegation of care, concern, and investment in public education to the private sphere—to individual parents and caregivers, rather than to the public. There is not a natural line of demarcation for decisions that should not be made privately because they impact the public; rather, society has to draw those lines independently. Given, however, the interdependent nature of education, and the extent to which access to quality education has largely been shaped by the economic and racial composition of classrooms, public education is one area in which those lines must be drawn more carefully, and with less opportunity for privatization than in other spheres of American life.

Like the expansion of the voucher program in Louisiana, lawmakers often present school-choice policies as the product of a proactive legislative response to state educational problems. When a state, however, adopts school-choice policies to address problems that are widespread and structural in nature—like social, racial, and economic isolation in school districts—the state abrogates communal responsibility for those problems. Although these additional “choices” result in perverse outcomes for marginalized parents and caregivers, having already made sufficient choices available, the state can now claim it is no longer responsible for addressing the achievement gap through school or housing integration. This phenomenon has led to the privatization of individual schooling decisions that are public in their effect. It has also eliminated public debate of the merits and consequences of these ostensibly private decisions, and immunized these choices from attack or characterization as illegitimate, even as those choices marginalize some in the education system.

As responsibility shifts, so does blame. Having exercised the choices they were given, parents and caregivers of color are now made to exclusively bear a burden they cannot carry alone; individual parents, after all, cannot address structural causes of the achievement gap. When asked to give up on genuine equality in favor of the fiction of self-reliance, however, participants in the school system ultimately play into a sort of amnesia about the history of public education and the institutional structures that impede its potential. One must not forget segregation of public schools, the imperative of integration, and vulnerability of students—as manifested in food insecurity, low socioeconomic status, or inadequate healthcare—that the school system and the broader society must manage. Ignoring these realties and instead buying into school choice will only leave the vulnerable among us more vulnerable when market options and school choices fail to magically close the achievement gap, or result in more fraud and failing schools.

This outcome is particularly troubling because others in society already devalue the decisions and preferences of poor and minority people. Given that undervaluing, responsibility for failure in education can then be easily laid at the feet of those who chose. This rhetorical move is familiar in gender equality policy debates, where any number of gender disparities (e.g., the disproportionate presence of women in lower-paying jobs and the financial insecurity which acting as primary caregiver creates) is justified as the result of women’s choices. One can similarly expect choice in education policy to play the same role—once students and parents choose, policymakers can ignore the structural problems that drive the achievement gap but that cannot be traced to any single individual choice.

3. Reject Neg EvForster and Wolf are biased and wrong.

Lubienski 16 — Christopher Lubienski, Professor of Education Policy and Director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the University of Illinois, Fellow with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, holds a Ph.D. in Education Policy and Social Analysis from Michigan State University, 2016 (“Review of A Win-Win Solution and The Participant Effects of Private School Vouchers across the Globe,” National Education Policy Center, June, Available Online at, Accessed 06-20-2017, p. 14-15)

VII. Usefulness of the Reports for Guidance of Policy and Practice

The reports reviewed here have garnered attention in the broader policy discussion, although often primarily with pro-voucher advocates,54 reflecting the echo-chamber nature of the discussion reflected in these reports. Neither report has been independently peer reviewed, and they suffer from the problems noted above, which undercut their credibility.

Both reports make a number of methodological choices that shape their results. They focus on randomized controlled trials for defensible reasons, but without acknowledging the limitations of RCTs, even though those limitations are widely known.55 The sets of RCT studies selected for use are also problematic, with the Friedman Foundation report using a process that is not as systematic as it indicates, and in fact is shown to have been erroneous, while the University of Arkansas report’s selection criteria left it with a highly skewed set of studies, and no insights from the longest-running and more comprehensive national voucher programs. At the same time, the University of Arkansas report makes no effort to account for publication bias in its selection process, which may exaggerate its findings.

The reports also take very different approaches to other voucher “impacts.” The University of Arkansas meta-analysis focuses only on academic achievement, and not on issues such as the impact on segregation, which is known to be a detrimental factor in countries that have embraced vouchers.56 The Friedman Foundation report does attempt to address some of those other factors, but in its treatment of academic achievement (the focus of this review) it conflates learning gains with non-cognitive outcomes such as college attendance, without apparently recognizing that these are distinct issues that are possibly susceptible to different influences besides the offer or use of a voucher.

