Wednesday, July 14, 2010

School Choice Dud

The Record takes a look at the Interdistrict School Choice Program, recently expanded in the Legislature from a pilot in suspended animation to a reenergized opportunity for kids to cross school district boundaries. Here’s Assemblyman Paul Moriarty in his joint press release with Mila Jasey, rejoicing in the bill that makes interdistrict choice official:
"Public school choice is an idea whose time has come for the benefit of our children," said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). "We’ve been talking about this for a long time and we need to finally make a long-term commitment to it. It’s this simple – for some students and schools, this program can be a step toward a lifetime of educational rewards."
Well, not according to some superintendents from North Jersey, who dismiss the program as “unlikely to have much of an impact” because of the lack of incentives for districts who volunteer empty seats to kids in desperate need of an escape hatch from a chronically failing school. From The Record: “Passaic County Superintendent Robert Gilmartin said he knows of no other districts in the county that are interested in participating in the expanded program.”

Well, that’s what you get for asking poor urban kids to depend on the kindness of strangers or any sense of shared educational mission. The Blanche Dubois strategy isn’t going to work. What if we required successful public school districts with empty seats to open those spaces to poor kids? Or what if there was some sort of incentive program? Carrot or stick, whatever works. Right now it’s not.