AR — No Coercion Net-Benefit

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1AR — No Coercion Net-Benefit

Counterplan doesn’t provide genuine choice. Case turns coercion.

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)

II. School Choice as Racial Subordination

Despite the absence of positive outcomes, particularly for students of color, the appeal of school-choice programs continues to broaden, as reflected in the expanding size and scope of voucher programs, charter schools, and parental trigger laws. Given the unexamined “benefits” of school choice, this Part presents less-explored critiques of the legal, moral, and pedagogical legitimacy of choice and choice rhetoric in education reform as advanced through charter schools and voucher programs. To be clear, choice in the abstract is not problematic. Quite the contrary, genuine choice—which entails realistic options and the preparation and opportunity to pursue those options—can be integral to self-actualization, dignity, and equality. What this Article seeks to critique, however, is the application of choice themes in public education, where race and identity will warp and ultimately impede a properly functioning education market where choices are presumably exercised.

In addition to the problematic impact of race on the education market, choice also masks racial subordination in public education in the form of unreasonable educational alternatives, education policy problematically informed by cultural-deficit models, and negative-racialized schooling experiences. Moreover, school choice forces parents and caregivers of color to bear the burden of reform, thus shifting responsibility from the state to individuals when choice fails to improve educational outcomes. Ultimately, the rhetoric of individualism, independence, and liberty that permeates school choice distracts stakeholders from addressing larger societal issues. Race, class, and identity will necessarily impede genuine choice in the education system and undermine the democratic values of citizenship and equality that should inform public-education policy.

The counterplan undermines democratic freedom.

Blakely 17 — Jason Blakely, Assistant Professor of Political Philosophy at Pepperdine University, holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley, 2017 (“How School Choice Turns Education Into a Commodity,” The Atlantic, April 17th, Available Online at, Accessed 06-19-2017)

The first point to consider when weighing whether or not to marketize the public school system is that markets always have winners and losers. In the private sector, the role of competition is often positive. For example, Friendster, the early reigning king of social networks, failed to create a format that people found as useful and attractive as Facebook. The result was that it eventually vanished.

When businesses like Friendster fail, no significant public damage is done. Indeed, it is arguably a salutary form of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction,” which is a feature of market innovation. But should all goods in a society be subjected to the forces of creative destruction? What happens to a community when its public schools are defunded or closed because they could not “compete” in a marketized environment?

In Detroit (where DeVos played a big role in introducing school choice) two decades of this marketization has led to extreme defunding and closing of public schools; the funneling of taxpayer money toward for-profit charter ventures; economically disadvantaged parents with worse options than when the neoliberal social experiment began; and finally, no significant increase in student performance. Indeed, some zones of Detroit are now educational deserts where parents and children have to travel exorbitant miles and hours for their children to attend school.

On the whole, neoliberalization is hardest on the poor. Market choice does, however, favor those who already have the education, wealth, and wherewithal to plan, coordinate, and execute moving their children to the optimal educational setting. This means the big beneficiaries of school of choice are often the rich. For instance, when Nevada recently passed an aggressive school-of-choice system the result was that the vast majority of those able to take advantage of it came from the richest areas of Reno and Las Vegas. As money is pulled from failing schools and funneled into succeeding ones, wealth can actually be redistributed by the state up the socioeconomic ladder.

Market competition in the context of schools thus opens the possibility for a vicious cycle in which weak and low-performing communities are punished for their failings and wealthy communities receive greater and greater funding advantages. Americans should ask themselves a basic question of justice when it comes to the education system: Should it be organized around a model in which the more you win the more you get, and the more you lose the less you are given? Markets are by their nature non-egalitarian. For this reason, neoliberalization has been one of the biggest factors contributing to the growing inequalities and diminishment of the middle and lower classes.

A common neoliberal response to this is simply to say that economic inequality is the cost paid for individual liberty and personal responsibility. But the problem is that this discourse of individualism followed to its logical conclusion eliminates any public goods whatsoever. For example, if student funds are portable based on consumption choices, why shouldn’t the growing number of childless taxpayers be able to move their funding outside the education system entirely toward goods they actually consume, like dog parks or public golf courses?