Overall, the reports present findings that are not particularly helpful for advancing our understanding on the impacts of vouchers on student achievement. Together they tend to present [end page 14] a mixed set of findings, with benefits appearing for one group in one context, but not for the same group in another city, or even in another subject. The results from the global meta-analysis are shaped largely by one city in one country, and the report is not designed to tell us why vouchers would have a greater impact there. Indeed, we don’t know why voucher impacts — positive or negative — appear in one case, but not in another. Thus, the theoretical underpinnings motivating vouchers, as set out by Milton Friedman and subsequent theorists, do not appear to be very strong when applied to the real world, even when tested by voucher advocates.

The Arkansas report concludes with recommendations for more RCTs, without offering any guidance about how researchers might overcome the limitations of randomization to take into account peer effects, or improve upon generalizability. But the report also encourages consideration of “the cost-benefit tradeoffs associated with voucher programs” — by which the authors mean to suggest that vouchers are “cost effective, since they tend to generate achievement outcomes that are as good or better than traditional public schools, but at a fraction of the cost.”57 Instead of focusing only on saving money when educating disadvantaged students, a better approach would be to consider vouchers in terms of their potential for enhancing student learning relative to the effects of other interventionsability to do so. For example, instead of looking at school vouchers alone, we should be considering the effect sizes of school vouchers compared to, say, housing vouchers, integrated classrooms, or smaller class sizes. In fact, perhaps the largest meta-analysis on education interventions has done just that, looking at the effect sizes of various influences on student learning, and finding little support for school choice programs. Drawing on over 800 meta-analyses encompassing over 50,000 studies of different influences in academic achievement,58 that meta-study ranked the school choice option59 107th out of 138 factors, beneath class size, professional development for teachers and peer tutoring…but above summer vacation and television.

4. Permute: do both — guarantee equal access to excellent public education and provide choice. Avoids disads to choice alone.

5. No “Innovation” Net-Benefit — corporate reforms don’t solve the case.

Michie 11 — Gregory Michie, Senior Research Associate at the Center for Policy Studies and Social Justice at Concordia University Chicago, 2011 (“The trouble with ‘innovation’ in schools,” The Washington Post, May 24th, Available Online at, Accessed 06-20-2017)

An irony in all this is that one of the favored words of the business-minded reformers who continue to push a results-driven, corporate model of school change is “innovation.” Of all the buzzwords that zip through current conversations about school improvement, it may be the most repeated. It peppers the language of Race to the Top, and charter school cheerleading, and teacher recruitment pitches. If you’re not talking about innovating, you’re probably not getting heard.

But the word, like so many others in education, has been hijacked. The “new reformers” have appropriated it as a descriptor for policy proposals and practices they advocate, and as an antonym for almost anything else. Charter schools? Innovative. Regular public schools? Definitely not. Competing for education funding? Innovative. Assuring that adequate monies go to schools that most need them? Passé. Evaluating teachers based on test scores? Innovative. Collective bargaining? Old school.

Corporate reformers have come to own the word so completely that they’re able to promote even the most wrongheaded ideas and still be portrayed by many media outlets as innovators. Bill Gates says we should crowd more students into the classrooms of the “top 25 percent of teachers” in order to save money. Does any school-based educator believe that that’s a good idea? The film Waiting for Superman, a favorite of the innovation crowd, puts forth an image of student learning that is as ill-conceived as it is crude: the empty-vessel head of a cartoon student is opened up and a pile of information is poured in. It’s all about efficiency -- more head-filling, less fact-spilling. But hey, that’s innovation!

Since many of the practices, values, and terminology (”Are you tracking me?”) of the new reformers have been borrowed from the business world, it’s also important to remember that what corporate CEOs celebrate as innovative isn’t necessarily fair or just. Bob Herbert’s final column for The New York Times in March lamented the growing wealth gap in the U.S., and highlighted the fact that General Electric, which racked up $14.2 billion in profits in 2010, paid zero federal taxes. With so many families struggling to make ends meet, how can this be? According to The Times’ own reporting, G.E. implements “an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting (italics mine) that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

I’m all for fresh ideas, but just because a notion is novel or different doesn’t mean it’s good for teachers and kids. The trouble with many of the current “innovations” in education is that they do nothing to challenge the broader policy framework that prizes higher test scores above all else — in fact, they often embrace it. So teacher and student creativity will continue to be squashed at every turn. And the poorer the kids in a given classroom or school, the more likely that is to be true.

