Public schools are working, and in most cases, better than their private counterparts, according to an op-ed from former Racine Unified Superintendent James Shaw.

The piece appeared in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week.

Shaw writes that conducting a straight comparison of public and private schools is like comparing apples to oranges because of the variables involved. He cites a recent study from Lubienski and Lubienski to support his position.

In short, Shaw says the correlation between poverty and poor academic performance is too strong to ignore. Likewise, the tie between affluence and greater academic performance is also widely accepted so a straight comparison is, “in terms of poverty and demographics, public schools are oranges and private schools are apples.”

While he concedes that the general concern over public schools’ inability to reduce the achievement gap or “weaken the link between poverty and achievement” is well-placed, Shaw stands firm that privatizing education is not the answer.

Here’s why: when demographics and poverty are taken into consideration, the apples-and-oranges comparison turns into an apples-to-apples comparison.

“…when apples are compared to apples, public schools do a better job,” he writes.

Shaw ends his post by saying that public schools are required to educate all children where private schools can, essentially, choose their student body.

“Educating all children is the mission of public education. Educating all children is a complex problem, but, to paraphrase H.L. Mencken, the privatization of public education is the clear, simple and wrong answer,” the piece reads.

Do you agree with Shaw’s opinion? Why or why not?

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