Children are forgotten in school choice battle


Author: Joshua Thompson  

Last week I blogged about the fight between Rowland Unified School District and Walnut Valley Unified School District over the District of Choice Act.  The District of Choice Act is one of California's only school choice programs.  It gives parents the freedom to choose the schools that best meet the educational needs of their children.  Earlier this week came news of some new developments.

While not a perfect program, the District of Choice Act (Cal. Educ. Code section 48300, et. seq.), co-sponsored by Republican State Senator Huff and Democrat State Senator Romero, infuses some free-market principles into an otherwise state run education bureaucracy.  Presented with a choice of schools in which to enroll their children, over 500 parents residing in the Rowland School District have chosen to enroll their students at Walnut Valley Unified. Because taxpayer funds are tied to student enrollment, Rowland wants to deny students within its boundaries the choice of going to Walnut Valley schools.

The free market is beautiful because it provides choice.  Here, parents can view two competing school districts, and choose which one is a better fit for their child.  If one school loses students to another school district, the free market requires them to either improve their school, and make it more enticing to parents (and students), or risk losing funds.  On the other hand, if a school district can simply sue to prevent students from leaving, parents have no choice – the school has no incentive to improve, and students are stuck in their inferior schools. 

This is just bad education policy and unfair treatment to students and their families.  Instead of the school districts working together to do what is best for children, Rowland's policy is geared to entrenching already established schools, regardless of its impact on the students.