School re-districting in the name of diversity: A cure worse than the malady

Mike has written a terrific book, and his ideas are always worth pondering. But this one ain’t so great. If I were moving my family into Park Slope or Northwest D.C., it would be in no small part because I could carefully select a house or apartment within the “zone” of a public school that I want my kids to attend. (This is, of course, hypothetical. My own kids have kids—and live in other places!) In the school-choice world, that’s known as “real estate choice”—and millions and millions of American families engage in it. Here’s how the National Center for Education Statistics puts it:

Another form of parental choice is to move to a neighborhood so one's child can attend a particular school. In 2007, the parents of 27 percent of public school students reported that they had moved to their current neighborhood so that their child could attend his or her current school. A greater percentage of Whites (29 percent) than Blacks (18 percent) and Hispanics (25 percent), and suburban students (33 percent) than students living in other locales (20-23 percent) moved to their current neighborhood so their child could attend the school.

I’d be apoplectic if a change in district policy suddenly informed me that I could no longer count on my kids attending P.S. 321 or Alice Deal or whatever. I’d do everything in my power to reverse the decision—or throw the bums out at the next election. It’s one thing to invite kids from other parts of town to exercise choice and fill un-used seats in “my” public school. Fine. It’s swell to transport them, too, and otherwise facilitate the execution of their choices. I’m all for diversity, and I also know that fully-enrolled schools almost never get closed down by school-system bean counters. But don’t tell me that my kids are now going to have to engage in a lottery and might not end up in the school into whose neighborhood I moved specifically because of the school. (Okay, partly because of the school. I also love the short commute and the great shopping.) A policy like that would speedily convert me into an opponent of diversity in situations like these.

This is a response to Mike Petrilli's Flypaper article, posted earlier today (12/11/12).

More By Author

Related Articles