Public School Choice is No Choice Now

State closes doors on public school choice. Parents must send kids to neighborhood schools that may be "failing" (aka "underperforming" by the education establishment)

For parents and children, this is a very exciting time of the year. School is about to begin and parents are shopping for crayons, paper, pencils, markers and other supplies for their kids. They are also choosing new clothes and neat backpacks for their children. One thing they are not able to choose is the most important-their child’s school. And now in Alaska it’s getting even harder to choose a good public school for one’s child.

When Alaska received its waiver to No Child Left Behind this past May, it also received “permission” from the Federal government to do away with the opportunity for children to get out of failing public schools. This was the best chance for these children to receive a better public education. The Education Establishment snatched this opportunity from parents and children. Of course, parents were totally unaware that this occurred.

This is how public school choice worked before the State closed the doors to new students. If a Title I school had failed Adequate Yearly Progress for three or more years, a child could go to one of two better schools in the district. Transportation had to also be provided by the district. In Anchorage last school year, there were 244 of 7,926 eligible students who opted out of their failing neighborhood schools and went to better public schools. This was a good remedy for those who cannot afford to move from a neighborhood with a failing school to a better neighborhood school. These parents were involved in their kids’ education and tried to better that education. These parents wanted the best they could afford for their children.

And this public school choice didn’t cost the ASD one extra penny. Transportation for these 244 children didn’t cost the ASD any extra as one can see from this report to the State. So why did the District discontinue a successful program with little coordination with the parents? Answer: because it was no longer mandated by the Federal government.

Is this good public policy? Unfortunately, the Anchorage School Board doesn’t even consider it a “policy” issue. And who does it benefit? It definitely doesn’t benefit parents and children. The benefits to the District are questionable and immeasurable. But why has this public school choice been closed to new students? Maybe it’s because it just doesn’t fit the model of what public education should be. Confounding, isn’t it?