From the PI this morning, this op-ed by John Burbank, head of the Economic Opportunity Institute in Seattle.
(From their website:
"The Economic Opportunity Institute develops new public policies to create ladders for low-income people to move into the middle class and to plug holes so that middle-class families do not fall into poverty. EOI is an activist, progressive, and majoritarian institute. We pursue our work through media outreach, public dialogue, and policy initiatives that address the shared economic security concerns of middle-class and low-income workers.")
The premise of his piece is basically that people who opt out of public schools are hurting the schools and cheating their children of the opportunity to interact with a more varied group of kids.
On the most basic level, he's right. Money walks out of schools when kids do. We wouldn't be closing schools if we had the student base for all the buildings we have.
"Parents sending their children to private schools say they are doing what is best for the kids. But placing a child in private school is not a value-free choice. If I send my daughter to private school, and my neighbor's son goes to public school, that reinforces a culture of separateness and privilege."
And later on:
"In the fight for public education, we need all hands on deck, especially the most privileged among us. We need the parents of the 14,000 children in Seattle's private schools. We must all connect the dots between personal responsibility and the greater good."
I've said this before but I believe about 5% are name-brand people (Lakeside, Bush, etc.), 5% may be religion-based, 5% may be homeschooled (for many reasons) and 5-10% are probably people who fled public schools for a variety of reasons. We could recapture the latter group with a reliable school district (stability, fair and easy-to-understand assignment plan, good programs, etc.).
I appreciate his candor and bravery for saying what he did out loud. (I expect a rash of "how dare you" letters to the editor.) But parents, in the end, have to make the best decisions they can for their children and if it's private school, I can't point a finger and say they are wrong. We need to get the parents who are in the system to want to participate in their child's school to make all schools stronger and we need to get our district on the right track to attract back parents.