Gerard Robinson: School choice is more than vouchers and charters
In reporting about newly appointed Florida education commissioner Gerard Smith, much has been made of his advocacy for school choice options for children. A lot of the attention focused on his support of vouchers through the Black Association for Educational Options, and his early participation in charter school legislation in Virginia.
In an interview with the Gradebook, Robinson said he sees the issue as much broader than those two pieces, and much less controversial:
"When we think about it, we only think about it in terms of charters and vouchers. We don't accept the fact that the largest school choice programs in the country are parents that put their children in good public schools that work. Magnet schools have been in place a long time before charters and that. So I don't want to allow the school choice issue to be pigeonholed into just one issue, vouchers and charters. What I am for is quality education.
"The work in Virginia expanded beyond charters. The work in other areas expanded beyond vouchers. For me, I am interested in making sure that parents, or taxpayers and others, have access to great public school systems. Florida has a great private school sector. It also has a great virtual school perspective. Guess what? Those are all aspects of school choice. But when we talk about the issue, we try to focus on what someone said about a contentious aspect of it, as surely there are. But there are contentious aspects of the traditional system that long preceded vouchers and charters.
"So for me, I am more interested in quality schools. And when I say choice, it's really what people do right now. They exercise choice every day when they decide to put their children in school. I think one way to identify choice in action is to identify the schools they chose not to put their children in. So for me, I don't see where that's controversial."
Visit the Gradebook on Saturday for our full interview with new education commissioner Gerard Robinson.