Confronting the Seduction of Choice: Law, Education, and American Pluralism
120 Yale L.J. 814 (2011).
School choice policies, which allow parents to select among a range of options to satisfy compulsory schooling for their children, have arisen from five periods of political and legal struggle. This Feature considers the shape of school choice that emerged in the 1920s education fight over Americanization of immigrants; the freedom-of-choice plans used to avoid court-ordered school desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s; magnet schools used to promote school desegregation in the 1970s until they were halted by the Supreme Court; constitutional campaigns for vouchers to pay for religious schooling; and current experiments with charter schools and other alternatives, including special-identity schools. The idea of school choice appeals to individual freedom, market competition, religious freedom, multiculturalism, and ideological neutrality. School choice programs draw new talent into schooling and offer new avenues for social integration but only if that goal becomes an explicit public commitment, shaping available choices. Otherwise, school choice can enable new forms of social separation and obscure the absence of equal opportunities for all students.