School district Berlin Walls

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

How many of us remember the scenes of young East Germans risking their lives to escape under, over or around the Berlin Wall? Happily, those memories are fading since the wall came down in 1989. Unhappily, young people right here in America are still taking risks to escape our own closed systems — our public school districts.

Often, these are inner-city kids who use false addresses to attend what they see as better schools in affluent suburban districts. Some districts have gone so far as to offer hundreds of dollars in bounties to tipsters who turn them in.

This issue was just brought home in Portland when a candidate for Governor was found to have temporarily moved his family into an apartment near Lincoln High School so his son could enroll in its International Baccalaureate program ten years ago. Nothing illegal there, but the revelation did raise the issue of privilege, since most families can’t afford to maintain two residences simply to get their children into what they perceive to be better schools.

Many people oppose open enrollment between districts, choices within districts, and voucher plans because they believe poor families won’t know what schools are best for their children. How paternalistic!

Many East Germans died escaping to freedom. Let’s hope that America’s Berlin Walls fall soon so every student can choose where to get the best education.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst 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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