A natural solution seems to be charter and private schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, charter school enrollment has increased from just under 1 million students in 2004 to over 2.5 million students in 2014. Not an enormous number when you consider that some 50.4 million students were expected to attend public school in 2016. The average across the United States is 5%. But, consider that states like Colorado, Michigan, and Louisiana have about 10% of their children attending charter schools. Arizona is at 19%.
Corrupting the Saints
Public schools are getting into the business as well. Have you heard of “magnet” schools? Did you know that there is a trade organization supporting the concept? Each of these options for schools is defined by choice as their primary selling point. The challenge is, as Magnet Schools of America admits, schools “may utilize student assessment data and teacher or parent recommendations for selection.” What if your child is not selected? As a parent who believes in the promise of public education, but homeschools my children, I worry about the prospects if my child IS selected. What does a lottery for a spot in a high-performing school do to the integrity of the educational enterprise? How do I look neighbors in the eye knowing that their child did not “win” an education?
It is no secret that magnet schools receive more money than other schools within the same district. The classes are typically smaller, the teachers receive higher salaries, and the curriculum is themed. All these make the magnet school more attractive to student, parents, and teachers. And what of the students who attend the schools with larger classes, lower teacher salaries, and dry curricula? Suffer through. Hopefully, they have an innovative principal who has the ear and financial sway with the school board.
Dying for Choice
Magnet schools provide a choice in the context of a system that should, by definition, not require a choice. Consider, as many public-school advocates have, that your zip code should not determine the quality of education your child receives. You should not have to send your child outside of your neighborhood to receive a quality education.