What do you think?
Difficult as it is, I think the Board should raise and continue to raise this question of limiting school choice. It plays out differently for everyone, but for my part, I welcome some limits.
Before the Board closed our neighborhood elementary (Whitworth), many local families shunned it, opting instead to send their kids to schools further north. We chose Graham Hill, and our family is happily integrated with the school and its community. It's the classic "prisoner's dilemma", in which there's a fundamental disconnect between the family's rational choice and the community's greater good. The school closures finished off the Whitworth program, but School Choice is a clearer culprit.
Columbia City is racially diverse and has a reasonably even socioeconomic mix. For all I know, flexible school assignments have contributed to the neighborhood’s gentrification. I think our neighborhood is a good candidate for limited elementary school choice. It's a bit of a challenge, now that the neighborhood's two most local elementaries (Orca and the New School at its interim site) are alternative schools drawing from much wider areas, and true neighborhood schools are further removed and across major arterials. Barring an exodus to the private system, a mandatory assignment would likely result in schools that more closely resemble their communities.
But a neighborhood-based system could drive a further wedge between the communities that have and the ones that have not. I suggest that students who qualify for free lunches should also qualify for elementary school choice and transportation. It would decrease the likelihood of school segregation driven by the housing market, and it would empower students who might have the most to gain from the status quo. The rest of us should instead focus our time and commitment on our local schools instead of voting with our feet.
I urge you to give special consideration to limiting school choice, taking care not to further segregate schools by race or socioeconomics, and maintaining educational options for students who are least advantaged.
Thank you for your continued commitment to Seattle's schoolchildren.