That, for me, is the most troubling aspect of where we appear to be headed. The Obama administratin’s plan for reauthorizing NCLB would allow most schools to escape the pressure cooker of annual yearly progress-chasing that has marked the past decade, and that’s a good thing. But for the 10 percent of schools at the bottom of the test-score pile — mostly schools of the urban poor — the heat would be turned up even higher: more testing, more “data-driven” instruction, and more sanctions, while creativity, divergent thinking, and the arts continue to get left behind.

I think about the seventh and eighth graders I taught in Chicago — kids like Ramon, who daydreamed in poetic verse but had a hard time sitting still, or Josefina, a recent immigrant who struggled with English but found her voice when a video camera was in her hands. What place is there for kids like them in the schools we’ve made? How will they discover their gifts, pursue their dreams? And if they become alienated by their schooling experiences — which seems likely — where will they turn?

It depends on who you ask, I suppose. Michelle Rhee, former D.C. schools chancellor and one of the rock-star “innovators” in education, famously told Time magazine in 2008:

“The thing that kills me about education is that it’s so touchy-feely. People say, ’Well, you know, test scores don’t take into account creativity and the love of learning.’ I’m like, ’You know what? I don’t give a crap.’ Don’t get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don’t know how to read, I don’t care how creative you are. You’re not doing your job.”

On the other hand, Sir Ken Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of Warwick and author of Out of Our Minds, argues in two widely circulated talks from the TED conference that schools too often end up stifling kids’ creative spirits. “Creativity is as important in education as literacy,” Robinson says, “and we should treat it with the same status.”

We should — but with the continued reliance on annual testing in the administration’s Blueprint for Reform, it may not happen anytime soon. That means too many kids in our poorest neighborhoods will continue, even if their test scores rise, to receive what can only be called an impoverished education. And no matter what the new reformers say, there’s nothing innovative about that.

6. No “Coercion” Net-Benefit — choice undermines freedom and agency. Weigh consequences.

James 14 — Osamudia R. James, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law, holds an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, 2014 (“Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination,” Iowa Law Review (99 Iowa L. Rev. 1083), Available Online at, Accessed 06-20-2017)

B. Beyond Paternalism

In the abstract, choice can be an integral feature of law or policy that promotes equal rights and opportunities. Accordingly, defenders of school choice may ultimately argue that limiting school choice, particularly for minority parents and caregivers unsatisfied with their local schools, is pernicious paternalism. After all, some choice is better than no choice at all. My response is threefold.

First, limiting choice is not grounded in attempts to protect parents and children from their irrational choices. To the contrary, opting out, even to enroll in comparable schools that fail to improve academic outcomes, might be characterized as a rational response to the negative and racialized school experiences that families of color as well as poor and working-class families experience. And until system-wide problems in the American educational system are addressed, caregivers and families have few options other than exercising the limited “choice” they have been afforded to either take advantage of school choice or exit the public school system altogether. Accordingly, I advocate for limitations on school choice to prevent the disastrous social consequences—the abandonment of the public school system, to particularly deleterious consequence for poor and minority schoolchildren and their families—that occur as the collective result of individual, albeit rational, decisions. I also advocate for limitations on school choice in an attempt to encourage individuals to consider their obligations to children not their own, but part of their community all the same. Although outside the scope of this Article, this thought exercise applies with equal force to school choice that extends beyond charter schools and voucher programs, including homeschooling, private school education, and even housing decisions made by the wealthy.

Second, as I have argued, students of color and their families may, indeed, be “opting out,” but those decisions do not reflect genuine choice or agency. Rather, opting out is a response of parents with no reasonable alternatives who are sensitized to the way their actions, or failures to act, will be devalued on account of their race and class. In such a context, genuine choice is not exercised at all. As such, advocating for limits on school choice for those students and their families does not really undermine their exercise of choice—which was minimal or nonexistent to begin with. Placing limitations on choice for everyone in the school system, however, may materially improve education for all when those families that used their choice and privilege to leave the system are required to return.

