American public education has hit a new low: concerned parents are being arrested for stealing free public education through zoning fraud. From the WSJ:
In the last year, parents in Connecticut, Kentucky and Missouri have all been arrested—and await sentencing—for enrolling their children in better public schools outside of their districts.
These arrests represent two major forms of exasperation. First is that of parents whose children are zoned into failing public schools—they can’t afford private schooling, they can’t access school vouchers, and they haven’t won or haven’t even been able to enter a lottery for a better charter school. Then there’s the exasperation of school officials finding it more and more difficult to deal with these boundary-hopping parents.
From California to Massachusetts, districts are hiring special investigators to follow children from school to their homes to determine their true residences and decide if they “belong” at high-achieving public schools.
Via Media doesn’t endorse criminal activity – but neither are we enthusiastic about the current state of America’s public school system. When parents feel they have to cheat for their kids to have a decent education, something has gone unacceptably wrong.There is no single magic bullet solution to what’s wrong with our schools. Decentralized experiments, competition and innovation are part of the answer. The charter school movement shows great promise, and while for-profit schools and homeschooling co-ops are not without problems, they also have had some successes. The teacher unions have more often blocked reform than helped it along, but at the end of the day education reform doesn’t work without teacher participation. We have a lot of experiments still to run.Let a thousand flowers bloom is the Via Meadia approach at this point in the country’s search for education quality at a price we can afford. Ultimately we think the solution may be a system in which parents armed with vouchers can freely choose among competing alternatives ranging from parochial to charter to private to public schools. Good teachers and administrators will be highly valued and well rewarded; others will look for different lines of work.Achievement tests and other benchmarks would be seen as a floor and not a ceiling in the kind of system we need. Teachers would teach through and past the tests rather than to it.A system like that will take time to build, and it is likely that each of the fifty states, and many cities and towns within those states, will develop unique approaches as they work to enable excellence in individual classrooms and schools.In the meantime, we need to see school zone fraud for what it is: the real offenders aren’t the parents trying to get the best for their kids. The biggest offenders are those who stand in the path of school choice. More vouchers and more choice will lead to better schools and less crime.