School Choice in the Commonwealth

They used to shun competition for reasons both practical (their schools were full) and philosophical (they, uh, didn’t dig the whole competing thing) but today, 149 of Massachusetts’ 328 public school systems have begun pitching their services to students outside their district boundaries. Boston Globe story reports they “woo the students with promises of safer schools, full-day kindergarten, and perhaps a better shot at making the basketball team.” Under Massachusetts state law, if kids opt to enroll in a participating district, their home district is required to pay the receiving district a portion of the cost of the child’s education. The idea is allow school districts with tight budgets and declining enrollments to hustle to keep their livelihoods.

Interesting that big cities like Boston and Worcester choose not to participate. Worcester Superintendent James Caradonio reminds Globe readers that the only form of school choice that he finds groovy is Choice By Realtor. “If you really want to come to our schools, move into our city,” Caradonio barked. Harvard’s William Howell had some fun looking at Caradonio’s philosophy with regard to students transfers under the federal No Child Left Behind law last year. In this lively piece, Howell describes how only one child out of the 4,700 students who had the right to transfer from a failing school in 2002-03 braved through the bizarre process required to bail out. Howell calls the process, which requires parents who want school choice to meet face-to-face with their principal and then, later, a bureaucrat in charge of keeping a lid on transfers “friendly discouragement.”

— Joe Williams

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