This is the logical conclusion of Margaret Thatcher’s famous neoliberal pronouncement that “there is no such thing as society” but only “individual men and women.” The problem with this way of thinking is that education is not simply another commodity to buy and sell on a market. It is a shared good. Free societies need educated members to intelligently and critically deliberate over public life, select representatives, and help guide policy decisions. Market freedom is thus in tension with the freedom of democratic participation.

Many people recognize this fact and for that reason favor coordinating action and sharing costs through the government when it comes to goods like education, defense, public parks, transportation, public health, and the environment. Yet forming a shared collective action through government or a labor organization is the one kind of individual freedom that neoliberal philosophy does not tolerate. As the preeminent historian of neoliberalism, David Harvey, puts it, “neoliberals have to put strong limits on democratic governance … while individuals are supposedly free to choose, they are not supposed to choose to construct strong collective institutions.”

Neoliberalism is thereby fundamentally opposed to any democratic, individual choices that seek to constrain markets—be it teachers unions or simply majority decisions about how to fund and shape public schools. Indeed, historically speaking, neoliberal attempts to marketize public goods are often unpopular and so have required non-majoritarian institutions like the courts, the World Bank, or even strong men and authoritarians (like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet) to enact policies against the will of the majority. Authoritarianism and market freedoms can and often do go together. There is a basic tension between neoliberal market choice and democratic freedom to shape one’s community in ways that do not conform to market logic.

Of course, thoughtful advocates of school choice might argue that while perhaps there are reasons to be skeptical of neoliberal theory, there are many schools of choice that in practice are phenomenal sites for educational innovation. Such advocates might point to cases of successful charter schools in poorer communities—for example, the Knowledge Is Power Program (or “KIPP”) charter schools across the country. Although KIPP is nonprofit, it is still engaged in the project of neoliberalizing public goods by introducing consumer choice as a form of subjecting the school system to a kind of market discipline.

KIPP is not without its critics, but there is also undeniable merit in efforts to experiment with education on a more local level (some of these carried out by intelligent well-meaning teachers and administrators at charter schools). Rejecting neoliberal policies like school choice does not mean that people such as DeVos and charter-school employees who are attracted to experimentation and less centralization of curriculum don’t have a point. America’s public schools—like all institutions—are in constant need of reform, rejuvenation, and innovation.

But debates about “freedom” and educational reform might be more constructive if participants center their questions around democratic freedoms—the freedom of every citizen to access education and the freedom of various communities to shape what that education looks like. Arguments over democratic freedom might contest how much of curriculum decision-making can be taken rightfully by the federal government versus devolution onto localities. Likewise, disagreements over democratic freedom could involve constructive debates over whether and how to fund private religious schools.

Educational policy in democratic societies should be subject to spirited and even intense debate and disagreement. Yet attempts to reduce freedom to markets and consumer choice remains in serious tension with democratic liberties and ideals of self-government. Future debates might be no less vigorous while also seeking alternatives to a simplistic equivalency between markets and “choice.”

1AR — Market Approach Fails

Choice sanitizes structural inequalities and undermines effective solutions.

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)

Choice rhetoric problematically idealizes competition, privacy, independence, and individualism, while overshadowing interdependence and vulnerability in public education, and outsources conversations that belong in the public sphere to families and individuals. Yet choice rhetoric has endured, due to its sanitizing effect on inequality and vulnerability. Given enough options, the argument goes, if the result of one’s selection is problematic, it was only his or her fault. Having provided myriad options, the state is absolved of responsibility for underperformance in any one school district.

Indeed, the turn to school choice as the primary method of public school reform has only accelerated a legal and political trend of ignoring the structural factors that undermine successful public education and maintaining an achievement gap in the public school system. In the meantime, very little has been said about racial and economic isolation. Such isolation motivates people such as Kelley Williams-Bolar to “choose” to illegally use her father’s residential address to enroll her African-American daughters in a safer, higher performing neighborhood school than the one to which her Ohio city assigned them.

