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School Choice and the Future of American Democracy

Scott Franklin Abernathy

Publication Year: 2005

In School Choice and the Future of American Democracy, Scott Franklin Abernathy shows what is lost in the school choice debate. Abernathy looks at parents as citizens who exert power over the educational system through everything from their votes on school budgets to their membership on school boards. Challenging the assumption that public schools will improve when confronted with market-based reforms, Abernathy examines the possibility that public schools will become more disconnected and isolated as civic life is privatized. "Scott Abernathy takes up big questions and provides answers grounded in the complex reality of policy and politics. School Choice and the Future of American Democracy is a book written for those who understand that the world does not fit the simple explanations too often put forward." --Clarence Stone, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, and Research Professor, George Washington University "Will school choice revive or eviscerate democratic processes and institutions? Will it narrow or exacerbate the range of educational inequities? This book takes several differently angled slices into these questions and draws intriguing answers." --Jeffrey R. Henig, Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of Rethinking School Choice: Limits of the Market Metaphor "Through extensive research and refreshingly impartial analysis, Scott Abernathy probes how the use of market principles to reform public schools affects democratic citizenship. Treating citizens first and foremost as customers, he finds, threatens civic engagement and the well-being of schools, especially in the nation's neediest communities. This thoughtful and balanced appraisal is must-reading for those concerned about the future of American education and democracy." --Suzanne Mettler, Alumni Associate Professor, Syracuse University, and author of Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation Scott Franklin Abernathy is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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1 | Faith in the Markets

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pp. 1-20

It was the first day at one of my prospective research sites: a small public school in an inner city in New Jersey. I was there to talk to the principal, to explain that I wanted to follow her around as she interacted with parents and community members, to find out what she sees when she thinks about her parent community, how she is responsive to them...

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2 | Leaving the Public Schools Behind

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pp. 21-48

In the beginning, school choice was mostly about race. In spite of the justifications of choice on efficiency grounds made by Milton Friedman, early school choice policies were designed either to perpetuate racial segregation or to try to overcome it. In the case of providing parents with public funds to send their children to private schools, it was a case of Southern school districts and state legislatures attempting to subvert the U.S. Supreme Court in its efforts to desegregate the public schools...

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3 | Over the Principal’s Shoulder

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pp. 49-72

“We took eighty kids on an orchestra trip to Europe,” one of the New Jersey public school principals in my study tells me. “The kids were marvelous.” His is a high school in a wealthy suburban district, with a statewide reputation for academic excellence. His school is financed primarily by local property taxes on single-family homes...

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4 | Charter Schools, Parental Involvement, and the Public School Principalship

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pp. 73-88

From its humble beginnings as an idea scribbled on a cocktail napkin, the charter school movement has emerged as one of the most promising school choice reforms around. There are now roughly three thousand charter schools operating in forty-one states. Unlike current voucher programs, charter schools do not involve spending public money on private institutions and do not...

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5 | The Vote

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pp. 89-100

On the second Tuesday of every April, 90 percent of New Jersey’s 602 school districts must present their base budgets to the voters for approval or rejection.2 New Jersey is one of only seven states that allow citizens this power to weigh in on school budgets, though that power is limited. School districts that lose on the base budget questions must take the results of the elections to the local municipal body...

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6 | The Personal, the Political, and the Economic

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pp. 101-116

I began this book with a puzzle: “What is the connection between equality and liberty in American education?” I argued that a careful and critical exploration of this connection is crucial to our understanding of the likely effects of school choice policies and their larger effects on the functioning of American democracy. The tension between liberty and equality, between politics and markets, is real...

Appendix A | Supplementary Tables for Chapter 2

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pp. 117-120

Appendix B | Supplementary Tables for Chapter 4

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pp. 121-127

Appendix C | Supplementary Tables and Material for Chapter 5

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pp. 128-132


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pp. 133-146


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pp. 147-154


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pp. 155-158

E-ISBN-13: 9780472022229
E-ISBN-10: 0472022229
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472069019
Print-ISBN-10: 0472069012

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 9 charts, 33 Tables
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 631013175
MUSE Marc Record: Download for School Choice and the Future of American Democracy

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Subject Headings

  • School choice -- United States.
  • Educational vouchers -- United States.
  • Charter schools -- United States.
  • Educational equalization -- United States.
  • Education -- Political aspects -- United States.
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