Choosing Priorities On Choice

This much should seem abundantly evident by now. School-choice “attractors” – and there are 51 of them in Hillsborough County — don’t work. And the reason is no less manifest. They aren’t attractive given the alternative, which are neighborhood schools better suited to parental input and community involvement — and also happen to require a lot less busing.

School officials – running scared that they may be accused of enabling “resegregation” — should quit trying to make attractors more attractive and concentrate on making neighborhood schools more acceptable – and equitable.

Let’s worry less about revisiting “Plessy vs. Ferguson” and its sophistic implications in 2005 and more about the sort of equal opportunity that can be afforded by comparable facilities, textbooks, teachers and curricula in our neighborhood schools.

It also means schools in high-poverty areas aren’t top heavy with portable classrooms and shortchanged on tutors, computer access and even custodians. That’s the real problem – one that can never be solved by school-choice schemes and attractor doubletalk.

Then the onus will be where it belongs: on parents. That’s the key educational variable, one that no social engineering can dictate.

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