Third, the actual impact of school choice cannot be ignored. Given the racialized realities of the current education system, choice is not ultimately used to broaden options or agency for minority parents. Rather, school choice is used to sanitize inequality in the school system; given sufficient choices, the state and its residents are exempted from addressing the sources of unequal educational opportunities for poor and minority students. States promote agency even as the subjects supposedly exercising that agency are disabled. Experience makes clear that school choice simply should not form an integral or foundational aspect of education reform policy. Rather, the focus should be on improving public schooling for all students such that all members of society can exercise genuine agency, initially facilitated by quality primary and secondary education. Ultimately, improving public education begins with preventing its abandonment.

7. Market Approach Fails — can’t solve systemic social inequalities.

Sundquist 17 — Christian B. Sundquist, Professor of Law and Director of Faculty Research and Scholarship at Albany Law School, former Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, 2017 (“Positive Education Federalism: The Promise of Equality after the Every Student Succeeds Act,” Mercer Law Review (68 Mercer L. Rev. 351), Winter, Available Online to Subscribing Institutions via Lexis-Nexis)


The accepted narrative of the American public education system is one of decline, educational "crisis," n1 and systemic failure. Our public schools increasingly are segregated by race and class in the post-Brown era, n2 while fundamental social inequalities persist among schools in regards to educational quality, financing, and outcomes. Long viewed as essential to the economic and democratic development of America's citizenry, our unequal system of universal public education has forsaken the "faces at the bottom of [the] well" in an era of deregulation and decreased social welfare funding. n3

[*352] The federal government previously responded to the failure of Brown's promise of equal educational opportunity by introducing legislation - the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) n4 and the Race to the Top Act of 2009 (RTT) n5 - that promoted educational reform informed by the classic market principles of consumer choice, competition, and accountability. Under this schema, the failure of America's public schools could be traced to an overregulation of education that has promoted bureaucratic stasis, ineffective teaching, and unaccountability at the cost of the individual liberty of parents and children to attend the school of their choice. The role of the federal government, then, was to utilize its fiscal block grant-in-aid powers to cultivate the private and market-based properties of public education.

The well-documented failures of the NCLB and RTT to promote student achievement, much less equality in education, led Congress to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act in December of 2015 (ESSA). n6 The bi-partisan ESSA has been hailed by both liberal and conservative education reformers for not only superseding the much-reviled NCLB and RTT framework, but also for shifting control over certain aspects of public education policy to state and local actors.

The new education act nonetheless largely leaves untouched the substantive framework of NCLB and RTT. The ESSA retains the core focus of the past education framework in its continued emphasis on promoting student achievement through consumer choice, accountability, high-stakes testing, and inter-school competition. If anything, the ESSA has broadened the market-based approach of federal education policy by shifting the responsibility for employing corporate measures of accountability to states (themselves serving as "laboratories of experimentation" subject to market demands).

And yet the crisis of America's system of public education is less a manifestation of under-incentivized schools, inadequate school choice, and poor teaching, than it is a reflection of unrelenting poverty and persistent racial discrimination. The modeling of education policy and law around the oft-criticized market assumptions of consumer choice, competition, and accountability have led to a deepening of the crisis confronting public schools. Since the adoption of market-based education legislation [*353] such as NCLB and RTT in the last ten years, our public schools have been re-segregating at an accelerated rate and the achievement gaps between the rich and poor, and white and non-white have deepened. n7

The market model of public education preserved through the new ESSA legislation does not provide answers to our current educational dilemma, but the model merely deflects the responsibility of providing an equitable public education from the public sphere of federal and state government to the private sphere. There are no easy answers to the public school crisis, and simply incorporating misplaced assumptions of competition, rational choice, and market accountability into public educational policy will not resolve the situation. We need to acknowledge that our school failures are not due to the absence of market incentives and processes in education, but are caused by systemic social inequalities - including poverty, racial discrimination and segregation, unequal school financing, and inadequate teacher compensation.

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