I Sent My Kids to a ‘Better School.’ But Was It the Right Choice?
January 30, 2018
As a parent, I feel caught between the needs of my children and the needs of my neighbors.
My three kids attend a public school we love. Its year-round calendar is a working parent’s dream. Our oldest is hooked by coding club. Mrs. Brown wows my middle child twice a week when she pulls out the paint and sing-along songs in the arts room. Preschoolers from a range of income levels and backgrounds hang up their coats every morning with my youngest.
We selected this school by applying for open slots through the area’s Schools of Choice program. We chose it over the elementary school a five-minute walk away from our front door. We chose it over magnet schools in our resident school district. And we chose to drive our kids to their school in the suburbs every day.
“School choice” is a generic term for a range of options, from open-enrollment or voucher programs to charter schools, virtual schools, magnet schools, or some hybrid of these. School choice season has already begun around the country. Already, I’m seeing Facebook ads for schools as well as billboards, postcards, and open house invitations.
It’s in the news, too. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has advocated for choice for decades— especially in our home state of Michigan—and now choice advocates have won a victory with the tax bill. A provision allows parents to use a 529 savings account to pay for private K–12 schools, tax-free.
School choice promises to deliver freedom and opportunity. DeVos’s goal, as stated on her website, is to see families “being released from their zip codes.” Our family is one of those. And yet: School choice has not given our family freedom.
Every few months my husband and I wonder: Did we give Lansing public schools a fair try before we applied for the suburban …