"Private" Public Schools and the Blatant Hypocrisy of School Choice Opponents

I guess some things in education you’re just not supposed to talk about. Hats off to the Fordham Institute for breaking one of the taboos and reporting on “private” public schools. What, you say? That doesn’t make sense?

It does make sense when you understand what authors Michael Petrilli and Janie Scull are getting at: the fact that 2,800 public schools serving 1.7 million students in the United States have very, very low percentages of poor students in them. As they show, schools funded and run outside the government system aren’t the only ones that can be exclusive.

The list of Denver-area “private” public schools is posted here (PDF). Those who are paying attention closely will note that 5 of the 55 on the list are public charter schools. That’s about in proportion to Colorado’s general school population, which reinforces our understanding that charters in our state cater to no more or fewer middle-class students than their neighborhood school counterparts do.

I’m not saying we need to put an end to all of these exclusive schools — whether they be private or public, traditional or charter. The point is let’s stop bashing proposals to give publicly-funded scholarships (through vouchers or tax credits) so poor kids can attend private schools, while defending the right of many more well-to-do students to attend private “public” schools (or Economic Segregation Academies, if you prefer).