Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Public School Advantage

a review by Edd Doerr

The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, by Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski. University of Chicago Press,  2013, 276 pp, $18.00.

For decades well-funded promoters of school privatization, vouchers and charter schools have criticized our public schools and pushed the notion that market-based models of education and diversion of public funds to faith-based and other private schools would improve education. In this important new book University of Illinois education professors Christopher and Sarah Lubienski let the privatizers and voucher pushers -- Milton Friedman, John Chubb and Terry Moe, and many others -- toot their ideas for dozens of pages. Then WHAM, they lower the boom. With serious analyses of published and peer-reviewed studies, like NAEP, they show that the supposedly beneficial effects of vouchers, competition, and educational marketization are really just the effects of the various kinds of SES (socio-econimic status) selectivity, and that in the real world regular public schools offer better education, despite the endless attacks on public education, on teachers and their unions, and on public school budgets. They show how and why public schools work better, though that might seem counterintuitive to some. Their book contains full documentation.

The authors do not even need to refer to the referenda and polls showing strong public opposition to school privatization, or to what actually is the religio-ideological nature of the vast majority of private schools. This book reinforces and stands with such other recent works as Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the  Danger to America's Public Schools, and Michael Fabricant and Michelle Fine's Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education: What's at Stake. These three books are indispensable for all who care about education and the future of our country.

(Edd Doerr, a former teacher of history and Spanish, is president of Americans for Religious Liberty,

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