The repeated claim is that charters and choice are necessary in order for students to have options and to be able to select from many different educational programs, which makes me wonder-- are public schools made out of tofu or some other featureless, uniform substance. When you slice a public school, do you uncover the same bland surface, the same unvaried material, no matter which way you slice? Is it true that the only way to find variety, choice, or selections is to set up charter schools?
I teach in a relatively rural high school, so we're not loaded with resources or money, and yet a student at my school can choose to emphasize music or the arts or attend our vocational technical school to learn welding or home health care. You can take a yearbook class to learn photography and design, or theater, or public speaking, or business technology. If you're interested in 3D printing or working in a basic-but-fun mass media lab, we can hook you up. In my department alone, we have a variety of pedagogical and personal styles; a student who passes through our building is bound to find one teacher in our department that she really clicks with.
We are most definitely built our of tofu.
In fact, I would think that our school, like most public schools, actually provides better access to variety and choice than a so-called choice system, because to switch gears ("I think I'd like to stop playing trumpet and start learning auto body repair!") doesn't require a student to withdraw, then enroll in a whole new school and start over again. Want to switch your emphasis? Go see your guidance counselor. You can keep your friends and your locker and your lunch table-- you just get some different classes.
Sometimes the choices have to do with the community, and sometimes with a singular vision of one individual in the system (just up the road is a school that for years had an awesome steel drum band because they had a teacher who was knowledgeable and interested in steel drum bands). The particular constellation of choices under one roof will vary from roof to roof-- that's what gives a school its distinctive flavor (and one more reason it's a lousy idea to try to make all schools taste like Common Core Test Prep). But you don't have to move out from under that roof to find different choices.
I would suspect that in the larger urban districts schools become more "specialized" in a number of ways, like specializing in the arts or specializing in technology or specializing in making do with far fewer resources than they ought to have. But I will still bet you that nowhere in this country will you find a public school made of tofu.