The saga of scarcity

Petula Dvorak, a staff writer at the Washington Post, desperately wanted to enroll her sons in a public school outside her up-and-coming D.C. neighborhood. So, like thousands of other parents, she entered the District’s “out-of-boundary” lottery. “It’s an opportunity to pretend that you live in Georgetown or Chevy Chase or Palisades,” she explains, “while staying in your crummy little house with high property taxes and no parking. Hooray!” But she didn’t hit the jackpot; she’s sitting at 182, 117, and 29 on waiting lists at various elementary schools around the city. On one parent forum, she reports, someone wondered whether to “work the waiting list, Manhattan style.” (Sounds ominous.) The desperation is palpable; with too few good public schools to go around, and private schools out of reach for many during a recession, Dvorak and her peers know that they’re “taking a leap of faith at the non-so-great schools and entrusting them with our kids.” The lesson for policymakers? Demand for school choice may be strong--and not just in Harlem--but frustration ensues when the supply side is not up to the task at hand.

School lottery makes a game out of education in D.C.,” by Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, March 5, 2010

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