Given the role of choice as a foundation of American liberal thought, its dominance in public school reform is no surprise, nor is its presentation as the answer for poor, working class, and minority students novel. What policymakers have insufficiently explored, however, is the particularly racialized constraints under which people of color exercise choice in the education system. Encouraged by pundits and policymakers to demand choice, and ever mindful of the cultural-deficit models that will place blame for failure squarely at their feet if they do not leave the traditional public school system, minority students increasingly enroll in the programs. But as students and parents demand more options, school-choice policies undermine the coalitions that stakeholders could otherwise form to address the real obstacles to academic achievement—segregation by race and class, food and housing insecurity, and inadequate school financing. Ultimately, choice does not provide the promised liberation.

Competition fails in education.

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)

1. Competition

The market model of education on which school choice is based encourages schools to ensure their success in the market by successfully competing for parent–consumers. Competition in education, however, produces neither growth nor accountability. Successful schools are notoriously difficult to grow or replicate, as public schools do not operate with the economies of scale that generate expansion in the private sector. Schools are unique social systems that cannot merely be imitated to achieve success; “[s]chooling is a retail, not wholesale business.” Moreover, in an attempt to dominate the market in which they are increasingly asked to compete, schools resort to a multitude of problematic behaviors, including: cream-skimming the best students for enrollment, “teaching to the test” at the expense of substantive education in an effort to produce high test scores, and investing in facilities and appearance instead of in quality instruction. In addition, traditional public schools lose money when students enroll in charter schools, encouraging tactics that not only compromise the integrity of the schools but that also lead to layoffs and school closings in already destabilized neighborhoods.

1AR — Democracy DA

The counterplan doesn’t solve our democracy impact — multiple reasons.

Kahlenberg 17 — Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation—a progressive think tank, former Fellow at the Center for National Policy, former Visiting Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at George Washington University, holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, 2017 (“Hope in Dark Times: Resisting the Threat to Democracy with Union Activism,” American Educator, Summer, Available Online at, Accessed 07-09-2017)

Private school vouchers are sold as a way for parents to handpick schools that reinforce the values taught at home, but a democracy requires critical thinkers who are exposed to new ideas and think creatively about competing points of view. As an empirical matter, moreover, vouchers have failed to raise academic achievement, and student performance sometimes slides backward. In a nation where large proportions of students already have trouble distinguishing “fake news” from the real thing, we can hardly afford to reduce academic skills.23

Martin Carnoy of Stanford University recently published a report summarizing the evidence of voucher programs from Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York City, Washington, D.C., Florida, Chile, and India and concluded that “research does not show that vouchers significantly improve student achievement.”24 The most recent studies are the most damning. As Kevin Carey of New America notes, the newest research on voucher programs in Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio shows negative results for students.25 Tulane University’s Douglas Harris points out that in Louisiana, for example, “students who participated in the voucher program had declines in achievement test scores of 8 to 16 percentile points.”26

Private schools also fail to model for students the democratic decision making that public schools do. Conservatives in recent years have tried to redefine “public” education as any form of education, including private schools, that receives taxpayer funds.27 But unlike public schools, private schools are not democratically controlled and so do not model for students the give and take of democracy.28 As journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones notes, for the ancient Athenians and Romans, “ ‘Public’ stood not just for how something was financed—with the tax dollars of citizens—but for a communal ownership of institutions and for a society that privileged the common good over individual advancement.”29

Another part of being public is providing democratic access. Public schools take all comers and cannot discriminate based on a student’s religion or other factors. By contrast, in North Carolina, as Century Foundation policy associate Kimberly Quick has documented, publicly funded vouchers have been used to support schools that openly discriminate based on religion and sexual orientation.30

For example, Fayetteville Christian School received more than $285,000 in taxpayer funding in 2015–2016 even though the school declares in its student handbook that it “will not admit families that belong to or express faith in non-Christian religions such as, but not limited to: Mormons (LDS Church), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims (Islam), non-Messianic Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.” The school also says it “will not admit families that engage in illegal drug use, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality (LGBT) or other behaviors that Scripture defines as deviate and perverted.”31 Using public funds to educate students in religiously segregated institutions, as political theorist Amy Gutmann has noted, may undercut one of the central lessons of democracy: that in America, students of very different backgrounds can learn in a common space how to navigate and negotiate difference, as we do in the democratic process.32

The counterplan undermines democracy — this is intrinsic to school choice.

