There are so many criticisms and counter-criticisms that swirl around the issue of choice and charters in the Great Unending Education Debate, but there are some criticisms of choice that have never been answered, because they can't be.
It's not all the surprising that Betsy DeVos came up stumped by IDEA at her hearing-- charter-choice systems don't spend a lot of energy, effort or (most importantly) money on students with special needs. This is not news-- we were talking about it back in, say, 2012, when Nina Rees president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "said she'd like to provide schools with more assistance on special education, but said she believed the lower rates were mostly the result of parental choice."
If they're not selecting charter schools it's a reflection of where parents decide to send their kids and not so much a reflection on charter schools, in my opinion.
Please. It is exactly a reflection on charter schools. Imagine making this same argument about segregated lunch counters. "Hey, if black folks don't choose to come in here just because we won't serve them, well, then, they're just exercising their freedom of choice!"
No business sets out to attract and serve all customers. The most fundamental part of a business plan is to know what your target audience is, and then aim at them while ignoring all others. You can't open the door to everyone, and you can't be welcoming to everyone. McDonalds is unwelcoming to fancy people in search of fine dining. Lexus dealerships do not open their doors wide to poor folks looking for a beater.
And charter schools are not open to all comers. Saying, "Well, that customer didn't choose" is a pile of baloney when you made no attempt to be chosen, or made efforts to make sure that customer did NOT choose you.
It doesn't change this to talk about "access" or "opportunity." Black folks had "access" to the doors to segregated businesses, and they had the "opportunity" to walk through those doors before they were shoved back out of them. Every customer has the opportunity to buy a Lexus-- but plenty don't have the money. Every passenger on the Titanic had access to a life boat, but only some could actually be saved.
Nor do charters have to worry about what becomes of the customers who choose not to enter a school where they're unwelcome. Did that student who walked away from us find a school that would serve their needs and make them feel welcome? Who knows? We are not responsible for other peoples' customers.
The promise of public education is that every child or every ability level and family background will be welcomed into a school where they will be given a great education. The door must be open to everyone, and once through that door, they should all be welcomed. The idea of a charter-choice system that does not keep the door open for everyone runs counter to the promise of public education.