1st Post of 2016: The Best Case Against Relinquishment


It is always worth pressure testing your own beliefs, preferably in a manner that can pass an ideological Turing test.

Beginning of the year seems as good of a time as any; so here’s the case against relinquishment, which I define as:

(1) Educators operate schools, mostly through non-profits.

(2) Families choose amongst these schools.

(3) Government regulates for performance and equity.

Relinquishment Ignores Key Lessons from Other Nations

Many of the world’s most successful education systems are driven by some combination of the following: (1) government operated schools (2) a national culture that stresses learning (3) the professionalization of teaching force through training, status, and pay.

Relinquishment does not directly move our educational system in this direction, as it promotes non-government operation of schools; does not really impact national culture; and is silent on teacher pay.

In short, relinquishment ignores much of what the world has to teach us about great public schooling.

Relinquishment Fails to Address the Root Cause of Child Poverty 

The United States is home to high relative child poverty. Given the extremely high degree of correlation (and likely causation) between relative poverty and poor education outcomes, the most direct route to raising achievement is to reduce child poverty.

In short, relinquishment does not impact the greatest barrier to student learning.

Relinquishment Can’t Scale

Even if relinquishment did lead to positive outcomes, even the most bullish projections show that it will take 30+ years to achieve even close to 50% non-profit enrollment in the United States.

In short, multiple generations of students will be lost to poor academic outcomes because the strategy cannot be adopted with speed.


I’ll leave it to you to determine whether or not I passed the ideological Turing test.

For whatever it’s worth, I’m most sympathetic to the argument re: child poverty.

2 thoughts on “1st Post of 2016: The Best Case Against Relinquishment

  1. Mike G

    4. Isn’t an argument you hear frequently something like: “NOLA is best data point for relinquishment, but was a special case b/c of talent/philanthropy”?

  2. Pingback: The Big Short, David Kirp, Newark, Union City, New Orleans | relinquishment

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