School choice by other means

Legendary voucher advocate Howard Fuller has long argued that school choice is prevalent--if you're wealthy. Affluent parents exercise "public school choice" when they shop for homes, of course, plus they can opt for private schools if public offerings aren't up to par. Now some middle-class Portland, Oregon, parents have found a new way to expand their options further: redraw school boundaries to gain access to preferred campuses. The Oregonian states the obvious: "Parents' fears and attitudes about race and class, and their concerns about differences in school quality, simmer under the surface of boundary discussions." A leading reason that Portland faces this controversy is because its intra-district transfer rules have been tightened. In other words, a reduction in one kind of school choice has led to demands for another. Here's a more equitable solution (especially in the wake of last month's Supreme Court decision): create lots of high-quality options, make all of them available to everyone, and assign limited seats via lottery. That's the best way to make school choice--and school quality--prevalent whether you're wealthy or not.

"If shopping for a school, just redraw the map," by Paige Parker, The Oregonian, July 9, 2007

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