Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination
ABSTRACT: Despite failure to improve academic outcomes or close the achievement gap, school-choice policies, advanced by education legislation and doctrine, have come to dominate public discourse on public education reform in the United States, with students of color disproportionately enrolling in voucher programs and charter schools. This Article moves past the typical market-based critiques of school choice to analyze the particularly racialized constraints on choice for marginalized students and their families in the public school system. The Article unpacks the blame-placing that occurs when the individualism and independence that school choice and choice rhetoric promote fail to improve academic outcomes, and the ways in which choice merely masks racial subordination and the abdication of democratic values in the school system. Students of color and their families may be opting out, but their decisions to do so neither improve public education nor reflect genuine choice. This Article ultimately argues that the values underlining school choice and choice rhetoric––like privacy, competition, independence, and liberty––are inherently incompatible with the public school system. The Article concludes by suggesting an alternate legal and rhetorical framework acknowledging the vulnerability of minority students, as well as the interdependence between white students and non- white students in the system, and it advances strict limitations on school choice, even, if necessary, in the form of compulsory universal public school education.