This disturbing article about a rich neighborhood of Baton Rouge, La., that wants to secede so it won't have to share school funding with poorer neighborhoods reminds me of one of my great frustrations with the K-12 education policy debate—the terminology of "public schools."
The way the word is used a school is "public" if it is owned by a government entity and thus part of the public sector. But a public school is by no means a school that's open to the public in the sense that anyone can go there. Here in the District of Columbia anyone who wants to wander into a public park is free to do so (that's what makes it public) but to send your kid to a good "public" elementary school in Ward 3 you have to live there. And thanks to exclusionary zoning, in practice if you want to live in Ward 3 you have to be rich. It wouldn't be legal to respond to the very high price of land in the area by building homes on small lots, or building tall buildings full of small affordable apartments.
Since D.C. doesn't have Louisiana's political culture, Ward 3 generally doesn't have a problem with its tax dollars subsidizing the schools in Wards 5, 7, and 8, but if you proposed randomly assigning students to schools to produce integrated instructional environments, you'd have an epic battle on your hands.
In D.C. at least, charter schools—unlike "public" schools—have to admit (or not admit) students on an equal basis regardless of which neighborhood they live in.
But ultimately this is a housing policy problem masquerading as an education policy one. Normal people are mostly going to want their kids to go to a conveniently located school in or near their neighborhood. That's just a question of practicality. But when you allow the zoning code to become a tool of economic exclusion, that turns neighborhood schooling into a system of exclusion.
TODAY IN SLATE
Forget Oculus Rift
This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again
I’m 25. I Have $250.03.
My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
- NSA Is Letting its Chief Technical Officer Work 20 Hours a Week for a Private Company
- After 13 Years of U.S. Occupation, Afghanistan Opium Production Is at an All-Time High
- The Pennsylvania Fugitive Sniper Is Still at Large After 39 Days
- Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Five Years, May Only Serve Ten Months
Smash and Grab
Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?