Stokes 12 — Elizabeth Stokes, Campus Network Summer Academy Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, holds a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, 2012 (“How Turning the Public School System into a Market Undermines Democracy,” Roosevelt Institute, July 25th, Available Online at, Accessed 07-10-2017)

Efficiency considerations aside, the real problem with championing marketized models in education and other areas is the damage it does to democracy. We should not be upholding a model based on turning citizens into consumers. Democratic citizenship does not simply involve an individual’s choice from a platter of options. Rather, it requires active participation in collective decisionmaking.

The problem with marketized models is that in the process of providing individuals with private “choice,” citizens are necessarily deprived of public choice – that is, the opportunity to discuss, deliberate, and act in concert with others. While advocates of marketization claim that it eliminates many of the protracted disputes that currently impede the effectiveness of schools, disputes aren’t always such a bad thing from the standpoint of democracy – especially when they deal with matters of genuine common concern like the education of future generations. Even if conflicts do arise, the opportunity to debate and engage in a democratic give-and-take with neighbors is a vital aspect of political education and empowerment. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 1830s, it is only through participation in the exercise of power over collective outcomes, and the practice of thinking about and acting on public issues in public arenas, that people can develop the skills and commitments necessary to be citizens. Removing public education as a site for political education simultaneously removes yet another stake citizens have in our democracy.

Of course, this is not to say that there is no place for anything that is not a “traditional” public school. On the contrary, a variety of independent alternatives can certainly complement a healthy public school system and contribute to diversity and innovation. That’s particularly true when they represent initiatives led by local community members rather than corporate franchises. But that is very different than using public money to undermine and dismantle public education itself as a genuinely public enterprise.

The trend toward increasing privatization and marketization means the increasing disempowerment of citizens. The reconfigured version of “public” advanced by marketized models of education is severely truncated and distorts our understanding of why public education is important. Public education is not simply service delivery. It is also an expression of community and shared responsibility that helps shape the character of a society. We should value public schools not only for educating our children, but also for their role as local institutions where citizens can congregate and practice democracy.

They Say: “CFR Supports School Choice”

We don’t have to agree with the report’s policy recommendations to agree with its national security arguments — they’re correct.

Futter et al. 12 — Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History, former President of Barnard College, former Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School, et al., with Jonah M. Edelman, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stand for Children—an education advocacy organization, holds a D.Phil. in Politics from Oxford University, and Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012 (“U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force Report Number 68, Available Online at, Accessed 07-13-2017, p. 64)

The great strength of this report is that it properly highlights the critical and too often ignored nexus between education and national security. It also correctly stresses the importance not only of reading and mathematics, but of science, foreign language and area studies, history, and social studies, and consistently focuses on student performance and teacher excellence.

While I question a few of the solutions prescribed and their precise application, the overarching value of the report is in establishing the vital link between high-quality, equally distributed education for our children and the security, prosperity, and overall well-being of our country and democracy.

* Note: this is from a dissenting opinion published as part of the CFR report.

They Say: “Better Info Solves”

The “better info” plank doesn’t solve — empirically proven.

Barshay 15 — Jill Barshay, Contributing Editor at The Hechinger Report—a publication about innovation and inequality in education published by The Hechinger Institute at Columbia University, Spencer Fellow in Education Reporting at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, former Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University, former Senior Writer for Congressional Quarterly, holds an M.S. in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015 (“When ‘school choice’ leads families to trade one bad school for another,” The Hechinger Report, September 14th, Available Online at, Accessed 07-20-2017)

In a perfect world, school choice is supposed work by allowing families to leave bad schools and enroll their children in better ones. The failing schools either close, or improve to attract students again.

But for such a system to operate smoothly, parents need information to figure out which schools are good and which are bad.

