California put bold climate change goals in place last year. These goals include incentivizing millions of electric cars, transforming the dairy industry, and generating 50% of the state's power from renewable sources. The LA Times reports that “getting people out of their cars in favor of walking, cycling or riding mass transit will require the development of new, closely packed housing near jobs and commercial centers at a rate not seen in the United States since at least before World War II.”
Surprisingly, even though the Public Policy Institute of California found that more than 70% of California residents are in favor of the new laws to cut greenhouse emissions, locally there has been significant resistance in the shift from suburban to urban development.
The chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis, Marlon Boarnet, described the community’s lack of understanding in this article: “You can’t be pro-environment and anti-housing...You can’t be anti-sprawl and anti-housing.” And we here at Environmentalists for Effective Education completely agree. But, we would add:
You can’t be anti-sprawl and be anti-school choice!
How are these issues connected? In general, allowing for increased density makes environmental sense, but what does it have to do with school choice? Increasing density requires that families find dense living to be appealing, but one of the main reasons that families leave cities and head to the suburbs is they perceive suburban schools to be better places for their children to spend their days. Faced with choosing between environmentally-friendly housing options or what they perceive to be child-friendly, parents will choose what is in the best interest of their child.
If schools are perceived to be bad in high-density centers, people with school-age children (who can afford to live elsewhere) will not remain in these new developments. If California officials really want to meet their climate goals, they should incentivize parents in these areas by allowing them to choose any school they like, whether public, private, or charter. Give people abundant choices in high-density areas, and families will want to live in these areas. If we limit their options, families will leave these neighborhoods, also leaving California short of its climate change goals.
Curious about how geographically targeted education options could make a difference? Check out our TedX Talk or other resources to learn more!
(Image via AP Photos)