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Public Schools: They’re Not Really Public

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

One of the biggest challenges for parents is deciding where to live in order to ensure a decent education for their kids. They can guess which neighborhoods have the best public schools, but if they guess wrong, it’s not that easy to just buy another home. This leads to large-scale gaming of the system by parents, who frequently send their kids to live with relatives or rent an apartment near the preferred school while maintaining their “real” home elsewhere.

The Portland school district is cracking down on this practice. The head of enforcement for the district’s enrollment said recently, “There will be consequences if parents lie about where they live. The students will probably be sent back to their neighborhood school.”

If being sent back to the neighborhood school is a form of punishment, maybe we should re-think the entire system. Parents are clearly demanding a greater say in where their kids go to school; the easiest way to do this would be to place the allocated state funds for each child into a special Educational Savings Account for that student, and allow parents to spend the money on the school of their choice.

This idea is opposed by many public school advocates, but we should ask ourselves: do we care about school bureaucracies, or do we care about kids?

It seems an easy call to me.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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