Education Opinion

Private Schools Can’t Have It Both Ways

By Walt Gardner — February 27, 2015 1 min read
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Parents who are dissatisfied with the education their children receive at public schools have always had the right to send them to private schools. Until 2002, however, they had to pay the full tuition out of their own pockets (unless their children qualified for scholarships). Zelman v. Simmons-Harris changed all that by allowing government funding to go to private schools as long as it first went to parents. Since that is the case, I’d like to know why private schools don’t have to administer the same standardized tests that public schools do (“Will School Choice Transform Private Schools into Overregulated Public Schools,” Education News, Feb. 26)?

I realize that private schools have never been completely free of government regulations. For example, they have had to comply with health and safety regulations as well as with nondiscrimination laws. But so far they have been exempt from giving their students the same controversial standardized tests that allow inferences to be drawn about student learning. After the Zelman ruling, I’d like to know why? Government funding comes with strings attached. That’s the way it should be. But private schools want it both ways.

The most selective private schools need not be concerned. There will always be enough affluent parents willing and able to pay tuition of more than $40,000 per year. As a result, they don’t need to enroll students who can’t pay the full freight. Therefore, they are under no obligation to administer standardized tests or to publish the results of the performance of their students. That is their right because they are not getting any government aid. They are independent schools that play by their own rules.

Yet I expect to see fewer prestigious private schools accepting government aid in one form or another and still demanding to be free from the other rules affecting public schools. It’s a troubling trend.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.