School Choice for Those Who Can Afford It
An affordable home in a good school district is something of a holy grail for young families looking for a place to put down roots. In the Kansas City area, a KMBC News report pointed such families toward Blue Springs, which was rated as having the best combination of quality schools and affordable housing in the region. De Soto, Gardner, Kansas City North, Overland Park, Lenexa, Shawnee, and Prairie Village were also on the list.
This information is valuable for families who want to ensure their children are assigned to good schools. And it’s also an illustration of what is, unfortunately, the most common form of school choice: moving.
According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 31 percent of parents said they moved to their current neighborhood so that their children could attend a specific school. Among families whose annual income was less than $50,000, however, only 25 percent of parents moved to a specific school district. For those making more than $150,000, it was 36 percent.
As lawmakers consider education savings accounts, charter schools, and course access this legislative session, many of their constituents have expressed doubts about these school choice initiatives. Certainly, we should consider such programs carefully; but we should also realize than many families in Missouri already practice school choice by moving out of one district and into another.
James Shuls, the Show-Me Institute Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy, called this “School Choice by Mortgage”:
Parents with the financial means can move their families to neighborhoods with good schools or they can afford private school tuition. The problem with our current system of school choice is that it leaves many parents with no options. The wealthier a family is, the more choices they have, while the most disadvantaged are left with little or no choice.
School choice programs like ESAs and charter schools are not meant to disrupt quality public schools where parent and student satisfaction is high. Rather, these programs are designed to provide opportunities to families who don’t have the means to buy a home in a good district or pay for private school tuition. Regardless of what neighborhood a family can afford to live in, shouldn’t their children have access to a quality education—whether it is at a public, charter, or private school?