Sunday, February 27, 2011

Academic Xenophobia.

NPR is reporting on school districts who are cracking down on residency issues.


  1. Those parents who are going to go out of their way to "work" the system and exert extra effort to get their kids into your school are statistically more likely to have better motivated students.That's the KIPP difference, the charter difference.  Why not use it? Helping your AYP is nice.
  2. It's not like the kid is free-loading. You get the money for every kid who attends regularly and these kids are already going out of their way to get there, so they'll probably have better attendance.
  3. The kids are more likely to behave because calling the parents would expose the scam. 
  4. District lines are very often arbitrary at best. Gerrymandering the lines doesn't make the bus ride shorter, the school better or the environment safer.
In my mind, I think the best thing would be to make noise publicly. "We're cracking down in the best interests of our community" while making sure that only the troublemakers who try this get caught at it.

Besides, I never quite figured out why it was so important.  We have to educate every kid somewhere and isn't it a compliment that family after family wants to be at YOUR school? I'd be rolling out the red carpet for kids who wanted to come and bragging about it if I could, but maybe that's the private school experience coming out of me.

How do I square this with my stand against vouchers? Because it is a switch between public schools. Most often, vouchers are touted as a transfer of funds from the public school system to a private school and that's the part I don't like.

I can be a member of the local school board (actually have been). I can pick up the phone and directly effect what is going on at the public school in my town. Even as a private citizen, I can walk into the principal's office and ask a question directly - and get an answer (okay, yes, make an appointment and wait a little but you get what I mean). If I am calm, dispassionate, and right, the school will make a change to its policy because I am a taxpaying member of the town and the school is being run by the town for the benefit of any citizen who wishes to take advantage of it.

The Catholic Schools and the private schools won't do that. Why should they?

I do not have a problem with the public - public voucher system. It works well here in Vermont.  I really have a problem when money goes to private institutions which don't follow the same testing and accountability requirements that the rest of the schools do.


  1. Let me play devil's advocate.

    I live in a nice neighborhood with a good high school. We rank in the top 100 in the state fairly consistently, regardless of what criteria is used.

    The top school in the state is in the same district, not much further away. I have chosen not to move to a house in that area districted for that high school because I like my house and my neighborhood.

    There are not unlimited seats in Best School. If I surreptitiously snuck my child into Best School might some child, who lives in that school's area, not be able to get this class or that one that he/she wants/needs before graduation?

    I know in Good School there were times that my children could not get a class that they wanted because there is a limit of seats and they missed out.

    I believe you are referring to the case from Ohio (I think it was Ohio) where the woman used her father's address to enroll her kids.

    Why didn't he let her live with him to make it legal?

    Why didn't she pay the tuition when given the option?

    Why didn't she move to an apartment in that district?

    In the scenario I gave you, I was discussing 2 schools in the same school district. In Ohio (and the other cases I have seen around here), people cross into other cities to go to school so, while the schools get federal money, they are not get tax money to educate these kids.

    Yes, we have to educate them all. But part of education should not be an entitlement to the benefits someone else pays for.

  2. I have to comment on your assumption that private school's don't listen to the families that participate in their schools. Yes, perhaps if you didn't have a child going there, you wouldn't have a voice. But if a private school didn't listen to the families that attend it, then they would quickly go out of business. Yes, I have seen that happen often in my area. You can't just say your school is good if it isn't. People talk and just like any business, a private school makes it or breaks it just like any other business.

  3. Quick example: the school wants to build a $500,000 astroturf field for the football team.

    At the public school, I can have a voice in that decision. I can go in and give some alternatives they might not have thought of (like using the perfectly good field they already have), speak at the school board hearing, vote against the bond or budget, or run for school board and replace one of the fools who voted for it.

    At the local Catholic school, voucher money goes into the general funds and they do not and will not be accountable to the taxpayers for it. If they decide, in the State Diocese Offices, that spending the money on football is a good thing, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it even though the local Catholic school is drawing off 50% of its students from the local public school and taking that money with them. They could spend it on a missionary trip to Africa if they choose. They could spend it on things that have nothing to do with education.

    Remember that the students and the families are not the customers. The taxpayers are.

    You can't spend public money on things that only individuals want.

  4. @ricochet
    I am speaking from a Vermont perspective. Here money goes from taxpayer to state to schools. The state is under Court orders to "spread the money around a bit" to ensure fair distribution amongst the towns. Some towns are filled with skihouses and ski industry - few kids and LOTS of property tax base, so a small percentage rate ("Gold towns"). Other towns have very little base so poorer families have a higher percentage to pay and get hit that much harder. There basically is no industry up here, so property taxes are the primary school funding. The Court ruled that it had to be spread out better.

    Hence, it doesn't really matter which school you go to because the money gets worked out. Some 90 towns have a full voucher program and other towns are "choice" towns because they're smack between two systems.

    So, a couple of families had bully issues at one school so they switch and our school gets 20 extra students.

  5. And maybe what you are talking about - a student going from one public school to another - is really no different from what I and other teachers do - surf the web looking for material other people have put together and put on the web so we don't have to reinvent the wheel.

    Lord knows I take other people's work - and then share what I find.

  6. The map you used, Curmudgeon, is of congressional districts in the Chicago area. I lived in that weird district briefly. The real crunch comes when there is a very good school district right next to a really challenged one, which happens all along the boundary of the city of Chicago. The high school my children attended (because we moved when we could not really afford to so they would not have to go to Chicago Public Schools) would be totally inundated by students from Chicago if it accepted all comers. Yes, it's a compliment to the school that families would break the law to get their kids into it (and quite a number do that, every year, which is why they have requirements like showing a current lease or mortgage when you register your kid). But as a previous poster noted, the kid's family's property taxes, unlike Federal and State aid, do not follow the kid into the new district, which is now facing the prospect of educating more kids on less money per kid. Not sustainable. You sympathize with the parents who do it, but you can see that what it really amounts to is that good schools near failing school districts are punished for being good schools.