In a survey of parent choice, parents would be willing to transport their children to schools farther away if 50% (rather than 40%) of the students in a school were similar to their own. While schools close to home are ranked first, other factors enter into decisions according to a Mathematica review. Districts respond but solutions are elusive. The tale of Minneapolis is one such example.
Parents choose schools based on achievement, race and income. They place a higher value on schools with the same race/ethnicity as their own but only if their child would otherwise be in the smallest minority in a school. If not in a small minority, parents generally prefer schools with diverse student bodies. There is a logic to that desire, of course. It requires, however, an unusual housing pattern for neighborhood schools to be equally balanced by race and income. It appears D.C. parents might travel six miles for the best school for their children. The implications are pretty clear. These parents want good schools where their children do not feel ‘different’. Yet, balancing schools equally by race/ethnicity and income would be difficult unless housing patterns made it possible to have both neighborhood schools and diverse schools. Some cities are trying by creating geographic zones in which students are assigned to schools within an area by a combination of parent choice, lottery and racial/socio economic categories in order to keep each school population similar and each academic program excellent.
Minneapolis is one such city. My grandchildren had three elementary schools to which they could be assigned. Even there the district continues to have equity problems and a lawsuit has been filed. Their story is not dissimilar to those elsewhere. As more affluent families, both black and white move to the suburbs, central city schools suffer. Open choice creates major transportation problems. Charter schools further segregate children by race and income. Solutions are elusive.