Neighborhoods Don't Keep Their Promises

Recently in USA TODAY, Carrie Lukas, a mother of 5 children voiced her concern for location-based schooling. She described her own move to a metro D.C suburb, explaining that with two incomes, she knew they could afford the mortgage in the neighborhood with the best public schools. But, her family was not comfortable enough to afford private schooling. 

So, her family took on mortgage debt that put a lot of pressure on her family financially but assured her children a good public school. Then suddenly her address no longer held up to its promised opportunity. Three years after moving in, county officials started a discussion about redrawing public school boundaries. She thought she had invested in good education for her children, but suddenly that investment was taken from her. Not to mention, the discussion of redrawing made enemies out of neighbors. Those who would be rezoned for the better school system saw opportunity for quality education and higher home values and began arguing for the change, opposing those who would be losing out with the rezoning.

Lukas admits that, yes, local schools that have short commutes and build community are ideal, but there are also downsides to location-based school assignment that are often overlooked. A family that is dissatisfied with a public school must be able to afford to move somewhere else. Not to mention that parents’ jobs are often not near the suburban school districts, leaving someone with a hefty commute one way or another. And schools know this - they recognize that most families attending their public schools cannot quickly relocate. Location-based schooling ends up creating major health risks, financial risks, and political risks as well.

What’s Lukas’ answer to the problem she faced?

However, awareness of the downsides of location-based public school systems ought to encourage policymakers to consider expanding alternatives. For example, giving all parents the right to take even just half of their students’ per-pupil spending (which is more than $14,000 in my home, Fairfax County, Virginia) and using it for tuition at an alternative school would increase accountability for public schools, give unhappy parents an escape hatch from bad school systems, and loosen the relationship between location and educational opportunities...

Such programs giving parents more control over resources and encouraging the development of a real education marketplace will not only help kids learn more, they'll also reduce financial pressure on millions of families and make finding a place to call home a little less stressful. 

We don’t disagree. Even a little bit of change could help loosen the grip of the financial strain from education on families, and it could help neighborhoods that are not currently assigned to the best school districts thrive. Check out the rest of our website to learn more.