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One Paragraph from Brookings Study on DC Schools Highlights Consequences of School Choice

April 1, 2021

I got a link to a recent 4-year study of DC schools conducted by the Brookings Institute through a tweet by Peter Greene, a pro-public school blogger extraordinaire. One paragraph stopped me dead in my tracks and sent me to my blog site. Here it is:

In making decisions about where to send their children to school, parents (and especially more privileged parents) are key contributors to school segregation and inequality. As the District of Columbia Auditor’s office has stated, “there is a pattern of District families moving away from schools with more students considered at-risk(17) to schools with fewer students considered at-risk. These moves are facilitated by the robust choice model in DC.”(18)

The footnotes provide a definition of “at risk”, which is:

…a technical term applied to a public school student who is homeless; in foster care; qualifies for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or SNAP (“Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”); and/or is a high school student who is at least one year older than the expected age for their grade.

And a link to the auditors report, a notation that reads “Similar results have been found nationally and in localities across the country“, and five studies that do just that. 

As readers of this blog and thoughtful and thorough readers of the history of public education realize, school choice was originally conceived in the late 1950s as a means for parents to avoid desegregation in the South. It remains attractive to affluent urbanites because it provides a means for them to reside in urban areas that are proximate to low income housing but do not require their children to attend schools with children who dwell in that housing. A “robust choice model” like that offered in DC, NYC, and other areas where gentrification is happening is a workaround to desegregation and, in the euphemistic terms of the Brookings Institute, “facilities” school segregation and inequality.

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