The school choice movement’s greatest hurdle that needs to be addressed before school choice has the true impact it can have is infrastructure. In many states where the highest demand would be for private and charter schools, the available seats do not yet exist as conservatives have yet to invest in these regions. The fact is that even if every state in the country passed a full school choice bill, nearly the same amount of students would be forced to attend public schools anyway due to the limited private schools in their areas. This is not the fault of the radical left, it is a self-inflicted wound that conservatives and moderates have failed to address over the course of the last 60 years. If school choice is passed without proper preparation, the supply will fail to match the demand.
A few years ago an American Federation for Children survey estimated that around 1.15 million seats in private schools across the country were not being used. [Note: This statistic is pre-COVID. The likelihood of there being this many available seats today is extremely low. Other surveys and studies were sought, but this is one of the only studies that has been most recently published.] Yet when looking at where these available seats are, it becomes abundantly clear that this number is not a true reflection of how many open seats private schools have. Over half of the hypothetical available seats at these private schools come from just eight states: California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The top three states with available seats in private schools are California, New York, and Illinois; they represent 30% of the available seats in private schools. This means that school choice, if implemented right now, would not have the impact across the country that many people claim; the seat shortage would be excessive in the areas where people support it the most. The citizens who would benefit the most by school choice would be in far left leaning states where school choice is not a priority, and where in many cases, private schools tend to have a far left bias themselves with leftist teachers and administrators running each school.
Imagine that you are in the year 1990. Someone walks up to you and offers to sell you an electric car at half of the price of a normal car. Would you honestly buy it? The infrastructure needed for you to use that car has not been built yet. Even now in 2022, after three decades of the electric car industry and the U.S. government spending billions of dollars developing some of the infrastructure of electric cars, most people still choose to buy a gas powered car because of the convenience and infrastructure that is there to support a gas or diesel vehicle. The same is very much the case when it comes to school choice and the infrastructure needed for it to make a measurable impact.
For instance Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and our nation’s capital Washington, D.C. all have less than 5,000 available open seats in private schools. The total number of seats available in these 11 states and Washington, D.C. is just over 31,000. (Put this in comparison with over 313,000 private school seats available in California, New York, and Illinois.) This means in states where the infrastructure of private schools does not exist, parents will not have a real choice as they will be “choosing” the public school that their child already attends.
One recent example is in the infamous Loudoun County, Virginia, where America’s wealthiest elites are drawing attention to their not unique issue of dealing with radical leftism in their school. In Loudon County, their plan to open a Christian school in 2023 with 500 seats available already has over 2,500 students pre-registered, and over 450 teachers seeking employment. Though they may offer a remote learning option since seats will not be available to the majority of those interested in the school, remote learning is not a favorable learning environment, especially for young children. It will be interesting to see how the 500 seats are filled in one of the wealthiest areas in the country where parents who can do so will pull out all the stops to get their child/ren in the school, providing yet another great talking point for the far left.
The solution to this infrastructure issue is for conservatives to start working in these other states, where the need exists. There are many affluent individuals on the left who have taken their vast funds to create and support organizations that train and support educators. These same individuals have also funded the creation and support of private and charter schools. This is why the most available open private school seats are in extremely leftist states. If this trend continues, it is possible that big tech or some other left leaning company will largely control the private school industry. The sad reality is that in purple and red states of America, even after school choice, parents won’t have much to choose from unless those who believe in school choice start investing money and time towards making this a real possibility in America.