Ashley Berner: Pluralism, Policy and Predictions

Ashley Berner, Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, recently pondered the question in an Education Next article titled Education for the Common Good, “Why should taxpayers support the education of other people’s children?

In democracies, the answer is because these children’s lives (including workforce participation and social well-being) and political involvement (understanding democratic institutions, analyzing legislation, and voting) shape ours. Since the late-18th and early-19th centuries, governments have rested their case for public education here. It is not surprising that the imperative to expand the general public’s knowledge and know-how coincided with the expansion of the right to vote.

After reading her book, Pluralism and American Education: No One Way to School, I wanted to ask a few questions on Education policy and the notion of pluralism in American education and her references in the book to Canadian and European systems as well as the larger notion of the Common Good as hinted at above.

  1. In your book you argue for a pluralistic vision of public education that is more similar to some of the Canadian provinces and European countries, and in Education Next you state that “From the Early Republic until the present day, Americans have never decided that education is merely a private good.” In that same article you link to a number of studies that affirm the contribution of private schools; however, it seems as if fears over privatization in the education market or the religious nature of many private schools inhibit inclusion in the greater education policy conversation. How are you seeing your argument received, and what challenges lie ahead for greater consideration of non-public schools within policy discussions?
  2. The non-public school sector seems quite small at 11%; however, the charter school sector has grown rapidly to 6% in the past decade putting a greater number of students in schools of “choice”. Likewise, we’ve seen the increase in cities and a few states with ESA or voucher opportunities for non-public schools. With increased choice, how do we ensure accountability for quality and outcomes while at the same time allowing schools to retain their distinctiveness?
  3. What are the implications of the current tax bill and other state legislation from 2017 for educational pluralism? At the end of podcast I also asked her for a prediction for 2018.

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