Most people who know me know that I’m a big believer in public school choice. To me, it’s a no brainer that when school districts create school attendance zones based on students’ home addresses, they are creating systems in which poor students will most likely attend poorly performing schools. Forcing students to attend a chronically failing school because of where they live sets them up for failure and reinforces cycles of generational poverty. When students have the option to attend any public school that they choose, it helps to unshackle their education — and by extension their future — from their family’s financial history.
But another reason I like public school choice is that it often leads to a variety of school models that can meet the needs and interests of a variety of students. Systems of public school choice usually have many unique learning models — computer-science focused, dual-language, diverse-by-design, arts-based, project-based, policy-oriented, and more — within their public schools. Districts that assign students using their home addresses rarely attempt to create an abundance of schools with innovative learning models. Imagine a district trying to force a parent to send their child to an arts-based school or a single-sex school, and you’ll understand the difficulty. It’s far easier for these districts to create cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all schools and hope that most kids succeed in them.
And so, without public school choice, it’s only affluent families — the ones who can pay for their children’s education or help them test into a selective public school — that have access to this menu of options.
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