Vol 10 – The Death of Public School… It Sounds Serious! (Guest: Cara Fitzpatrick)


Nov 1 2023 • 56 mins

Greetings, CharterFolk!

Greetings, CharterFolk!

This is the second WonkyFolk where Andy is talking while Jed is walking the Camino Trail with his wife, Amy. Andy and Cara Fitzpatrick, an editor at Chalkbeat and a Pulitzer Prize winner for Local Reporting in 2016 for a series about school segregation, talk school choice history and school choice today.

Their conversation focuses on Cara’s book, The Death of Public School: How Conservatives Won the War Over Education in America, particularly the complicated history of school choice in America, and the fact that very different people with very different backgrounds are pursuing school choice for very different reasons. A theme running through the discussion is the long history of political and constitutional strategies to expand school choice, especially the legal strategies focused on the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.

For those of you who would prefer a video recording, we provide a link to YouTube as well.

This week some of the topics include:

  • Introductions and Cara’s background and K-12 school experience (00:00:20)
  • The provocative title of the book and an overview of the very complicated history of American school choice (00:04:33)
  • Who wins between these different visions of choice: Is it good for everyone or is it good for low income children? (00:10:50)
  • What does it mean for Democrats and school choice and why are Republicans better at messaging than Democrats? (00:15:06)
  • Organized political warfare v. grassroots in school choice (00:16:55)
  • How the Democratic answer to school choice was initially charters versus vouchers and how it only recently changed with Betsy DeVos (00:23:00)
  • Jeb Bush’s quote regarding school choice, ‘…start small and expand’ and the idea that school choice is a regular feature of American education (00:26:41)
  • Political and constitutional strategies to expand school choice, with an emphasis on legal strategies and the journey of separation of church and state in education, including precedents and the most recent Supreme Court decision in Carson v. Makin (2022) (00:30:57)
  • Precedents v. presentism and court shifts on the Free Exercise Clause over the years (00:38:11)
  • The role of housing in school choice and the various tools segregationist use in education that are still a problem in our school systems across the country (00:44:09)
  • Why were individuals like Milton Friedman and Virgil Bloom comfortable with school choice options (vouchers) while recognizing they would have ill effects on public schools? And is this the death of public schools? (00:48:37)


You can use the following link to access

Cara Fitzpatrick’s book, The Death of Public School: How Conservatives Won the War Over Education in America.

Andrew Rotherham’s article in U.S. News & World Report, “The Complex History of School Choice: There’s no single reason people want more choice in...