The Burden of Choice

Yesterday I was able to go to a fantastic conference called GradNation Summit. It was full of heart wrenching stories, new resources, and some inspiration. One of the sponsors for the even was Nashville Public Television which was generous enough to hand out DVDs that will be an important piece of my ever-growing toolkit.

The first documentary I watched was “Choice or Chance,” talking about the pros and cons of school choice in Metro Nashville Public Schools. I’ve never been a fan of this process, and am now even less so. A quote from a local parent that particularly hit me:

I want my kids to go to neighborhood schools because we are part of the neighborhood. If we don’t support the community, who will?

(Sorry if I flipped a couple words around, I was trying to write very fast.)

I don’t like the current system for the burden it places on families that can’t do the research, can’t get their kids to non-zone schools, and can’t understand the process. I don’t like the system because it pours money into other schools instead of pouring resources into struggling schools. And I REALLY don’t like that this is all based on an economic model with the idea that bad schools will just go out of business and that will somehow fix things.

The one piece of hope for me: there are people out there who are researching these skewed numbers, raising their voices to say this doesn’t work, and acknowledging that this reeks of the badly handled desegregation process in our not-so-distant past.

Students are human beings, not statistics. Teachers are educators, not standardized generators. There is more to a school than the building. Kudos to those who advocate for their communities and children’s right to an equitable education no matter where they live.

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