July 22 2012
Vicki E. Alger
Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli asks an important question concerning education options for middle-class families:
For two decades now, school-choice supporters have advanced two main arguments. First, it’s unfair to trap poor kids in failing schools when better options are available. And second, giving these kids a choice will force the entire public-education system to improve.
Those assertions are still compelling, but they have their limitations. Namely: What about kids who aren’t poor; attend schools that aren’t failing; and live in school districts that, by some measures at least, aren’t in dire need of improvement? I’m talking, of course, about our affluent, leafy suburbs. Do their residents deserve school choice too?...
Perhaps the best case for customization and choice in the 'burbs is that it will result in better schools—those that are more vibrant and effective because they are allowed to be true communities with clear values, places that don’t have to be all things to all people. If one-size-fits-all doesn’t work in the city, why does it work in the suburbs?
My former colleague Lance Izumi and I made a similar case in California, where we discovered public schools in affluent neighborhoods (where median home prices hovered at or above $1 million) were not as good as parents thought.
All parents, regardless of income or address, want deserve education options they believe are best for their children.