This post originally appeared on the National Review Online.
Parents’ perspectives on education reform are often missing from the
education policy debate, with technocrats typically arguing with one
another about what parents want or what’s best for them. So I was
heartened to see the New York Times publish an op-ed by a bona fide parent from Washington, D.C. — and on the topic of school choice, no less.
Leave it to the Times to get it wrong.
The parent, Natalie Hopkinson, is
understandably frustrated about the poor public-school options
available in her mostly African-American neighborhood. She’s also angry
that D.C.’s hard-charging former schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee,
closed down some of the public schools in her vicinity. But her depiction of “school choice” as the culprit is misguided.
The real story is more complicated, and
more interesting. In the last five years, Washington parents have seen
some school-choice options disappear (Hopkinson’s beef) while new
options have come onto the scene. But the reduction of choice isn’t
because of Michelle Rhee’s policies — it’s because of gentrification.
It used to be that black families living east of Rock Creek Park
could send their kids to schools “west of the park” via the district’s
out-of-boundary choice system. After all, the schools in tony
neighborhoods weren’t filled to capacity.