bbauska wrote:I want to be clear that I think the parents are the best choice in making the choice of what school to send their children to. Let me make sure I understand you. Are you saying that you don't want the parent to have the money to choose what school to send their child/children to?
I want every school to be a great school so that we did not have to have this discussion.
That said, I think the age of the child matters a lot in your question. Young children should go to school close to home. It's important for their social networks, it's important for them to spend more time at school and at home. Spending a huge amount of time commuting is bad for young children. High schoolers, on the other hand, you can argue can travel where they want to. Middle schoolers could be inbetween.
The choice model you describe exists in many places. In NYC every HS student can apply to any HS in the City they desire. There are so many students many schools end up specializing to attract kids who are interested in similar things. A performing arts HS, several computer science HS, Math and Science High schools, the HS of American Studies, Aviation HS to appeal to kids interested in working in the field of aviation! There are probably over 100 to chose from. Middle schoolers also have a large number to choose from, but not quite as many as HS, because there are some
In Boston, elementary school kids had a large amount of choices only limited by one of the three districts in the City. It required a system where nearly 10% of the education budget was spent on transporting kids to school and, related, Boston public schools had the shortest school day in the state. Boston recently implemented a new system, and I'm not sure how that is going since I'm no longer involved there, but the idea was to reduce the journey to school by limiting choices to fewer schools that are only nearby, balancing choice and transportation cost.
Michigan has fully embraced schools of choice. Detroit public schools went from 150,000 students in 2002 to 50,000 students in 2012 as students fled the system. But the Detroit system has been an unmitigated disaster. The schools were crap, mostly, but what's happened is that people were allowed to choose schools in suburban communities that had room, but no transportation was provided, so only students who could transport themselves were given choices, creating a huge burden on those families, as the schools were almost always very far from home. But since so many students left the system, the DPS closed hundreds of schools around the city, and they were abandoned, hulks blighting already blighted neighborhoods. You might say, "well, they got what they deserved, and you might be right, but there was, and still isn't, any plan for the thousands of kids who can't get to a school and no longer have a neighborhood school. These are the kids of some of the poorest, least capable parents in the country, and their kids are completely screwed because someone (Betsy Devos, mostly) had the idea that choice is good, but didn't actually game it out to see what would happen.
The NYC system is crazy, but for a choice system in middle and high school, it works OK, but the testing and application system is much more rigorous than anything I ever did, including college. And it starts in the middle school process where the key test is in the 4th grade! That's awfully early to start high stakes testing! It also only works because there is a good transportation system. It's a rite of passage: getting their metrocard and traveling by themselves to school when 6th grade starts.
So, in my opinion, I believe there is some value to choice. But I also believe that most of the choice systems that have been implemented have serious problems that victimize the people you and I should be most interested in protecting: the most vulnerable among us.