I’ve dedicated a big part of my career to expanding school choice. I think it’s the right thing to do for kids, families, educators, neighborhoods, civil society, and much else. In fact, I’m convinced that years from now, students of history will be scandalized to learn that we used to have a K–12 system defined by one government provider in each geographic area.
“Do you mean,” they’ll ask, “that kids were actually assigned to schools based on home address, even if those schools were persistently underperforming?”
But probably the most important lesson I’ve learned over the last fifteen years—the reason why school choice progress moves so slowly—is this: An education system without school choice makes perfect sense from the point of view of central administrators.
In fact, the district-based system (a single public sector operator of schools) that we’ve had for the last century is extraordinarily rational when viewed from above. A city has lots of kids, and those kids need to be educated. A central schooling authority will take care of it.
The central authority looks at a map and partitions the city into similarly populated sections, each with its own “neighborhood school.” For simplicity’s sake, those schools can be named...