Choice, Illustrated and Rejected
I spotted an interesting article today in the Post-Dispatch discussing frustrations that many parents are having with a school in Arnold, Mo. The article describes how several families had become disillusioned with a particular private school that they had chosen for their children, and how they were going about finding schools that would better meet their children’s needs.
The piece is a nice portrait of school choice in action, where parents recognize that their current school is failing their kids and take the initiative to find a better educational option. These are the choices that relatively affluent people have at their disposal, and it’s a significant part of the reason that children of wealthy families are far more likely than their financially-disadvantaged peers to attain educational success and economic prosperity.
Seeing the way that educational choice benefits these families, we, as a society, should be outraged that so many public school districts flatly refuse to offer even the smallest degree of choice to as many children as possible. Ideally, all families would be able to choose from among both public and private options, but even if private options were not included, shouldn’t students be able to attend any school within their district? After all, these families’ tax dollars are paying for the operation of all the schools in the district, so it’s only fair that they should have the chance to benefit from the best that the district has to offer. Yet even so modest a pro-student reform as this recently drew opposition from the Missouri
Council of School Administrators, the Missouri Council of Administrators of Special Education, the Missouri School Boards’ Association, the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City, the Missouri National Education Association, the Missouri State Teachers Association, the Kansas City Missouri School District, St. Louis Public Schools, and the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis.
Because those who have the financial means have
already left the public schools, the only ones left are those without
the the economic and political power to make an impression on the
legislature. And the concerted opposition of the aforementioned groups is what leaves the economically-disadvantaged (and predominantly minority) children of the state at the mercy of schools and districts that, to put it bluntly, aren’t interested in offering them the best opportunity to succeed if that opportunity would mean changing the educational status quo.