MHP   |  September 23, 2012

Should students, parents choose which school to attend?

Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Alter; Derrell Bradford of Better Education; Lily Eskelsen of the National Education Association; and University of Texas at Austin professor Julian Vasquez Heilig; join Melissa Harris-Perry's special Education Nation show to debate about school choice for parents and students.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> enrollment in almost half of the nation's largest school districts has decreased since 2005 . but the number of charter schools has exploded. especially in urban areas . increasing 9% in just the last two years. now, the popular argument is that school choice provides the necessary competition to lift all boats. but various studies show that charters are not performing any better than our nation's other public schools . with me is jonathan alter , a columnist for bloomberg view and msnbc contributor. darell bradford, executive director of the better education for kids. and lily he is kel sen, vice president of the education association and former utah teacher of the year. julian vasquez associate professor of education policy at the university of texas at austin and a former charter school teacher and a current parent of a charter school student. thank you all for being here.

>> thanks for having us.

>>> darell, you hung out with me on mhp show previously. i promised to have you back for the school choice fight. make the school choice argument for me.

>> i think the first thing that's really important is that people like me or very smart people unlike me are sort of constantly dividing schools up into chutes, right? we talk about them by kinds. we say traditional district school, a magnet school you test into, we have a charter school , private school , whatever. i think there are really only two kinds of schools. there are schools you want to send people you love to and there's schools that you don't want to. i want to really simplify this. when we talk about like charter schools and some of them are great or some aren't, the good thing about charter schools is that they create more good schools. that's the effort, that's the purpose. so i want to start there. the second thing, i think, i heard congressman miller say this earlier. would be far easier, trust me, this is not fun stuff to talk about. it would be far easier for people to go to the neighborhood school and have it be great. that's not the reality. there are tons of places in america where it is and tons of places it isn't. we have tons of schools that are down the street from schools that are working of various types, why we shouldn't align public policy that way.

>> that reality that there are schools that are working and others that aren't and they're right next to each other has been an experience, part of the american experience for a long time. the initial reaction was integration. the big reason they were different was because of segregation. i'm wondering if school choice actually enhances these separations, these differences.

>> if a doctor gave me a pill and said, you have a 17% chance of getting better if i swallow this pill, would we go that's all you got? that's charter schools . a stanford study showed 17% actually are those better schools. and we have a lot we can learn from those. we're not against charter schools , but the national education association . we want all schools to be as good as the best school. what we -- what concerns us is kind of a bait and switch. let's talk about vouchers or charter schools so we don't have to talk about class size so we don't have to talk about how are you training your teachers, so you don't have to talk about are all kids getting a broad curriculum with the arts, with literature or are you just making sure it fits on a standardized test .

>> that's something you and i have had many impassioned conversation cans about this. i wonder about this choice. what is it about a piece of paper that is a charter that somehow would make the school 17% more likely to perform at a higher level.

>> it doesn't. charters by themselves are not any kind of a cure-all. magic pill. but the highly performing charters, like the kip schools for instance, about 110 of them, it's the highly performing charters are schools that all schools can learn from. so what i'd like to see more of is sharing of best practices between those charter schools that are working and some of them don't work. many don't work. the ones that work, they have like 90, 95% graduation rates in very impoverished neighborhoods. these are terrific schools. so the idea of lumping those schools in with the one that is don't work and saying, let's cap the number of charter schools in our state, which has been the nea's position. that's fol i. why cap experimentation when you can get an outstanding school by letting a thousand flowers bloom.

>> here's why you cap. here's why you cap charters. 83% of them do not perform better than the traditional urban schools. you raise kip. an interesting thing about kip. we push published a study about them talking specifically about african-american students. 40% left there in texas over the last ten years.

>> you're cherry picking bogus statistics. no offense.

>> wait, wait. okay. so we have --

>> won't let you dis kip's --

>> i will. since it's my show. no, no. i'm not going to allow anyone to dis anyone on this program. what i am going to say is that we do have to deal with data and that those data are not as easily demonstrative jonathan as would you suggest. that they just show that kip schools always perform. we talked earlier about the very idea of what tools are we using to measure assessment and i don't think that julian is dissing kip schools. he's offering additional data. everybody hold on right there. a family that says school choice is no cure-all. when you take