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Laura Chapman: What “Money Follows the Child” Really Means

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Our reader Laura Chapman explains what the phrase “the money follows the child” really means. It’s another way of saying that every child should have “a backpack full of cash” strapped on them, to be spent anywhere. Another way to see it is as a jackhammer to destroy our democratically-controlled system of public schools and turn children over to the tender mercies of the free market. The billionaires—the Waltons, Bloomberg, Koch, Gates, Broad, Hastings, Anschutz, Sinquefeld—love the free market. They think it’s best for everyone.

Chapman writes:

The new phrase for money-follows-the-child policies favored by those who want privatized education is this:

We have a “pluralistic system of education.” That phrase is already being used in promote subsidized choice, with everyone eligible for federal funds and expansion of state-level choice programs.

Pluralistic education means that the great American way to educate children will support–
homeschoolers,
free-lance education service providers,
charter schools,
private schools,
religious schools,
traditional public schools,
online instructional delivery,
pay-for-success ventures,
specialty programs for the talented and those in need of therapeutic support (whether in homes, commercial facilities, or brick and mortar schools).
and other possibilities.

In this pluralistic system, market forces and innovative forms of instruction flourish, unimpeded by regulation. Federal subsidies are “fair” when money follows the student.

Proponents claim that all of these flavors of education can and should be subsidized with public funds, eithe in proportion to their market share or their performance on the optional “normative pluralistic standards and curriculum.”

Examples of optional “normative pluralistic standards” are those present in current federal and state legislation, in national campaigns for standards and tests such as those launched to support the “Common Core State Standards,” and the proliferation of rating schemes such as those at GreatSchools.org, US News and World Reports, and EdWeek’s “Chance of Success” reports.

This Pluralism R-US meme is being promoted by EdChoice, the organization once known as the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation, also Jeb Bush and his Chiefs for Change organization, and scholars.

Key scholars are at the Walton funded University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform; Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes; the University of Washington Bothell’s Center on Reinventing Public Education; Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance; and Johns Hopkins School of Education Institute for Education Policy.

For a brief look at the rationale for this meme and the policy agenda see
“Pluralism in American School Systems,” https://edpolicy.education.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/PluralismBrief-Jan2018.pdf

For a look at other promotions, see this recent 74 Million.org call for the use of stimulus money for “all types of schools.”

Bradford: $13B in Stimulus Money for K-12 Schools Is a Good Start. But All Types of Schools Will Need More Help From the Feds in Order to Reopen

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