American public education has changed dramatically during the past 50 years. The majority of public school students now are non-white, including many recent immigrants. Educators must comply with the Common Core State Standards, annually prepare students for standardized tests and undergo public evaluation.
Since its beginnings in 1992, the charter school movement has grown to encompass some 6,800 schools in 42 states and the District of Columbia, serving approximately 3 million students. Many are run by for-profit management companies that receive public dollars but little public oversight. Education voucher programs, through which families can use public funding to send their children to private schools, also have spread since the Supreme Court sanctioned the practice in 2002. And home schooling has grown rapidly as well, particularly among minorities. The federal government plays a much stronger role in funding public schools and shaping education policy. Major foundations also actively influence policy and practice.
Now the current President and Secretary of Education seem poised to accelerate charter school development, education vouchers and other elements of privatization. Will public education as we know it survive? What needs fixing and what needs protecting? Below, TC faculty members, alumni and a current student — Sonya Douglass Horsford; Luis Huerta; Ernest Morrell; Aaron Pallas; Diane Ravitch; Dirck Roosevelt; Basil Smikle; Michael Usdan; and Amy Stuart Wells — weigh in