Running Out of School Choice

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Interesting account in today's Washington Post of the practical difficulties inherent in the school choice provisions of 2001's "No Child Left Behind" Act. Main dilemma: when kids get the federal right to opt out of awful schools, better schools either aren't available or refuse to accept them. An excerpt:

Weldon school officials attempted to negotiate a school-choice agreement with their counterparts in Roanoke Rapids, a predominantly white, middle-class school district on the other side of Interstate 95. They were turned down flat.

Weldon's request would "create an administrative nightmare," said Roanoke Rapids school Superintendent John Parker, who employs two investigators to ensure that children living in Weldon and surrounding Halifax County do not try to sneak into his schools. "There is no way we could accommodate all the students who want to come here, if we opened our doors."

The experience in Weldon suggests the depth of entrenched local opposition to school choice, as the Bush administration refers to its plan for offering parents an alternative to failing schools. It also illustrates the formidable practical difficulties in implementing the concept, particularly in small school districts.

Although the obstacles to school choice may be greater in Weldon than elsewhere, the number of students changing schools under the No Child Left Behind law is minuscule nationwide. In rural areas, it is often difficult for parents to find more acceptable schools without traveling great distances. Even in urban areas, good schools are often crowded and reluctant to accept students from "failing" schools.

Actual cash vouchers to make up for the money taken in taxes to support failing public schools, and to help jumpstart more private provision of education services, might help. Eliminating any hint of a requirement that any official, federally approved "educator" live up to the standards and structure of the typical school of today might also help make fresh options available to prisoners of the public school monopoly, helping us all realize that sitting for seven hours a day with 30 other kids in a room with someone talking at you isn't the only way to create an educated human. But that might mean the politically perilous choice of leaving teachers union members behind, so don't count on it soon.

NEXT: Justice is Deaf

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  1. Teachers unions are a major barrier to educating students, but the whole system needs to be razed. Youth need to be integrated into the real word at a much younger age than the current 26 years required. How about one room school-houses run by parents within a maximum 2-mile walk from home. Follow that with a private for-profit school system beginning at 7th grade – age 13.

  2. real world, not real word – freudian slip?

  3. Most of the schools that are failing are schools that have learning disabled kids.

    The IDEA law that governs federal mandates in the public school system, provides parents of LD kids some pretty potent ammunition when it comes to they having a choice (i.e Charter Schools).

    It is true that in some districts, finding a school to send kids from failing schools to schools that have passed is creating some problems. But when it comes to a pushing match, the parent can hire a lawyer and threaten a lawsuit.

    These schools also fall under Title 1 schools and get federal dollars.

    The real story here is how the Democrats played the Republicans on HR 1350.

    The Republicans in their naive way, believed that the local school boards will comply with federal laws, so they wrote a Tort Reform bill within a bill and the Democrtas said No Problem. Why?

    They got what the teachers union and the National School Board wanted. And that is parents of disabled children having less options in holding the School District accountable.

    Democrats 1, Republicans zilch.

    The rider that the Republicans supposedly fought for (vouchers) in the new IDEA law was taken out. This being done on the heels of the D.C. voucher funding passing.

    The Republicans bailed.

    No Cajones wha-so-ever.

    So the Republicanbs will look like the guys who took away your rights away while the Democrats say look how bad the NCLB is.

  4. Just teach the little rats how to read, once they can do that they can figure everything out themselves.

    Things would work so well if they’d only put me in charge.

  5. “….sitting for seven hours a day with 30 other kids in a room with someone talking at you isn’t the only way to create an educated human.”

    That’s an excellent turn of phrase. I may wind up using it (with attribution, of course) one of these days.

    I’d just add that the goal of that model is mainly to ingrain the habits of mindlessly absorbing whatever you’re told by authority figures, not making waves or asking questions, and meekly accepting the gold stars or red marks with which those authority figures judge your actions.

    DO YOU THINK, just maybe, the processing of four of five generations of human raw material through that institutional culture might, just possibly, have something to do with how sheeplike the American people are today?

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