An Interview with Jeffrey Cain: WHO OPPOSES SCHOOL CHOICE AND WHY?

Jun 2, 2011 by




Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

1) First of all, what is your exact position and what are you trying to accomplish?

I am a principal and co-founder at American Philanthropic, LLC.

2) What exactly is this American philanthropic Society and what is it trying to accomplish?

American Philanthropic isn’t a society. We are a philanthropic consulting and services firm that provides, among other things, research on the philanthropic sector.

3) Let’s first talk a bit of history. There have always been private and parochial schools in America that have charged tuition. Indeed, I attended both during my elementary and secondary years. What is the current status of private and religious based schools in America that are charging tuition?

This is a good question but considerably outside the scope of our expertise. Our area of expertise is not so much education or even education reform, per se, but the donor world. Our report focuses primarily on identifying those who fund opposition to school choice in Texas, and secondarily on suggesting what their motivations might be.

4) Now, charter schools have also been around, but probably for considerably less time. Are there organizations that oppose school choice vis a vis charters?

There certainly are. Many (not all) of the organizations who oppose school choice in Texas (and elsewhere) not only oppose, say, voucher programs, but also charter schools.

5) There are some students that may need a highly specialized school- I am referring to the small number of students who are deafblind, with Charge or Usher’s Syndrome. Why would some organization be opposed to these children receiving the appropriate education they need?

I couldn’t say, and am not aware of anyone who is. These kinds of issues really aren’t central factors in the school-choice debate.

6) I encounter parents every day who bemoan the fact that their child with a learning disability is not receiving what they think is an appropriate education. Do these organizations have no insight into the fact that there are students with special needs and do they believe that the public schools can meet all the needs or ALL children?

This is a question that you would really have to ask them.

7) Tell us about your quite interesting report- co authored with Jeremy Beer- about “School Choice in Texas: Who Opposes it and Why”.

In this report, we address two questions: (1) Who are the main actors funding opposition to school choice in Texas today? And (2) In general, why do groups such as these oppose school choice?

8) What were the MAIN points you were trying to make in that report?

The report shows that opposition to school choice in Texas today is funded primarily by three sources: (1) educators’ associations, through the dues imposed upon rank and-file public school teachers and administrators; (2) the private charitable foundations including some of the largest foundations in the world—who fund left leaning Texas policy organizations such as the Texas Freedom Network and Center for Public Policy Priorities; and (3) individual donors and philanthropists who support anti-school-choice political candidates and organizations. We conclude that opposition to school choice is best understood as a form of monopolistic protectionism. Teacher unions, school administrators, and their allies act as rational actors when they oppose school choice. Their opposition is founded in economic self interest.

9) Listen, I follow the number of parents who are home schooling their children and the numbers seem to be increasing. What does this say to you?

It says to me that there is growing dissatisfaction with public schools — with what they are teaching, how well they are teaching it, and perhaps most especially th cultural values transmitted by many public schools, which many parents from across the political spectrum find problematic.

10) You cite administrators as being opposed to school choice- but what administrator would want to have aggressive, destructive students in their school building? Would it not be logical, rational and reasonable for that child to be in a different school to meet their needs?

It certainly would seem so. Having such students present is certainly one reason why inner city residents, for example, tend to support school choice.

11) Would greater school choice result in more teachers being needed to teach across America?

Ultimately, I think yes, but I can claim no expertise in this area.

12) What have I neglected to ask?

Nothing that I can think of. I would suggest that readers who are interested in learning more about the substantive issues that surround school choice check out websites such as

13) How do interested readers get a copy of your report?

Copies of the report may be purchased by calling 800-621-2763. The ISBN is 978-0978-650254.

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