Corey DeAngelis responds to professor's new school choice book one year after their debate

A University of Illinois professor wrote a book arguing that the school choice movement is rooted in racism and segregation.

'Campus Reform' spoke with Corey DeAngelis, a school choice advocate and Cato fellow, about the new publication.

Last month, Education policy professor Jon Hale published his new book The Choice We Face: How Segregation, Race and Power Have Shaped America’s Most Controversial Education Reform Movement.

The book, a Beacon Press publication, is the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor's critique of the school choice movement in the U.S., which Hale characterizes as having "emerged in the 1950s during the civil rights movement" and being "“[s]haped by the ideas of conservative economist Milton Friedman."

"[T]he school choice movement was a weapon used to oppose integration and maintain racist and classist inequalities," Hale writes. 

The professor told his university's news outlet in September 15 interview that although “supporting and utilizing school choice does not make one racist,” the movement itself “is historically grounded in racist practices and policy.”

[RELATED: Kennesaw State study: School choice boosts HS grad rates, especially for Black students]

Though Hale chose not to respond to Campus Reform's request for comment, Campus Reform did speak with Corey DeAngelis, the American Federation for Children research director and Cato Institute fellow Corey DeAngelis who debated Hale last year in a virtual symposium. 

Regarding segregation, DeAngelis told Campus Reform, “some segregationists opposed school vouchers in the 1950s because they knew that it would lead to integration.” 

"[T]he empirical evidence on the topic today generally shows that private school choice leads to racial integration, partially because government-run schools are already highly segregated," DeAngelis said. 

“Even if school choice critics were correct about its history, their argument amounts to a genetic fallacy,” DeAngelis argued. “I wonder if Professor Hale and other choice opponents oppose the minimum wage because of its racist history? Probably not, which further illustrates these attacks against school choice usually aren't about logic but about protecting the status quo.”

But Hale's book also critiques what the professor perceives as the status quo. 

"Still supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, this [school choice] policy continues to shape American education in nuanced ways...from the expansion of for-profit charter schools and civil rights–based reform efforts to the appointment of Betsy DeVos," the book description states. 

[RELATED: Harvard prof wants government to ban 'authoritarian' practice of homeschooling]

“There are no guarantees with any policy positions,” DeAngelis said, adding that parents, not politicians, are better equipped to determine the best solution for their kids. “Families are generally in a better position to get the decisions right about their own children's educations than bureaucrats sitting in offices hundreds of miles away.”

DeAngelis concluded by noting that “a lot of the same people who support funding individuals instead of institutions” through policies such as Pell Grants, Medicare, and food stamps “oppose the concept only when it comes to the in-between years of K-12 education.”

“Why would that be? This apparent logical inconsistency can best be explained by a difference in power dynamics," he said, referring to an "entrenched special interest" in education appropriations. 

Campus Reform reached out to Hale for comment; this article will be updated with any response.