This article though makes me wonder a bit. In impoverished neighborhoods in India, private schools provide decent caring education for $1 - $2 / month per child. These are parents who want a good education for their children now and who aren't willing to wait for some monster bureaucracy to figure out how to create a functioning public education system. This isn't just a phenomenon in India - around the globe in developing nations, where there are public school systems lacking discipline, with complacent teachers and classes in which students sit and chat instead of learning (sound familiar?) these type of private schools flourish. And, the students do nearly twice as well as students in public schools.
I think we know that involved and caring parents who value education are a big part of successful educational outcomes. While the idea of using money as a way to make sure your kids don't have to go to school with those kids is abhorrent, what about making sure there is an atmosphere that values education by asking parents to financially support the school? In a way, isn't that what Baltimore's charter schools are doing? The kids a charter schools have parents who care enough about education to look into charter schools. They need to have a some thoughts about education so they can find a school who's philosophy they agree with. They need to sign on to helping out at the school (even if they don't actually put in the hours). In other words, they are required to value and support their child's education - very different from what traditional public schools often get from their parents.
And the same things can be said about homeschooling parents. Clearly they care about education and as they come up with curriculum and lesson plans they are vested in their child's education. Sure, this is not an option for many parents and also for many kids. My special one, for instance must have typical peers in his class for him to flourish. But there are parents and kids that can choose this path.
This all sounds good, but how do we make sure the bar that tries to ensure involved parents doesn't block out kids that we need to be educated. How do we help parents who want better for their kids, but don't know how to accomplish that? Certainly having momentum in the community can pull people along. Does the occasional scholarship to needy kids to Baltimore's private schools help the community, or is it only about the individual child? If it is about the individual child, certainly a parent should make educational choices based on what their kid needs, but should we (as in society) put resources into helping those few children or do we need to find a way to pull in more?
Hard questions, but I think they are helpful to ponder as I try to figure out my own kids different educational paths and I look at the paths that other parents choose.