In Chicago, researchers had an unusual opportunity to study, over several years, how publicizing information about school quality influenced where families enrolled their children. And they found that many families did pull their children out of failing schools. But they usually ended up in ones that were just as bad, or only slightly better. Astonishingly, more than 25 percent of the transfer students moved to another school that was also on the city’s probation list of failing schools.

The reason is geography,” said Peter M. Rich, one of the study’s coauthors and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at New York University. “The low-performing schools are clustered in high-poverty neighborhoods in the South and West Side of Chicago. They have fewer nearby options to choose from.”

Given the choice of commuting a long way to a high-performing school on the other side of town and transferring to a school in the neighborhood, low-income parents tend to choose the latter. Time-consuming travel is impractical for students with working parents. And no one wants to send elementary school children on public transportation by themselves through crime-ridden neighborhoods. But the choices closer to home are often little, if at all, better than poor students’ current schools.

While certain aspects of public transportation infrastructure, geographic segregation and neighborhood safety are unique to Chicago, Rich believes the lessons from his study, “Choice, Information, Constrained Options: School Transfers in a Stratified Education System,” published online in the American Sociological Review on Sept. 9, 2015, and slated to be printed in its October 2015 journal, are widely applicable.

The overall lesson is that school choice policies that don’t provide transportation or, perhaps, housing subsidies for families to move to higher-income neighborhoods aren’t going to equalize educational opportunities,” Rich concluded.

Rich found that the low-performing schools were overwhelmingly filled with poor students, 93 percent of whom qualified for the free or reduced-price lunch program. The few non-poor students at these schools were more likely to transfer, and even more likely to leave Chicago or the public school system altogether. Overall, 84 percent of all students attending a school on the probation list were black, even though black students make up only 54 percent of the total student population in Chicago. Another 15 percent of students in probation schools were Latino, while almost none were Asian or white.

Jonathan Butcher, education director at the Goldwater Institute, a conservative advocacy group that promotes school choice, praised the study’s methodology, and said he wasn’t surprised that public school choice had failed to produce benefits in Chicago. “In an area that has struggled a long time, there aren’t many good public school choices,” Butcher said. “Just by telling families they can leave, if there are not other things happening to improve the supply, families will have few options.”

For school choice to work, Butcher said, policymakers should give families vouchers to attend private schools, and allow more charter schools to open. He also argues that low-performing schools should be shut down.

In Chicago, families had been untethered from their local neighborhoods and free to attend any public school in the city since the 1980s, stemming from a desegregation court order. But in 1996, the city began identifying and publicizing which schools had low reading scores, and it put them on a probation list.

Rich and his co-author, NYU sociology professor Jennifer Jennings, calculated that families were 19 percent more likely to leave a low-performing “probation” school after the city began that information campaign. That translates to about 15 percent of the student body leaving a school that was put on probation. Some families moved out of Chicago or left the public school system.

But among those who transferred to another Chicago public school, fewer than 5 percent moved to a school that ranked in the top quarter of schools in the city. Only 22 percent transferred to a school in the top half. Meanwhile, 74 percent of the transfers ended up at a school in the bottom half.

This NYU study largely conforms with earlier research, finding that public school choice doesn’t suddenly improve schools for low-income students. Often families are unaware of their options and tend to stay at their designated local school.

A number of researchers have found that test scores improve in school districts after school choice is implemented. For proponents, that’s a sign school choice is fostering a healthy competition and propelling all schools to improve.

Indeed, test scores did improve in Chicago during the period studied by the sociologists. But, as Rich points out, testing policies were simultaneously changing. Teachers were newly accountable for their student test scores and were using more classroom time to prepare for tests. Both third grade and eighth grade students had to hit minimum test scores to avoid repeating a school year.

It can be hard to disentangle how much of the improved test scores can be credited to school choice and competition and how much to the introduction of high stakes testing.

Because of that, and the possibility that all schools — including the weakest ones — might be improving over the long-term, this study isn’t a sweeping condemnation of school choice. But it does show that having the freedom to choose and information on school quality aren’t enough. The educational marketplace doesn’t work when poor residents live far away from the neighborhoods with better schools. It’s the old saw: location, location, location.

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