School Choice: The Tautology of the Market



Private think-tanks, education reform advocates, corporate foundations, and their political allies posit that the “crisis” in education would be remedied if schools were forced to operate like businesses and succeed or fail as market conditions permit. However, this chapter demonstrates that the logic and evidence for the effectiveness of market-based educational reform is highly questionable. Proponents of market-based education reform, and “free markets” in general, are instead serving up another tautology. The entire school choice concept as it is currently promoted rests upon a logical fallacy. Advocates of school choice often conflate legitimate consumer choices with false choices. Competition in a marketplace for education strengthens the link between wealth and education outcomes rather than weakens it. This leads to increased inequality. We need less of market-based economics and behaviorist business practices in education, not more. Education should be an equalizer by enabling all students, regardless of socio-economic background to reach their full potential. The “business model” many reformers advocate subverts the power of education to equalize.


School Choice False Choice Charter Schools Traditional Public Schools Higher educationHigher Education 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Kate Bowler, A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Petra Rivoli, The Travel of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    George Soros, The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered (New York: Public Affairs, 1998).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 35th Anniversary Edition (New York: Dutton, 1992), 1170–1171.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    U. S. Department of Education, “Department of Education Establishes New Student Aid Rules to Protect Borrowers and Taxpayers,” Press Release, October 28, 2010,
  7. 7.
    Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, United States Senate, “For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success,” Report issued July 30, 2012,
  8. 8.
    Securities and Exchange Commission, “SEC Announces Fraud Charges Against ITT Educational Services,” Press Release, May 12, 2015,
  9. 9.
    United States District Court Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Plaintiff, v. Corinthian Colleges Inc. d/b/a Everest College, Everest Institute, Everest University, Everest University Online, Everest College Phoenix, Everest College Online, WyoTech, and Heald College, Defendant,” Case No. 1:14-cv-07194: Default Judgment and Order, October 27, 2015,
  10. 10.
    U. S. Department of Education, “Education Department Appoints Special Master to Inform Debt Relief Process,” Press Release, June 25, 2015,
  11. 11.
    U. S. Department of Justice, “For-Profit College Company to Pay $95.5 Million to Settle Claims of Illegal Recruiting, Consumer Fraud, and Other Violations,” Press Release, November 16, 2015,
  12. 12.
    “How Much Parent Power Do You Have? Parent Power Index 2015, Ohio,” Center for Education Reform, accessed December 23, 2015,
  13. 13.
    “Charter Schools, Finding out the facts: At a glance,” Center for Public Education, accessed July 27, 2015,
  14. 14.
    “How Much Parent Power Do You Have? Parent Power Index 2015, Maryland,” Center for Education Reform, accessed December 23, 2015,
  15. 15.
    Liz Bowie, “New effort underway to change Maryland charter schools law,” Baltimore Sun, January 20, 2015,
  16. 16.
    Edward Cremata, et al., National Charter School Study 2013, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University, CREDO Center for Research on Education Outcomes, 2013),
  17. 17.
    Matthew Di Carlo, “The Evidence on Charter Schools and Test Scores,” Policy Brief, (Washington, DC: Albert Shanker Institute, 2011),
  18. 18.
    Urban Charter School Study Report on 41 Regions 2015, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University, CREDO Center for Research on Education Outcomes, 2015),
  19. 19.
    Andrew Maul, “Review of Urban Charter School Study 2015,” (Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, National Education Policy Center, 2015),
  20. 20.
    Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    “Cashing in on Kids,” In the Public Interest, accessed May 1, 2018,
  22. 22.
    Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (New York: Harper Collins, 2008).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Alfie Kohn, Punished By Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes, 2nd ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (New York: Riverhead Books, 2009).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Paul L. Marciano, Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECTTM (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Susan Fowler, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2014).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Shawn Murphy, The Optimistic Workplace: Creating an Environment that Energizes Everyone (New York: AMACOM, 2015).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Alex Gibney, director, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, (Dallas, TX: 2929 Entertainment and HDNet Films, released April 22, 2005), video, 1:50:00.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    “Race to the Top Funding Program,” U. S. Department of Education, accessed February 14, 2016,
  30. 30.
    Robert Morse, “How States Compare in the 2015 Best High Schools Rankings,” U. S. News & World Report, May 11, 2015,
  31. 31.
    “Table H-8B. Median Income of Households by State Using Three-Year Moving Averages: 1984 to 2013,” United States Census Bureau, accessed February 14, 2016,
  32. 32.
    “Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National Council for Educating Black Children, National Urban League, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and Schott Foundation for Public Education, Schott Foundation, July 2010,
  33. 33.
    Lillian Mongeau, “Is Silicon Valley Driving Teachers Out?” The Atlantic, July 21, 2015,
  34. 34.
    Jill Tucker, “To attract teachers, school districts get into the housing business,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 2015,
  35. 35.
    Timothy Smeeding, “Public policy, economic inequality, and poverty: The United States in comparative perspective.” Social Science Quarterly 86, (December 2005): 956–983.
  36. 36.
    Carmen DeNavas-Walt, and Bernadette D. Proctor, U. S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-252, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014, (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 2015),
  37. 37.
    Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2015).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Edited by S. M. Soares. (Lausanne: MetaLibri Digital Library, May 2007), Book I, Chapter II, p. 16. Accessed May 1, 2018,

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loyola University MarylandBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations