Putting Education Reform To The Test

Romney Education Plan Could Eliminate School District Lines

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

Fomer Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney’s education plan would effectively erase school district boundaries — allowing city students to enroll in the surburban schools they’ve eyed enviously, James E. Ryan writes in the New York Times.

Mr. Romney’s proposal, if put in place, could change that. Most directly, and perhaps most dramatically, Mr. Romney’s proposal would force — yes, force — suburban districts to accept city students, a step that the Supreme Court refused to take back in 1974. As Mr. Romney said in a white paper also released last week, he would require states to “adopt open-enrollment policies that permit eligible students to attend public schools outside of their school district.”

In doing so, Mr. Romney’s proposal would target the real source of educational inequality in this country: school district boundaries, which wall off good school systems from failing ones. The grossest inequalities in educational opportunity today exist between school districts, not inside them.

If Mr. Romney’s proposal is sincere, it would place him far to the left of the Obama administration when it comes to educational opportunity. Mr. Obama has focused on improving teacher evaluations, promoting common academic standards, turning around failing schools and increasing charter schools. Fine and sensible? Maybe. Bold? Hardly. Bold is giving poor city kids the right to attend good suburban schools.

Florida has been inching towards this idea, allowing students in chronically low-performing schools to cross district lines if space is available.

Some states and school districts collect property taxes at the local level. That leaves districts with lots of businesses or high property values better off than those with a lower property tax base.

But Florida pools property taxes and distributes the money to districts based on enrollment. Do district lines still matter? What do you think?


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