There are alternatives to fighting

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So I was reflecting further on this graphic from Fordham showing that urban areas of Ohio are surrounded by suburban districts that do not participate in open enrollment in dark blue:

Notice also all of those dark greenish districts which very strategically will take kids from adjacent districts, but not from other districts. Hmmm…I wonder who they are trying to avoid (?)

I lack the advanced graphic skills of Fordham, but I did manage to come up with an open enrollment map of Arizona. Again the districts not participating in open enrollment are marked in dark blue:

Actually this is slightly exaggerated, but only slightly. I am told that there are a few small rural districts that have basically agreed to collude with each other and not take open enrollment transfers from nearby small rural districts. This collusion prospers only because they face no meaningful competition from charters or private choice, as the lack of population density does not lend itself easily to such options.

Based upon a system of highly economically and racially segregated housing, districts suffer from high levels of segregation. The simple-minded narrative that choice programs re-segregate has many problems, starting with the reality that the districts never desegregated. The irony of our social justice oriented choice programs- useful and worthy as they are- as the Ohio map reveals they fail to unlock the suburban districts to transfers. Give the Columbus area good stare in the map above and ask yourself about the likely impact on integration if Cbus kids were allowed to transfer to the adjacent suburban districts.

You can’t win by fighting the suburbs (google “School busing debacle” youngsters) but in the words of Kenobi, there are alternatives to fighting. Broad choice programs, given time to marinate, open seats in the suburban districts creating a growing incentive to participate in open enrollment. In Arizona you see people repeating poorly considered mantras concerning choice and segregation in robotic-like precision, but they are missing the forest for the trees. If we had a map of the United States similar to the one of Ohio above I fear that it look largely similar. Scottsdale Unified did not take thousands of open enrollment transfers because of a higher level of tolerance and enlightenment, but rather because of incentives built by choice programs.





2 Responses to There are alternatives to fighting

  1. Agreed that it makes no sense to battle suburbs.

    But what has made sense is to create charters throughout Mn and other states, offering options for suburban, rural and urban youngsters. In a number of cases, this opened up new opportunities AND encouraged existing districts to refine and improve their programs.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Pop culture reference B+

    Arizona open enrollment graphic A+

    Hole in your argument: Getting broad based school choice involves fighting the suburbs. But it’s a winnable fight.

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