Three articles recently came out about school choice.
This article details how parents in Washington D.C. are hiring school choice consultants to help them navigate their options. From the article:
Most D.C. families don’t have the wherewithal to pay for school advice, raising questions about whether school choice highlights a divide between parents who have the information they need to navigate the system — and the ability to transport their kids across town to a better school — and parents who don’t.
This article in Education Week details the rise of choice consultants and notes:
…others worry that consultants are a symptom of a system that’s perhaps getting too complicated for parents, and could potentially put low-income families who can’t afford such services at a competitive disadvantage.
And the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
“The irony is that a system that has very complicated, precise rules, that encourages you to go out and see and evaluate a bunch of schools, obviously benefits the most advantaged families,” said board member Norton.
A couple of thoughts:
1. I can guarantee you that a nice house in Washington D.C. or San Francisco costs more than an education choice consultant. You know what’s unfair? Having to be able to drop 1.2 million on a two bedroom house to get access to a good school. If paying $250 to a school choice consultant is now all it takes to level the playing, I think that’s about a one million dollar move in the right direction.
2. A good letter grade system will reduce education choice consultants to an unnecessary luxury. Everyone understands that “A” and “B” schools are better than “D” and “F” schools. If these districts really cared about poor families having access to good information, they would label their schools.
3. Inevitably, in a choice system, some parents will make bad choices. And more educated families will likely have some advantages in navigating the process. But the question you need to ask is not: is this system perfect? Rather, you should ask: is this system better than assigning people to schools based on their ability to buy a house?
Yes, there’s been plenty of room to make choice systems better.
But let’s be crystal clear about the fact that nearly every school district in the country assigns people to schools based on the market value of their home.
The education injustice in this country is not about having too many choices. It’s about having too few.